An uncertain economic climate, advances in technology and far-reaching market disruptions are putting organisations under more pressure than ever before. Senior management are increasingly looking to HR to help the business meet these challenges through innovative people processes that get people engaged and performing at peak.

A recent article in HR magazine demonstrates how having a clear vision is vital in helping HR practitioners maintain strategic focus and providing the impetus to turn their aspirations into reality on the ground.

The piece describes how the Princes Trust – a charity that helps vulnerable young people – has been able to achieve great results through a bold and ambitious learning strategy. HR Director Martyn Dicker, who pioneered the new vision, describes how on joining the organisation, he wanted to create a culture where staff “can be themselves, are told what’s really going on, their strengths are magnified, values are lived daily, the work is rewarding and ‘stupid’ rules don’t exist”.

So what were the key elements of the Trust’s approach and what did having a strong vision enable them to achieve?

1. Get the HR team on side
The article describes how when Dicker joined the Trust, one of his first tasks was to get the existing HR team on side. Pushing a strong vision forward can be challenging, particularly if it means that people have to be pushed out of their comfort zone and roles and responsibilities have to be changed. Painting a compelling picture of what HR will look like going forward, and what role individual members of the HR team will play, is the best way to convince people of the way forward and win support.

2. Get buy-in from the business
Making a clear connection to overall corporate goals will help to get senior management on side with a new approach to HR. But much of the Trust’s success was also down to its efforts to get people across the business engaged with the vision. If staff are involved, through initiatives such as employee forums or interactive web chats, they will feel part of the process and are much more likely to be enthusiastic supporters when new initiatives are rolled out.

3. Identify priorities
Dicker and his team also spent significant amounts of time with line managers, identifying key themes that would inform the new vision and deliver what the business needed. Employee engagement, performance review and development, well-being, diversity and operational excellence were some of the themes that emerged from the discussion and ran as a red thread throughout the new strategy. The HR team decided to start with performance management, as they believed it would have the greatest impact and lay the foundations for other themes.

4. Carve out time and space
The day-to-day front line work that comes with the territory for HR is one of the biggest barriers getting in the way of a more strategic and visionary approach. If HR people are tied up in cumbersome processes and spending all their time fire-fighting and dealing with operational issues, they will find it hard to step back and see the bigger picture. An overhaul of the way the Trust managed its data and systems was a key part of allowing HR to focus on the more strategic aspects of its role and not lose sight of what it was trying to achieve.

5. Explain why change needs to happen
Employees can become cynical if they perceive that new initiatives are simple change for change’s sake. The HR team at the Trust made sure everyone understood why the legacy processes weren’t working and why it was imperative to change. Giving concrete examples of how things will be different and how the business and the individuals within it will benefit is key to creating a groundswell of excitement and getting people on board.

Hats off to the Princes Trust, who managed to achieve great results in a very short timescale. Eighteen months down the line and significant progress has been made. Performance management has been reshaped around a process of continuous feedback and development, reward and recognition has been reviewed and a new HR system is now in place. Around three quarters of employees say they are motivated by the organisational values – and to put the icing on the cake, the charity has achieved silver Investors in People status.

Erika Lucas author image

Erika Lucas

Writer and Communications Consultant

Erika Lucas is a writer and communications consultant with a special interest in HR, leadership, management and personal development. Her career has spanned journalism and PR, with previous roles in regional press, BBC Radio, PR consultancy, charities and business schools.