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Look outside for HR strategy inspiration

How reading widely and engaging with experts helped Mencap become more people-focused

Thought leaders can provide essential guidance and inspiration when considering a change of strategy, according to Angela Buxton, people director of Mencap.

Speaking at the HR Directors Summit in Birmingham, Buxton explained the challenge facing the learning disabilities charity. "When we started this project of becoming more people-focused we had a new CEO and a new people director, but no plan," she said. "We knew we'd need the advice of thought leaders, and turned to the works of Brene Brown for inspiration. She has said that vulnerability is the birthplace of creativity, innovation and change. We decided that being vulnerable should be at the heart of what we do.

"We also looked to Dave Ulrich's ideas, as we knew we needed a partner to disturb things and challenge us as a non-profit. We started working with his consultancy, and it was a great opportunity to work with them. We learned how to deliver our strategy with HR leading."

Simplification of the organisation's internal communication also helped to streamline its strategy. Sara Sheard, head of organisational development, highlighted the name of its strategy ('the big plan') as an example.

"We have forums where we speak with our colleagues with learning disabilities, and we laid out our strategy," she said. "However, one asked what 'strategy' meant, and we realised it could be simplified as that – a 'big plan' – and the name stuck.

"To ensure we got feedback from our staff we started a hashtag: #yourmencap. We wanted to promote a sense of ownership and show we will listen to everyone's voice, from regular employees as well as executives"

Additionally, materials used to explain 'the big plan' were simplified too. "We used to have two copies of every document printed; a standard one and one in plain English," said Buxton. "But we looked at this and asked why not just one? Most of our staff don't want a 10-page strategy briefing anyway. So now we just have one version that everyone can use."