Successfully breaking the ice between HR and business leaders

Written by
Professor Nick Kemsley

26 Jan 2016

26 Jan 2016 • by Professor Nick Kemsley

How can SWP break down barriers?

I have written and spoken extensively on the topic of strategic workforce planning over the past three years or so, so this time I wanted to find a new angle to talk about. So I’m not going to talk so much about the vital importance of understanding the people and organisational risks relating to the business strategy, the benefits for HR prioritisation and alignment, or indeed the capability challenges that it exposes. Instead, I am going to focus on the role that SWP plays in breaking down barriers and forming more influential relationships with CEOs, CFOs and other key players.

You see, SWP hits at the heart of the kind of stuff that keeps CEOs awake at night – the requirement to build confidence in their organisation’s ability to deliver future value and the need to demonstrate that you have a credible plan, not just a wishy-washy aspirational dream. A solid understanding of the HOW of strategy drives indicators such as price-earnings ratio, key to gaining investment in listed organisations. External stakeholders understand that it is people and organisational issues which drive a good proportion of “intangibles” value in a business, and although CEOs are fully aware that talent and organisational effectiveness is absolutely pivotal to strategic execution, few have a detailed understanding of what this means in practise, where the greatest risks are or what is the most effective strategy to address them.

To my mind, a strategic workforce plan is a fundamental output of a HRD/CHRO role and, for all the reasons above, should form the basis for a much more proactive and influential discussion around the development and enablement of strategy – instead of a more reactive and passive “receiving” of strategy to which HR can sometimes be exposed. It engages a CEO in a language with which they are familiar, the language of growth, efficiency and risk. More to the point, it performs a vital service which they are often not equipped to get from any other place. 

As such, engaging your CEO and board in a proper SWP discussion can elevate your involvement and credibility, and that of the HR function as a whole. Furthermore it creates a platform for a more insightful and value-adding relationship which benefits both parties, and can enable a more focused and constructive discussion around investment in people and organisational development.