It has been estimated that 70+% of new companies fail, and according to a recent study, not having the right people or strategy are among the top reasons. No matter how good the product or marketing effort, there is no substitute for a winning workforce strategy. After all, our people are our most valuable resource—and our only resource incapable of being copied.
Often overlooked in today’s workplace—the strategy for organizing work, the process for selecting talent, the foundation for a positive company culture, the mindsets and frameworks required for companies to grow and prosper, and the implementation of an effective human resources technology to support the above areas—HR capabilities are critically important to the success of any size business. I have nearly 15 years experience working nationally with hospitality groups and startups helping to create better workplaces, improved processes and practices, and increased performance by delivering actionable human resources solutions that connect business strategy to workforce strategy, and that allow people to do their best work.
For companies that lack this direction, a differentiated workforce strategy may be the solution offering valuable benefits:
Provide your people a clear direction and strategy. Organizations often fall into a ‘follow the leader’ routine because, at least in part, their people don’t know the larger mission or direction. A workforce strategy can provide that direction, with the why, what, and how. A differentiated workforce strategically distributed can be the fuel a startup or small-to-medium business requires to scale and ultimately succeed. The strategy is the framework from which all else flows. Get it right and watch your company steal market share. Get it wrong and end up as another statistic.
Solve problems with strategy. No matter how painful a client’s problems are, I always recommend they start with their strategy. Business owners, founders and leadership teams often get stuck on a problem that would be a non-issue if they first asked and answered how it ties back to their strategy. Surprisingly, a lot of problems wouldn’t be problems at all, such as certain workforce risks and reputation crises. When you return to your original framework, you often discover perceived problems should never have surfaced. The only reason they did is because we got away from our mission, vision and values. We brush them aside, treat them like marketing tag lines and not the actual blueprints for which they were created.
Develop your human resources capabilities. For startups and small-to-medium businesses, think of your senior-level human resources consultant as your very own Vice President of Human Resources or Chief People Officer, except they work remotely part of their time. They may take the form of an HRBP, a coach, an advisor or a consultant. Regardless of their title, if they are good at what they do, they will help you develop critical human resources capabilities: workforce strategy, organizational structure, talent pipelines, company culture, learning and development opportunities and other necessary but often overlooked capabilities. Too often, small companies dismiss the need for human resources expertise because of their size and/or the cost but there is, at least in the beginning, no need to hire a full time six-figure salaried human resources executive; a consultant can do as good work if not better at a fraction of the cost. This is because you would hire them on an as needed or on-demand basis. Furthermore, there is no learning curve; an experienced consultant can jump right in and make an immediate, positive difference in your organization.
Increase organizational efficiencies with a lean mindset. Too many organizational structures today are still overly hierarchical, with decision-making authority sitting only at the top. This is because founders are creatives and visionaries who bled and sweat to create their businesses. They want to make sure the business maintains its direction, reputation and performance. They believe the answer is to own control, to make all the decisions, to minimize mistakes. In fact, in so doing, what they are creating is a bureaucratic organization, slow to adapt and afraid of taking the necessary risks required to compete. The correct answer is a differentiated, dynamic workforce strategically distributed with appropriate decision-making authority attached to strategic roles. A human resources consultant can identify strategic roles, key touch points and high potential talent, and design a better organizational structure with progressive decision-making agreements that capitalize on quick, strategic, trusted decisions by high potentials in strategic roles. The result would allow founders and leadership teams to lead more lean and agile organizational structures.
Cut through the noise of human resources vendors. At last count, there were over 800 technologies that all aim to optimize human resources processes and functions, with more being created every year. A consultant can help you identify your goals and needs, and cut through the noise to find a technology solution that fulfills your needs. For example, for a recruitment platform, we designed an automated workflow to identify and match candidates to positions, which saved staff the time it would otherwise have taken to research and screen thousands of resumes. With the right technologies automating mundane and repetitive tasks, your people can finally start to perform value-added work. Bonus: enabling your people to perform meaningful, value-added work increases engagement, satisfaction, morale and retention.
Most people spend more time engaged in work activities than not. Yet an uncertain economy and unhealthy social fabric make workplaces more volatile than ever before. Add to that, the way we treat our workforces — how we manage, recognize and compensate them — has a ripple effect on our communities, societies and economies. In short, the human condition and our world at large can benefit from a strategy that so many companies, organizations and workforces lack. To respond, founders and leaders need to create and implement a workforce strategy that addresses these factors. They can start to make positive changes by working with a human resources consultant to begin designing the future.
Hason Greene is Founder and Principal of HumInt Labs, Inc., a New York City-based human resources strategy consultancy helping startups, small-to-medium businesses build and improve their HR capabilities and lay the groundwork for organizational success.
Human resource stock photo by tomertu/Shutterstock