This time of year provides a great opportunity to reflect on what has happened over the last year, and what the year ahead may have in store.

HR, People operations, Talent, or whatever it is called in your business is becoming more and more prominent in the press, especially around the future of work, automation, AI and more. Below, are five more grounded tips, or reflection points for the year ahead:


1. Build, buy, borrow, rent?

Just as every business function thinks about what it needs to succeed, so should HR. Just because you need a certain skillset doesn’t mean you have to jump to hiring someone. As the IT department wouldn’t build an email system from scratch, neither do you need to do the same in the talent domain.

New technologies have made it increasingly easy to manage a freelance workforce, across all domains – from designers to business strategists.

A useful framework is to work out whether you want to build, buy, borrow or rent a function:

  • Build: Develop current employees. These competencies need to be present in your company long-term
  • Buy: Hire external candidates to enhance the function. These competencies may not be ones that your company has, or knows how to grow
  • Borrow: Could you move people between business units and functions
  • Rent: Could an external firm or individual fulfill the roles needed. There may be uncertainty of demand for these competencies.

Each of these approaches has its pros and cons, but working through this framework before trying to hire may help.


2. What do your people want?

At this time of year, people take stock of how work is going, and what they want for the next year. It is your responsibility as a business to make sure that you create the right environment for your staff to grow and develop. Unfortunately, no two staff want the same thing.

Between managers, surveys, 1:1’s and other methods, start to build an understanding of how each individual wants to develop over the next year, and beyond. Once you have this information, you can start to see where she can fit into the strategy of the business.

If you don’t feel that you really understand what people want, don’t be afraid to ask them. This doesn’t mean you have to make everyone happy, and do what they want; but without this information, you are walking in the dark. It is better to know sooner than later that the company and individuals aren’t aligned. You may also discover that what your people really want is different to your current offer, and can easily adapt this.


3. Give internal mobility as much focus as external recruitment

Recruitment is as much science as it is an art. More tools and techniques are being developed to help you attract the best talent. With this comes time and financial investment. Once you have attracted people and developed them, it is often hard to see where else that person may fit into the company. She has developed a reputation as a world-class VP of product, but she may also be able, and want to, step into an SVP or Director role in another function.

Before engaging with a recruiter, or placing a job advert, take a minute to look inside your business, and see where you may be able to draw upon. Not only does it save on some recruitment fees and time, but shows that you care about people’s development, and that there is a career at your company.


4. Agile in HR

Scrum, DSDM and other methodologies are commonplace in software development, product management and project management. At its core it supports adaptive planning, evolutionary development approaches, early delivery, and always seeking to improve.

In 2018, I think it is time for HR to start operating in a more agile framework. Think about running small tests of new approaches, learning, iterating and evolving your approach over the year.

Instead of delivering a brand new process to the whole organisation, it may well be possible to create a programme of work, based around smaller trials before wider delivery. Could account management trial a new 1 to 1 approach and finance a new performance management model. Learn from the trials, adapt, deliver and improve.


5. Managers take a more active role

I heard a talk from the former head of training for the SAS – the UK elite special forces unit. He made it clear that they would never put someone in a situation, even in training for which they weren’t fully prepared. For jungle training, soldiers are acclimatised, taken on training missions, before they are assessed.

While the world of business doesn’t have the same ability to invest in training, we shouldn’t let people perform jobs and roles that they aren’t prepared for. Taking on a management role isn’t trivial, and there are great services available to people to develop as managers and leaders.

As a company, think about how you can engage, enable and empower your managers. I have seen this have a truly exponential effect time and time again.


I hope you enjoyed these tips for 2018, and look forward to hearing about how you have implemented these in the comments.

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From Philip Alexander

Philip is CEO of People Platform. He has consulted for some of the world’s leading brands on Employee Experience and Human Capital Strategy, and is the editor for StartUp Digest on this topic. Previously, Philip worked as Head of Strategy, Talent and Operations for a VC-backed start-up. He is also a Governor of two schools in London, and a mentor with a leading UK charity.