People Strategy – Start by getting the basics right – 3 Do’s and Do Not’s


Back in 2017 I was in London meeting with the Head of HR Operations for a global marketing agency. We ran through the usual bits and bobs, discussed recent events on a stag do and then my contact raised a very interesting initiative, that he called “brilliant basics”.

The organisation that he worked for had gone through numerous mergers, acquisitions and restructures. From his perspective, this had caused a number of internal leaders and employees to lose focus on what was important – therefore, he launched the “brilliant basics” programme.

Admittedly at the time my eyes glazed over, as anything basic does not get me particularly excited, especially considering  the purpose of our meeting was to discuss a 30,000+ employee transformation programme.

However, reflecting back on that meeting now, he made a crucial point. How can you expect employees to adopt your “big, shiny” new systems and modern processes, if you don’t have the foundations in place?

Since we have shifted our attention to support the SMB (small-medium sized business) market, I have noticed more and more instances of businesses “running before they can walk”. This has led to me putting this short blog together, with the hope that readers will understand what basics to focus on when it comes to people plan’s in SMB’s.


When should you implement a people plan and what “basics” should you include?

When it comes to people, being pro-active always wins – saving you time and money. Therefore from my perspective you should implement a people plan from day one! However, in and amongst the other one million things that you need to do during the early days of running a business, I understand that people is unlikely to be a priority – especially when you are unlikely to have any employees!

For me, as soon as you hit the 5 employee mark, you then need to begin looking at implementing processes and systems, that provide each employee with a positive employee experience, along with ensuring that there’s structure and governance. Without this, you may find inconsistency in how employees are managed – potentially leading to ER related challenges or worst case scenario, employee attrition.

Based on projects that we’ve worked on over the last 18 months, it costs SMB’s an average of £9,000 every time they lose an employee

If you’re running a business that is 20+ employees and do not have a people plan then you’re either very lucky or you’re missing a key opportunity to reduce costs and grow. Our clients sized between 20-45 employees averaged people related costs of £145,000 in 2018 alone. I’d strongly encourage you to look at a people plan before the end of 2019 and even project the potential costs that you could save! As your business grow’s it will become harder to keep on top of people – so if you take a pro-active approach, then your business can begin to run itself.


What to focus on is a tricky question, as every single business is unique and therefore their people strategy should be too, but here’s a few ideas

  • Employee insight/feedback – capturing regular feedback from your employees will highlight improvements that you can make to each employees experience and also develop business processes – leading to improved retention and performance.
  • Communication – Communicate! Communicate! Communicate! I constantly bang on about communication being something so simple and so cheap, yet so many of us are bad at it. Communicate your objectives, new clients, ongoing projects, purpose, values!!! Anything you want to – but remember, communication takes your employees on the journey with you!
  • Recognition – for me, recognition is one of the biggest drivers when looking to engage employees and improve performance at an individual and company level. Remember, there’s a big difference between Reward and Recognition – Recognition doesn’t have to cost you a penny!
  • Performance – having a clear process and structure to manage performance will enable you to understand what is going well, what needs to be improved and provide goals at an individual, team and company level.
  • Wellbeing – it is a topic on pretty much every single leadership teams lips, what can you do to support the psychological and physical health of your staff?

There’s plenty of other areas that you can look to impact during the early stages e.g. developing new and existing leaders, values & behaviours – purpose.


3 Do’s:

  • Ask employees for feedback and ensure that you make changes based on the insight generated. Asking for feedback and doing nothing will only dis-engage employees!
  • Assume that paying your employees more will retain them – even if this keeps them in your business for another 3 months, it is a high cost and low return strategy – you’re not getting to the core route of the problem, you’re sticking a plaster over a wound.
  • Consistently run with initiatives! If I had a pound for every time I see businesses implement a new idea and then pull it after 2 weeks due to “no impact”, then I wouldn’t ever need to work again. At a very minimum you should pilot for at least 3 months – if there’s no impact following on from this, then fair enough to pull the project.


3 Do Not’s:

  • Stick values on a wall or on your website and treat this as a marketing/PR exercise. What is the point? Your values should guide daily behaviours and impact the way that your employees interact with clients and each other.
  • Some leadership teams seem to love putting bean bags and fruit bowls into offices but then wonder why engagement hasn’t increased? As a business, you need to get to the core route of the problem – not brush it under the carpet in the form of a bean bag or fruit bowl.
  • Implement anything as a tick box exercise or because Virgin/Apple did it – every single project you run needs to have measurable objectives and be unique to your business!



So, I hope that’s provided you with a quick snapshot into getting the basics right as part of your people plan. As mentioned numerous times, every single organisation is unique, so it is about finding what works for your business. All that I encourage is that you have PURPOSE to every single project that you run and that you measure success!

Please like/share/comment with your thoughts and as usual if anyone has any direct questions then you can get in touch with me via direct message or [email protected]

Harry Wright
Employee Engagement and Client Delivery Consultant

Rencai Group

07341 662232

[email protected]