HR leaders will be most effective when aligning people strategyÂ with business goals.
By InaMarie Johnson
As a company charts a path toward rapid growth,Â itâs important that sales and marketing are aligned.Â But when it comes to effective change managementÂ and empowering employees to navigate the digitalÂ transformation and actually meet lofty business goals, HRÂ is just as important of a function.
Software company Zendesk aims to be a $1 billionÂ company in revenue by 2020. That means that scaling theÂ company for the future by investing in people, productÂ infrastructure, and processes becomes critical in helpingÂ to achieve this goal. To do this, Zendesk needs to haveÂ the ability to hire, develop, and retain the talentedÂ employees who are critical to growth. But the companyâsÂ HR leadership canât design an effective people strategyÂ unless the team fully understands the long-rangeÂ business strategy and how the team can support it.
To do this, HR can take three steps to align theirÂ department strategy with the overall business strategyÂ and make 2019 the most productive year yet.
1. Leverage transparency to earn executive buy-in.Â Executive buy-in is always critical when rolling outÂ cultural change. All too often, buy-in is reduced to aÂ leader sending a supportive email or showing up at anÂ event. Real buy-in comes to life through transparency. ForÂ example, Zendeskâs company-wide goal-setting processÂ begins with the CEO and other C-level executives draftingÂ their goals and then publishing them for the wholeÂ company.
At Zendeskâs weekly C-level executive meetings, aÂ different executive talks about the goals they areÂ accountable for and invites comments from their peers,Â including the CEO. This exemplifies that itâs just asÂ important to be transparent about the priorities thatÂ are being accomplished as the priorities that are provingÂ more difficult to achieve.
When designing a comprehensive people strategy, itÂ is critical to leverage these meetings to ask questions,Â including:
- How is the future of work changing?
- What kind of talent does the organization need movingÂ forward?
- What does the organization do well?
In addition to taking inventory of current organizationalÂ capacity, these questions allow HR leaders to plan for theÂ future and build teams with the capabilities needed as aÂ company scales.
Zendeskâs HR teamâs success or failure has a tangibleÂ impact on the well-being of the organization, theÂ employees, and even their families. Itâs an HR leaderâs jobÂ to grasp the overall KPIs of their peers for the long termÂ and understand HRâs role in helping drive those KPIs.
2. Identify gaps. Thereâs no perfect team. There is,Â however, a lot of power in coming into an organizationÂ with fresh eyes. For a new individual joining a company,Â it is an excellent opportunity to identify blind spots, seekÂ them out, and correct them.
One way to do this is by holding one-on-one sessionsÂ with stakeholders on the team and encouraging candor.Â HR leaders can cross-reference in-person statementsÂ with anonymous engagement survey findings to makeÂ correlations. What were the consistent strengths thatÂ came up? Where were the glaring opportunities to doÂ things better? Where are areas to increase collaborationÂ and to develop leadership?
For example, Zendesk identified a gap betweenÂ HR business partners (HRBPs) and leaders in theÂ organizations they support. Zendesk found that whileÂ HRBPs were excellent partners on program and employeeÂ relations matters, it was necessary to also equip themÂ to more adeptly partner with leaders on strategic andÂ longer-term decisions and plans. To remedy this, ZendeskÂ is building out an HRBP competency framework withÂ associated development offerings.
It also found that it was siloing teams across peopleÂ operations, talent acquisition, and workplace experience.Â Although at the end of the day all of these elementsÂ drive the brand and outline the employee valueÂ proposition, they were being treated as separate entitiesÂ with different metrics and capabilities. To enhanceÂ the people planning strategy, Zendesk gathered theÂ teams together in the same room instead of havingÂ them outline what they need in functional silos. ThisÂ united their goals and made sure they were trackingÂ against each otherâs. From there, Zendesk took a lookÂ at their global people and places calendar and madeÂ sure priorities were united. Having a team meeting on aÂ quarterly basis plays a critical role to success.
The activity also showed that leaders craved a frameworkÂ by which their progress could be tracked. A clearÂ definition of overall leadership philosophy, clear metrics,Â and a nuanced approach to assessment that tracksÂ progress are important factors. This is a key focus in 2019Â in order to allow leaders to be nurtured and supported.
3. Bring company goals to life by communicating theÂ message. Zendesk now has more than 2,600 employeesÂ around the world. This footprint demands a level ofÂ infrastructure, planning, communication, and messagingÂ that can resonate with everyone, no matter their level,Â location, or language.
For Zendesk, which plans to be a billion dollar companyÂ in the near future, leaders need to make sure employeesÂ see the link between what they are working on and theseÂ ambitious company goals.
When it comes to communicating business strategy,Â organizations need to create a unified understanding ofÂ goals that employees can rally behind with a renewedÂ sense of urgency. But more importantly, they need toÂ do it in a way that is authentic to the company culture.Â Part of this is communicating the message throughÂ company newsletters and town halls. The human elementÂ is powerful, and an emotional connection is what willÂ inspire employees to execute against company strategies.
InaMarie Johnson is chief people officer at Zendesk.