People: Attract and retain the right team for your business

No matter the size of your business, it is important to develop an overarching people and culture plan. With competition for skills placing businesses under increasing strain, an ‘ad-hoc’ approach will no longer make the grade.

A best practice approach to your people, and the culture they operate in, not only improves workplace harmony and productivity, but also recruitment and retention – ensuring you have the right people, with the right skills, in the right jobs when you need them.

Although your approaches to people and culture planning are fundamentally linked, for ease of understanding and clarity around process, we will look at each separately in the following sections:

Developing a people plan for your business

A key part of the strategic planning process in any business is to consider current and future resource requirements – including your people. In planning for growth, it’s important to factor in the staff and skills you will need to succeed, and when.

The following considerations will help guide a best practice approach to your people planning. You may choose to invest a lot of time or a little, or seek input from external experts. While your approach and requirements may change, it’s important that businesses of all sizes put effort into considering and planning for their people – one of, if not the most, valuable resources they have.

  • Current and Future Staffing: First, map the current staff you have by role, experience and skills. Then consult your strategic plan to consider the number and type of people you think you will need in the future, and when
  • Employee Value Proposition (EVP): In a competitive market, you need to consider more than just salary. Your EVP is what will attract staff to your business. These days, employees are looking for training, flexibility, career progression and autonomy as part of their overall package
  • Attraction: It is best to use a range of strategies to attract applications from potential staff. Use both traditional and new media methods, including employment sites, professional bodies and social media. Ensure you ask existing staff to activate their networks too
  • Selection: It sounds obvious, but make sure you select people who will best fit the role, the team and your organisation. Make sure you interview potential staff against the skills and qualities you are after and even get a colleague to do the same, but separately. It is also important to use psychological testing to determine their fit, as humans are often poor judges of one another
  • Induction: Allocate sufficient time to induct staff so they know what to do, how to do it and feel part of the team. As much as possible, make this formal and gradual to set your new starters up for success
  • Training and Re-training: All employees, but younger generations in particular, want to know they are making progress in their role and career. Invest time to train and re-train your people at least once a quarter. This may include both current and new skills, across the organisation. This will help internal flexibility as well as see you become an ‘employer of choice’
  • Pay and Conditions: A fundamental of the role of an employer is to make sure people are paid correctly and lawfully, and that you have suitable employment details and contracts in place.

Want more best practice insights for SMEs? Our expert advisers have compiled nine articles covering the most important processes for successful SMEs. Read more

Developing and managing your culture

It was renowned researcher and management writer Edgar Schein who said, “if you are not managing culture it is probably managing you.” In other words, you need to be shaping the culture of your organisation so that it supports your strategic direction.

A healthy, strong culture pays dividends not only in terms of staff satisfaction and retention, but flows into the experience your customers or clients have in dealing with your business. Ensuring your business is trusted in the market, for example, starts from the inside.

The following steps form the basis for a best practice approach to intentionally planning the culture you want to foster in your business.

  • Assess your existing culture: Sit down with a cross section of your leadership team and staff to define the positive and negative aspects of your current culture
  • Consider your desired culture: Consider the cultural aspects that you would like to see introduced or more of
  • Define your future culture: Following the ‘prep work’ completed above, define the future culture of your organisation using approximately eight ‘hallmarks’. Each one should have a clear description of what it will look like in the workplace. For example, you may identify ‘respect’ as a hallmark of your culture. An action to illustrate this  might be: ‘We will listen to the views of others before making a decision’
  • Publish and spread the word: Once you have decided on the characteristics of your future culture, be sure to publish and promote it across the organisation so that all staff know and understand what is expected. Senior leaders must be effective role models of the culture
  • Put it in a plan: Develop a plan for the next 12 months, scheduling a series of actions and activities which align to and reinforce the cultural hallmarks. These might be formal - like an award for people displaying the desired behaviours - or informal - such as a team lunch
  • Align across the business: Once your plan is operational, make sure that you include the cultural elements in job and person specifications, performance reviews and when promoting  your firm on websites and in brochures.

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Re-assess and evaluate

People and culture plans, like others in business, aren’t ‘set and forget’. They – and your progress towards goals – should be evaluated at least quarterly and adjusted when necessary.

Remember that by nurturing the right culture and looking after your people, they will return the favour by looking after you.

More resources

Our people advisory team specialise in working with business owners and leadership teams on culture and engagement, workforce capability & planning and human resources operations.

The following insights provide more information about key people and culture related issues:

To learn more about improving alignment between your strategic plan, workforce and culture, contact a BDO adviser.