Developing a compelling people strategy

8Connect People & Change

The world of business is changing. Sometimes fast, sometimes slow.

It’s unclear what challenges the future will hold. The people management landscape is complex and often confusing. Business and HR leaders are bombarded with solutions looking for a problem to solve.

The Importance of People Strategy 

With so much uncertainty, unpredictability and opportunity to waste money it’s more important than ever to make sure that your efforts to engage and enable your people are aligned to the future needs of the business.

Let’s be honest, even the ‘best’ employers with the ability to invest in sophisticated HR functions find this difficult.

High Street Retail: People Strategy in a High-Change Sector 

When I was contacted by a major high-street retailer that’s part of a global group, their People Director confessed that even though they had updated their people strategy two years earlier, they were already falling behind the pace of change.

They needed to take a fresh look, making sure that it was sufficiently focused on the challenges that the business would face in the coming years. What that meant was starting with a blank page.

By taking the last update as their reference point, she realised that they had fallen into two traps that constrained their thinking.

The first was thinking incrementally. The other was starting with preconceptions – what I’d described as a focus on HR activity rather than enabling business results.

At an off-site the team were given presentations on the business strategy and future of retail. I then took them through a strategy development process, based on Appreciative Inquiry, called SOAR – which stands for Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations and Goals. Building on strengths, rather than reducing deficits, helps direct people towards the main goal, which is to think in aspirational terms and produce an inspiring vision of the future.

I helped the team to develop a number of aspirational statements around themes that included Organisational flexibility, Collaboration, Innovation, Diversity and Inclusion, Wellbeing and Digital Skills.

The next challenge was to turn these into measurable results and identify a number of initiatives that would help to deliver them. In order to ensure accountability, the six aspirational goals also needed to be woven back into the structure of the people team.

The result was a people strategy consisting of six strategic people objectives, with twenty sub-objectives and a roadmap for their delivery.

In the words of the People Director, the result was “fit for the future, fits the needs of the business and delivers for our people; I’m excited to see the results we deliver”.

Importantly, the full People Management team were involved in the strategy development process and their engagement and commitment to its delivery was evident.

About 8Connect People & Change Consulting 

At 8Connect Consulting we combine performance psychology with business experience to help businesses and their people to become more adaptable and resilient to deal with complex, challenging and changing conditions.

We were founded in 2018 by Rob Robson, a business psychologist with over 20 years of experience in consulting, change and operational HR leadership.

Rob can be contacted via or on +44 7799 476918.

If you’d like to try the SOAR process for yourself you can download a free People Strategy template here.