Who needs a People Plan?

It could be tempting for me to answer the question ‘Who needs a People Plan?’ with the answer “Why, everyone of course!”  The reality is that, although there is no harm in any organisation taking a more pro-active approach to people management activities, a People Plan isn’t necessary for everyone.

So… who does actually need a People Plan?

Those expecting fast growth

Organisations in a period of rapid growth tend to go through 3 natural phases – they hire quickly to meet a need for “bums on seats”, they then work hard to get everyone sat on the right seat and up to speed, then when (or if) they find a lull, they are able to take stock, tidy up any messes, and look at what they need next.

The nature of recruitment, time-to-hire and candidate expectations can mean it is difficult to escape this natural process.  Once the growth starts to take off then it’s near-impossible to slow things down and steer in a different direction.  For those companies planning significant growth in their future, a People Plan can add real value in setting the right path and reducing the adjustments that are needed through the process.

By doing up-front analysis into what different skills might be needed to meet the longer term business goals, then recruitment can look at meeting those needs as well as the immediate.  This means that people can be brought in who will evolve with, and in the same direction to, the business.  Avoiding all that messy musical chairs and a whole load of wasted time.

Those changing focus

Organisational focus can change for any number of reasons.  A new product launch, a competitor offering different services, budget alterations or changing customer demands can all cause subtle but significant shifts in focus.  The biggest factor influencing whether the shift is made successfully is, unsurprisingly, the people within the organisation.

When a change in focus is planned, or unexpectedly thrust upon an organisation, it is a vital time to step back and put a People Plan in place.  Whether it’s planning how the change will be communicated, what it means for each person’s priorities, what training might be needed or just how to minimise costs, some structured fore-thought is invaluable.  When it comes to employee engagement with a new focus, taking some time to do a full People Plan can make the difference between a smooth transition and an extremely bumpy ride.

Those with complicated organisations

A key benefit of a structured People Plan is that it provides clarity and coherence.  In complicated organisations that is not to be underestimated.  A matrix structure or remote geographies leave a lot of room for variation in focus.  Partnership organisations, owner-managers or other highly involved leaderships can sometimes lead to difficulty in empowering delegation.

In these circumstances an agreed People Plan can do two key things, firstly, it can ensure all managers have a consistent understanding of the goals and can work toward same things.  More tactically it can help to identify any risks with regards to key people and roles, enabling retention and succession plans to be put in place to minimise those risks.

Do you need one?

The key question is what benefit you would actually get from a full People Plan.  If the answer is unclear, then you may not get a return from a full plan at this stage, so focus your effort on taking a proactive approach in a couple of key areas.  If you’ll benefit from greater clarity and engagement or reduction of risks and rework, then get on it as soon as the need is identified.  The sooner it’s agreed and in action, the greater the benefits that can be realised.