Growing company needs HR plan (Toughest HR Question)

HR plan critical to an employer's strategic plan
By Bonnie Nixon
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 07/19/2011

Question: We are a relatively small but growing company. We have an HR department of two and our company has grown from fewer than 30 employees three years ago to nearly 250 today. All signs point to continued strong growth. We have never put together an HR plan but the CEO has asked us to sketch one out. What are some of the most important things to include in the plan? We employ a lot of knowledge workers, and a good number of skilled tradespeople, in the oil and gas sector.

Answer: That sounds like an exciting organization — lots of challenges but lots of opportunities.

Let’s start with a definition of an HR plan. It can be described as a systematic process of matching the interests, skills and talents of the individual organization members with long-term goals and opportunities in the organization. It is a process of systematically reviewing human resources/people needs to ensure employees, with the required competencies, are available when needed. HR plans are typically preceded by strategic planning in the organization.

An HR plan is critical to an organization’s strategic plan because it will largely determine whether the organization can achieve its goals and objectives that relate to people. The logical place to start is with the strategic plan. What goals and objectives is your organization working towards? Once this is clear, develop a good understanding of where you are going before you jump in with both feet. Do an external scan to determine the important factors shaping workforce capacity. What are your current workforce trends and supply and demand in specific occupations and locations?

Look internally to determine areas that may affect HR’s capacity to meet your goals. This includes things such as:

•employee engagement

•changes in leadership or priorities

•customer satisfaction

•source of recruitment and talent.

You should complete some workforce analysis to understand your workforce and plan for projected shortages and surpluses. Look at demographics and employee characteristics, such as projected retirements, years of service and education levels. Look at skills and competencies and trends such as vacancy rates, turnover, succession data and organizational culture data. Once you have done the scans, you need to do a gap analysis. Determine if there are shortages or surpluses of people in specific areas or occupations — are there qualified candidates in the succession management plan and do you have effective leadership to meet future needs?

After you have done the analysis, start to set out HR priorities. It may be easiest to put your priorities into key areas, then you can move on to the work plan. The work plan usually covers issues such as:

• retention

• leadership development

• learning and development

• performance management

• competencies and skills development

• organizational design and restructuring

• change management

• succession management

• knowledge management

• employee engagement

• organizational culture

• employee health, well-being and safety

• employee relations

• values or ethics

• retirement planning.

A sample work plan would have columns for things such as:

• strategic plan and strategic key results linkage

• goals

• objectives

• strategies and actions

• measures

• time frames for action

• progress

• people responsible for action.

As far as process goes, you may want to engage key leaders in formulating the plan. Show them your analysis and draft key areas for their input. Find out where you should focus HR efforts to get the most out of employees and help leaders fulfill the strategic plan. After all, leaders need to own the HR plan to make it work. Once you have their ideas, formulate the plan and provide quarterly progress updates to the organization so leaders can see the momentum. Based on how you have described your organization, areas you may want to concentrate on could include: organizational culture, values and ethics, communications and performance management.

This is an exciting time for your organization. You are continuing to grow and you want that growth to be effective. An HR plan will point you in the right direction and provide focus for your HR initiatives and leaders.

HR planning is comprehensive and can be time-consuming to start. But, once you are rolling, it’s a great tool for you and your organization. You will know where to devote your efforts and become more effective as an HR practitioner. So, have fun with it and watch it evolve over time.

Bonnie Nixon is principal of Butterfly Human Resources in St. Alberta, Alta. She can be reached at or (780) 459-5034. Visit for more information.

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