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People Development Revolution: How HR Is Helping Companies Align Culture With Business Strategy

Sarah Greesonbach | 4 min read

In the Fight to Align Culture With Business Strategy, Learning & Development Is a Winning Strategy

For much of its history, Human Resources has been dismissed from leadership conversations as the department of hiring and firing. Early titles like “personnel manager” and “industrial welfare” put all the focus on the administrative side of people operations, and less on the operations side. But in today’s competitive business environment, executives increasingly acknowledge that people, people development, and company culture play a leading role in driving business results.

How? Company culture is the link between the people you hire and your company’s strategic business goals. By intentionally building and maintaining a company culture — ideally a culture of learning — you ensure that your employees’ efforts align with your business goals, making your business more strategic and productive with every hire.

Here are three specific ways HR helps businesses align company culture with business strategy:

1. HR can develop and assign training based on company values

When organizations leave the structure of people development to managers and individual employees, it often focuses on short-term needs over long-term ones. Specific skills and trainings might help an employee with their job now, but it may not truly align company culture with business strategy in a forward-thinking way. Letting your HR and people development team guide this function means that you’ll be able to select (or develop) training specifically aligned with your mission and values so that team members are evolving in the direction you want to go.

Unique, culture-building training and development is something Torchy’s Tacos does well. The 2018 Wisetail Way Award Winner makes its own training material where it weaves the brand’s quirky, edgy voice throughout its “Taco Dojo” training platform and “Tacopedia” learning library. The result is a crop of employees who can learn how to have a “Damn good first day,” and say “Hells yes” to new employee orientation and compliance training.

Keep reading: “How to Build Company Culture When Employees Don’t Work In the Same Place”

2. HR can identify underperforming resources

When it comes to investing in people development, a significant source of hesitation is that so many HR leaders have seen companies invest enormous amounts of time and money into a resource only to see engagement and usage fizzle over time. But when you align your training opportunities with your company culture, which is underpinned by your business strategy, it’s easier to engage employees with your training content and, if you see engagement drop, quickly identify underperforming resources that you can put to better use.

That’s the story of Nekter Juice Bar. The fresh juice company was tired of losing employees to the predictable annual turnover that’s so common in the food service industry. So in 2016, Nekter’s Director of Training and Development, Jeff Barney, decided to try to improve employee retention and overall ROI by improving its underperforming training and development program. By developing a new training program and tracking content completion rates and store-specific data, Barney was able to identify a correlation between training, store performance, and turnover — stores that underperformed with training saw consistent spikes in team member turnover. The resulting push for people development helped Barney drop the company’s annualized turnover rate by 40%.

ROI Wisetail LMS client Nekter Juice Bar products.

3. HR can predict skills and roles for the future of work

HR leaders are increasingly concerned about how to keep employee skills up-to-date since most skills have a half-life of about five years. That’s why it must be a priority for today’s training and development leaders to proactively consider what skills and roles the company will need 2-5 years in the future – and to identify learning opportunities that will help current employees develop themselves and meet those needs.

When it comes to predicting roles and skills for the future of work, Sweetgreen is right there at the forefront. Not only does the popular salad brand nurture its internal candidate pipeline with a robust leadership training program, but it has also shifted to embrace the role of technology in the customer and employee experience. The brand added a mobile app, digital ordering options, and moved many stores to cashless registers until digital sales finally made up over half its revenue. The next era of evolution looks to incorporate an AI-powered app and “kitchens in the cloud,” a pivot that saw the salad restaurant looking for (and developing) talent with digital and data science skills.

HR — and with it, people development — has fought a long and hard battle for its seat at the leadership table. But that’s just the first step. As businesses consider different ways to put their company culture into action, maximize their resources, and prepare for the future of work, HR will need to take a more vocal role in order to align company culture with business strategy.

BY SARAH GREESONBACH

Sarah is a writer for Wisetail. By analyzing and condensing cutting-edge research and data, she helps L&D professionals develop their instincts and arrive at actionable insights for employee engagement and training. She loves to consider the possibilities of humanizing, organizing, and minimalizing all things HR.