Contrary to popular belief, people strategy is not synonymous with HR strategy. While HR strategy focuses on shaping culture through policy, people strategy puts the focus on the corporate ecosystem. It’s about creating an environment that empowers people to thrive while growing the bottom line accordingly.

A strong people strategy is strongly correlated to good organizational health. According to McKinsey, 80% of companies that make concrete strides to improve organizational health enjoy significant advantages over competitors.

If you trust that your people have been astutely deployed, you can trust them to provide crucial insights into the health of your business.

What Do We Mean by Organizational Health?

When I refer to organizational health, I’m talking about how well the arms of the organization work together. Employee engagement, retention, and culture are indicators of health, but they don’t define it. A healthy organization is united behind their leadership and able to translate vision into action. These organizations maintain a sharp focus on the organization’s goals, and are able to adapt to industry trends in order to get there. 

Healthy organizations consistently demonstrate excellent communication throughout all levels of leadership. They also embrace ongoing innovation as critical to longevity.

People Strategy as an Assessment Tool

If you’re already leveraging people strategy in your organization, chances are you already have the right people in the right roles. However, even with the right roles in place, the company may still be experiencing pitfalls like communication breakdown, siloing, resistance to change, or a lack of innovation. As the leader of your team, many of these concerns could be deliberately hidden from you.

The objective of assessing your organizational health is to uncover how to optimize it. This must be an empowering conversation through which line managers feel safe to confide in you about their department’s challenges—even if they don’t yet have a solution.

Use these simple questions as conversation starters to guide your assessment. Meet with direct reports prepared to listen, and encourage the open sharing of concerns and ideas.

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Question 1: What are the biggest concerns facing your department?

Keep this question open-ended. Your direct report may mention anything from concerns about their team, to issues around productivity, to larger worries about the future of products or the company as a whole.

Leave your ego at the door before engaging in this discussion. It should come as no surprise that honesty is a key feature of a healthy organization. Just like a healthy relationship, your team must find tactful ways to deal with difficult truths.

Whomever is answering this question will likely feel “put on the spot.” They may dance around serious problems to avoid consequences when what they desperately need is support. To gain their trust, remain encouraging and engage them for details and examples. As they let their guard down, the full picture will start to form—and hopefully, so will a path forward.

Question 2: How can we better leverage the talent in your department?

Sometimes, the value people bring to their roles isn’t contained within their job description. Perhaps you have a department whose team dynamic is exceptional. Or, you may have a certain person whose innovative ideas surpass their level of influence.

Leaders who work closely with their teams can identify these strengths, but without being asked, they may not see an opportunity to amplify their benefits.

Frame this conversation with the intent to build smarter processes, reward creative thinking, and inform your people strategy going forward.

Question 3: What is preventing your department from meeting its full potential right now?

Generally speaking, the people we put into leadership positions are not the complaining type. We seek leaders who bring us solutions, not problems. While this judgment frequently serves us well, there’s a risk of enculturating a “blind spot” in which leaders avoid talking about issues they cannot solve.

This question implies a willingness to correct company infrastructure that impedes progress for an area of the business. Perhaps the internal software the company relies on is chronically inefficient with certain tasks. Or, perhaps some leaders are having trouble working together.

Pinpointing the stumbling blocks within each department will allow you to course-correct your people strategy, mediate inter-departmental issues, and optimize business operations.

For people strategy to be effective, it requires the ongoing input of—you guessed it—your people. To take advantage of the people strategy tactics that have helped other New York firms grow, contact my team and I at East Tenth Group today.