BY BEN CONNER
2021 should be the year of returning to strategic planning and strategic execution.
For many businesses, 2020 was rife with crisis responses. Regardless of your political leanings, the chaos of 2020 made it exceptionally difficult to plan, prepare, and execute ideas. Lockdown cycles shifted and changed with little warning both locally and abroad. Nearly all forms of manufacturing saw some form of disruption, creating a ripple of consequences through a variety of industries. And the broad turmoil and tension of the year were emotionally draining, making it difficult for many people to act with confidence and conviction.
Beyond Employee Benefits: A Process for Strategic Planning
Switching over to the New Year does not automatically eliminate any of those challenges, but with a vaccine rolling out and elections behind us, we should be shifting our focus away from reacting to new problems to being thoughtful about how we grow.
Strategic planning is likely not new to you, but you might find it difficult to reframe your perspective when you’ve been in crisis mode for so long. While this is our first time navigating an international pandemic, we have worked with several clients who faced extended periods of crisis, and we were part of the solution for getting them out of the crisis.
Here’s what we learned and what we recommend:
- Revisit your old plan – Your previous (or current, depending on your perspective) strategic plan is a good starting point. You arrived at those conclusions after significant thought, so pick that plan back up and try to recapture that perspective.
- Run a SWOP analysis – Most organizations call this a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) but we take a more proactive perspective and reframe threats as priorities. This classic process, whether you use our spin or not, is a powerful way to assess current realities so that you can revise and update your plan.
- Talk to expert advisors – In your SWOP, you may uncover questions you can’t immediately answer. Take the time to talk to the experts close to you to make the most informed choices possible. Not everything has changed, but enough has that you might need additional insights to build an effective plan.
- Make a timeline – Once your plan is set, map it to an execution timeline. We have seen several businesses build incredible strategic plans and then fail to act on them. This is hard work, which means it can be tempting to put it off, but the year is already moving quickly. Don’t lose valuable time.
- Revisit and recalibrate – The best strategic plans are agile. As soon as you begin to execute, you will begin to learn more about the opportunities you are pursuing, and along the way, circumstances may change. Resurface your strategic plan at least quarterly and evaluate the plan against the data and insights you’re gathering. Then make changes accordingly.
Where Benefits Might Fit
Your benefits plan may not be the sole focus of your strategic plan, but for the amount of budget your plan occupies and for much it impacts your people, it should be a significant piece. For example, we have already seen clients adjust their plans to address the realities of the pandemic. They placed an increased emphasis on options like telemedicine and prescriptions-by-mail. Even small adjustments, like reallocating gym reimbursements to cover digital fitness programs like Pelaton, can be meaningful.
And those changes are in addition to, or part of, a more aggressive approach to reducing the costs of a benefits plan without sacrificing quality–a major strategic opportunity for many businesses because of the revenue it unlocks and for how it enhances the employee experience.
There is no silver bullet for any aspect of your business or your strategic plan, but you have several choices you can make–big and small–that will make a difference. Let’s get to it.