9 Core Elements of a Future-Proof People Strategy

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9 Core Elements of a Future-Proof People Strategy

A solid people strategy helps your organization improve performance and navigate transformations. How you empower your people determines the benefit they provide to your business. You need a plan to develop and enhance their skills to take full advantage of what they have to offer. The world is changing fast, and your people strategy must keep up by being ready for the unexpected and future-proof. Let’s look at some ways to accomplish this.

What is a people strategy?
How people strategy differs from HR strategy
Why should you have a people strategy?
Elements of a future-proof people strategy

What is a people strategy?

You have strategies for achieving business objectives and an overall HR strategy, but do they intersect? Is there a focus on how your people will succeed at carrying out the company’s goals? At their finest, employees are your greatest asset. However, if they aren’t developing or don’t feel connected to the company, they can hamper its mission.


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Find out about the 9 core elements of a future-proof people strategy in this Learning Bite

A people strategy formulates the competencies required to reach goals. It also outlines how to attain, manage, and invest in the employees who will garner the desired outcomes. According to a pioneer in the business strategy industry, Boston Consulting Group (BCG), the three pillars for developing a people strategy are leadership and culture, talent and skills, and HR.

People Strategy Pillars
(Image based on the people strategy model by BCG.)

Your people strategy should unite your business and HR strategies. It should determine your organization’s values about the treatment of employees to ensure they feel engaged and motivated to further your goals. HR’s role is to uphold the people strategy by implementing what it takes to create a culture that spurs employees to function at their full potential.

One people strategy example to consider is that of the music streaming service Spotify. Katarina Berg, CHRO, explains that it is “people-first, purpose-driven, and adding business value.”

How people strategy differs from HR strategy

A people strategy definition may seem similar to or even synonymous with an HR strategy, but there is a distinction. While an HR strategy is more of a plan for managing employee logistics, a people strategy refers to an organization’s philosophy about its relationship with employees.

HR strategies include processes for how to recruit, onboard, evaluate, compensate, etc. People strategies outline ways to improve how employees carry out their roles by assessing and nurturing employees’ capabilities, as well as managing the relationship between the employees and the organization. This puts skilled people in the right position to deliver what it takes to achieve the business goals. 

Why should you have a people strategy?

Everything a business wants to accomplish requires a plan outlining where you’re heading and how to get there. With a people strategy, you have a clear definition and formula for who you want to be as an employer. Without one, your organization’s culture will be fragmented and may head in an ineffective direction. 

Here are some areas where people strategy execution will benefit your company:

  • Employee empowerment – People are at the center of achieving the organization’s vision. They will thrive when they are set up for success with the tools they need and a favorable environment. 
  • Commitment to employees – Documenting your people strategy codifies a pledge to your employees and demonstrates how they benefit. It can also be a part of your employee value proposition and employer branding to support your recruitment and retention efforts.
  • Better response to uncertainty and changes – When your employees feel empowered and supported, they are also more likely to be agile and innovative in finding solutions for new or unexpected circumstances.
  • Support for long-term business strategy – Focusing on your people strategy and knowing how you want to elevate your workforce will equip you to more easily navigate growth or modifications within your business.


Learn more about the core elements of a future-proof people strategy in this Learning Bite!

Elements of a future-proof people strategy

Your people strategy should not only suit your current needs but also withstand both anticipated and unforeseen changes to come. 

What the future holds for your workplace is unknown, but executing these concepts within your people strategy can help it remain resilient in the future: 

1. Create a strong leadership presence

Effectively managing your organization’s talent is a crucial component in achieving success. If employees don’t work cohesively, you lack the team environment to get the work done and maintain morale. When managers are a source of confidence and inspiration for their teams, it will motivate employees to rise to the level of the company’s expectations. 

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Having a manager enablement program in place provides practical support to leaders. It gives them the opportunity to mature in leadership competencies they may be lacking. You can develop this type of program specifically for your company or find an outside source that meets your needs. It should offer a broad spectrum of knowledge, such as effective listening and communication and how to build trust and empathy. 

2. Focus on employee engagement 

Employee engagement should be a key part of your people strategy to offer your workforce connection to the company beyond the scope of their immediate responsibilities. Workers who see themselves as not just a job title but a valued and allied part of an organization will take more pride in the success of the business. In fact, “behaviors of highly engaged business units result in 21% greater profitability.”

This doesn’t mean only going through the motions of regular team get-togethers. It is also about practicing the following principles to connect employees with business outcomes:

Transparency – Keeping all staff informed upfront about changes, challenges, and new ventures will link them to what’s behind the high-level decision making. They will be more apt to back the endeavors and spend less time speculating about what’s going on behind the scenes.  

Recognition – Those with exceptional performance or attitude should be acknowledged and rewarded periodically. They will feel appreciated, and others will be incentivized to go above and beyond expectations. An employee recognition program doesn’t have to involve lavish prizes, but it should be meaningful and enjoyable for recipients. 

Accountability – Don’t leave it to the strongest performers to pick up the slack for others because they will feel resentful. Managers should be clear about expectations with the less successful employees while offering the necessary support and resources to help them improve.

The goal of your people strategy is to turn your employees into advocates of your brand. (Employee engagement profiles have been defined in a report by Quantum Workplace.)

3. Prioritize learning & development 

Enhancing the skills and knowledge of your workforce should be a cornerstone of your company culture. Opportunity for training to improve skills or teach new ones provides your business with capable talent primed for internal mobility

When employees are equipped with the education and information it takes to perform their job well, they feel empowered, and productivity levels are boosted. A 2020 LinkedIn study on global talent trends (see page 54) showed that more training opportunities would motivate 73% of employees to remain with their current employer.

L&D options should go beyond mandatory training and include a variety of opportunities offered in-house, online, or offsite to coach employees in technical or interpersonal skills. Methods can include peer mentoring, microlearning, or traditional interactive instruction and seminars. 

Another way to invest in your staff is to encourage the pursuit of professional development certifications. You can make accredited resources available and subsidize or reimburse the costs, as well as grant time off for studying and taking exams.

4. Supply advancement opportunities

Planning for growth requires deciding not only the number of management positions needed but how to fill them with suitable leaders. A good people strategy supports a strong leadership pipeline that identifies people with the potential to develop leadership skills and creates a leadership development plan together with them.

A visible career path is crucial to retaining employees long-term. When a company offers a tangible learning & development program, employees believe that promotion is attainable and see themselves with a future at your business. 

5. Provide an inclusive environment at work

Strong collaboration and input from all team members are tremendously valuable. Everyone should be respected and valued in their workplace, and performance can suffer when employees don’t feel acknowledged or accepted. “Employees who feel their voice is heard are 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered to perform their best work.” 

To be certain that everyone feels safe and at ease, your organization must commit to rooting out unconscious bias and promoting an inclusive atmosphere. Align your policies to this and ensure they are widely understood. Take the time to look for ways that routine conduct or dialog may be excluding certain groups of people.

6. Implement employee feedback methods

It’s important to understand the employee experience from their perspectives to obtain fresh ideas that will support your mission. Implement methods for gathering feedback at different employee lifecycle points beyond their annual performance reviews or employee engagement surveys. 

Avoid overly broad questions and hone into very specific issues, so responses won’t be overarching and vague. Use formats such as pulse surveys, exit interviews, and promotion interviews to collect feedback. In addition, be sure managers have a way to communicate pertinent observations and insight that come up organically in mentoring sessions or team and one-on-one meetings.

Look for patterns in how employees feel and see themselves within the company. Understand what prompts their loyalty or causes them to move on. Act on your findings by reinforcing what’s paying off and seeking out adjustments for areas that aren’t actively supporting the business goals.

Collecting Employee Feedback
You can combine different methods of gathering employee feedback to get a holistic picture of your employees’ perceptions of your organization. Sapling identified eight effective methods to collect employee feedback.

7. Support the virtual/remote workplace

The post-COVID world will likely see more hybrid and fully remote workforces. That’s why you must factor these alternatives into your future-proof people strategy. Virtual employment itself can present a benefit that both increases productivity and supports employees. For many, this option obliges their desire for flexible hours, work-life balance, and accommodation for certain disabilities. Virtual working can also sustain employee retention by increasing job satisfaction and preventing turnover from relocation situations. 

Be sure to contemplate how to translate an inclusive workplace to remote employees. It is just as important for them to be engaged and able to develop their skills. Then, they will see your company as a place to follow their dream career paths.

8. Demonstrate health & wellbeing awareness

Consideration for mental wellbeing has gained momentum since a pandemic-stricken world has faced widespread lockdowns and restrictions. Both physical and mental health contribute to employee performance, so there should be awareness and support for them in the workplace.

Think about how you as a company can combat stigmas and encourage your employees’ overall health, resilience, and mindfulness. Along with providing a wellness program, you can offer ongoing education resources online and means for people to seek expert help during challenging times.

9. Make it undeniable

Your future-proof people strategy should be woven into each employee’s daily experience at work. While it’s important to have it in a formal document that is shared with everyone, no one should need to see it to know it exists. Your workplace should exude an atmosphere that reflects your people strategy better than any words on a page would. 

When employees sense they are heard and supported by management, they welcome the relationship their employer is offering. They should be able to read through the words of your people strategy and concur that they are experiencing exactly what it states.

Summing it up

If you want to ramp up employee performance to give your company a competitive edge, you must go beyond your HR strategy. A strong people strategy will build the kind of relationship with your employees that helps them become their best, most productive selves. 

The sure-fire way to future-proof your people strategy is to strengthen each of its elements, including leadership, learning & development, and building an inclusive place to work. Investing in employees to build trust and morale will never become outdated. No matter what the coming circumstances may be, your employees will be equipped and inspired to adapt.

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