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Personnel Planning

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Digital Marketing - Study Notes:

Aligning with strategic and operational plans

You need to ensure that planning and alignment fits between the strategic plans and the HR plans of the business. In other words, what does the business actually need? What skills does the business have? What does it not have? And what objectives does the business have?

If you’re in a business which is requiring a significant amount of transformation, for example, or you’re heading into digital marketing in a much more heavily invested way than you have been previously, it’s very important before rushing off and just recruiting a bunch of digital marketers to basically say, “What objectives do we actually have for the business? What are our strategic goals? What kind of skills are we going to need to have in order to be able to deliver against those strategic goals?”

Skills matrix

Then you might complete a skills matrix, for example, you might say, “So what skills do we actually have within our organization? Are they strong? Are they medium? Are they weak? Where do we have gaps? Where do we need to fill?”

In many cases, opportunities can be filled from within an existing organization. The skills might be there but they just might not be being properly deployed. Ask questions like, “What do we actually need to recruit for? Do we actually have a vacancy? How many vacancies do we have? Can that work be redistributed?” And so on and so on. That’s an important aspect of personnel planning. You must make sure that you’ve identified the appropriate skills and the appropriate level of resource for those skills that fits versus the strategic objectives that you have for an organization.

Supply and demand

In terms of the future personnel, it’s always going to be a combination of who you are and who you want to be.

  • Supply: What kind of skills, experience, and network do you have from a job point-of-view?
  • Demand: What kind of requirements and opportunity do you have from an employee point-of-view?

Matching as effectively as you can the supply of what you’ve got with the demand is going to be the task at hand.

And that may be able to be fulfilled from within the organization. But if it can’t, then you can identify more specifically what exact opportunities do you need to recruit for. Who you need to bring in with what kind of skill level?

Short-term versus long-term thinking

The other important aspect of this is thinking short-term versus thinking long-term.

Short term

In short-term we’re really talking about the importance of adapting to the market. This involves having flexibility of staff and aligning the skills to the opportunity, looking at tactical opportunities to work either with the resources you’ve got or short-term bringing flexible workforces in to be able to meet short-term business needs or short-term challenges that you may be facing.

This is often obviously where a lot of the time is spent in the short-term within HR organizations and within management of organizations, is trying to say, “How do we adjust, as we go?” because the pace of businesses is ever increasing and therefore the need to work in the short-term is always present and it’s always kind of in the forefront of people’s view.


Why is it important to have a long-term view? You’ve got strategic needs. If you have a strategic view of where the business is going the kind of capabilities you want to develop, then it’s really important to map that out and to be able to work towards that. It’s very easy to get overly focused on the short-term without really thinking about a long-term.

History is littered with organizations which have continually focused on the short-term and not really thought further out, not really developed the right skill sets. We think about many music retailers, for example, who were totally focused on bringing in a skill set that was all about retailing, that was all about selling music CDs, that was all about the shop environment, and the shop experience. And what they never focused on was the growth of digital, and the growth of digital music. And consequently when iTunes and the like came along a lot of these firms didn’t have the skill sets to cope. So it wasn’t just a question of the right business model, it was a question of did they even have the right skill sets to be able to cope with that change?

There’s value in thinking about the long-term in terms of the importance of building a committed workforce. A committed workforce is always going to be a highly desirable thing for an organization to have. The benefits include greater loyalty, less uncertainty, being able to plan for the long-term, work for the long-term, train and develop. It’s highly inefficient to bring people in, train them up and then lose them from the business. So having a longer term view to be able to get more committed people in to be able to train and develop them will ultimately yield dividends, but don’t forget the strategic component as well.

Flexible workforce

Consider what level of commitment and what level of specialization do you actually want to balance out for a given business, and a given challenge. Consider how the workforce is becoming more and more flexible. And that has benefits, clearly that has cost benefits, and it has benefits in terms of interest for the people who are able to work flexibly. However, it doesn’t necessarily always deliver you the long-term stability.

You need to blend the strategic view of the business with the resources view of the business. What is the business trying to achieve over what timeframe? What’s the right way to try to balance flexibility in the workforce versus having a greater degree of permanence in the workforce? And it will generally be a balance for most organizations. It’s not to say that you need to go entirely to one end or entirely to the other end. But if you don’t have the right balance, if you’re too focused on the short-term, then you can end up with issues around retention, and you can end up with issues around corporate knowledge being lost.

Similarly, if you entirely focus on people who’ve always been employees, only building for the long-term, you can sometimes lack that flexibility that you need to have, in order to be able to make yourselves responsive in the fast-changing world.

Long-term HR planning

Long-term HR planning involves a number of issues.

Define the future structure

What’s the optimal structure that you want to have related to the strategy that you want to deliver?

Define the future size of the team

What level of resource do you require in order to be able to deliver the strategic objectives that you’ve got? We talked about this in the context of budgeting, but it’s equally important in the context of resource planning. It's not enough to simply say, “Okay I had a team of 30 now I’m going to have a team of 35, or I had 30 last year so I should have the same this year.” This doesn’t work if you are working in a fast-moving environment or you’re trying to deliver a degree of change.

It’s always better to think about what kind of activities are you going to need to get done, what kind of skills do those activities require, and therefore what kind of structure that needs, and at what level of resource. If somebody is expecting marketing to deliver a dramatic increase in the number of customer sign-ups, for example, then unless you’re changing something significant about the way that you work, you’re going to need an appropriate level of resource to deliver that.

Define estimated work to others

Define the estimated work that you assign that to either freelancers or flexible workers, or it could be to partner companies or agencies versus to people that are permanently employed. Finding that right balance gives you flexibility for peaks in workload, gives you flexibility for changes in the market environment, enables you to keep costs under a degree of control.

But it’s important to keep that balance so you don’t swing too far one way or the other.

Attracting and retaining staff

You need to understand what factors are most relevant in terms of attracting and retaining the right staff.

So there are different methods that can be utilized.


You can use surveys which will show you either on an industry level, or you may do that for your own company individually, what do people value, and how well do they feel that that’s being delivered today. But the kinds of things that one might think about in order to be able to attract and develop staff are obviously bonuses, and bonusing on the right metrics, I think, is also something that’s extremely important and often overlooked.


Define what the targets are, make those targets stretching but achievable, and ensure that you’re rewarding the right kind of behaviors with bonuses. It’s very easy simply to say money for sales but actually sometimes you might want a more sophisticated set of bonus targets that really try to reward the right kind of behaviors within an organization.

Career development

Career development includes promotion, but can also be movements into other areas, overall development of skills, and opportunities for broadening assignments. Because overall career development is one of the key things particular in digital space that people are really looking for. They’re looking to learn, they’re looking to grow, and they want to be able to get that.

Skills training

Skills training builds on that point. You need to provide relevant skills training.

Promotion opportunities

People want to see a path to advancement, and they want to see their ability to be able to grow within an organization to become more senior within an organization. So you need to ensure that those opportunities are there and are visible.

Positive company culture

There's a whole separate conversation about company culture. What really matters is that the company culture reinforces the values that you yourselves want to promote. Most people will have a set of values that they might write on their website, but actually the company culture is the way that the organization actually works. It’s surprising how many times the way that things work don’t necessarily reflect the values that might be published on the company’s website. And when those two things get into conflict, that’s when you can start to have challenges.

So defining what kind of company culture you want, but then really trying to put that into practice so that people on a day in day out basis, on the way that they behave, the way they see their colleagues behaving and what you reward promotes that positive company culture.

Social interaction with colleagues

Social interaction with colleagues is clearly something that people value increasingly, whether that be through the kind of social sharing tools that we talked about before, or whether that be through opportunities outside of work and team building and so forth.

Interesting projects

People want to be challenged, they want to be developed, and they want to work on things that they find interesting. After all, they’re spending a huge amount of their time working in the office. And you need to be able to give them things that stimulate them, and that they feel a sense of accomplishment for having achieved.

So all of these things matter, they’ll matter to different degrees in different organizations but perhaps running some kind of a survey or utilizing an industry survey can help you understand which ones to focus on more. Because again, as we talked about previously with channels if you focus on the right ones, the ones that have the biggest positive output you’re more likely to get a more successful result.

Performance and pay

You must consider what are you going to pay the people who are going to work in your teams.


We’ve got user salary and we’ve got user bonuses. Remember the importance of benchmarking salary and looking at the fact that different sectors will tend to pay a different rate. There’s going to be a market expectation of salary but also, from an internal point of view in an organization, you need to consider where the role fits within the organization. Because most organizations will have salary structures, you need to understand where does that role fit? What level of responsibility does that role have? And therefore, what level can you compensate it? And is that appropriate to the market level?

One of the challenges that’s often experienced in digital marketing is that salary scales that have been set in organizations, that perhaps don’t have a high degree of digital marketing in them, can sometimes find themselves out of step with what digital marketers might expect to be compensated for on a market base based on what they have experienced before. Bear in mind that there may need to be some adjustments of salary scales or salary bands depending upon what the market rate is, and we talked the importance of attracting people in but making them feel like they’re being paid an appropriate amount for what they’re doing.


You can reward people in terms of salary progression. Think about how you evaluate somebody’s performance and therefore their individual compensation. And it can also relate to how you bonus people. What kind of bonus structures and incentives do you set up for people? And here, the choice that you have is about between individual performance and team performance. So clearly, salary is the major component of an individual’s compensation. And bonuses that are linked to that salary, that are focused on individual objectives being achieved obviously have the benefit of an individual incentive to perform well for that person.

Team performance

You can identify high performance within teams, and people can feel a real personal benefit and a real personal sense of accomplishment from having achieved certain objectives and getting rewarded for that.

In today’s interconnected world and particularly in companies that are working more and more in a multifunctional basis, it’s also really important to consider the benefits of bonuses based on team performance. That encourages greater cooperation between teams. If the team achieves, the individuals within the team achieve. What you need to be careful of is overly rewarding purely individual performance at the expense of the team.

Ultimately, any organization is a team effort, so bonuses that are focused on team performance can encourage greater cooperation, they can encourage greater focus on the bigger picture. Individuals who may have a particular personal objective or a particular personal preference to something will be more willing to set that aside in favor of the overall benefit of the team if the incentive structure has an element of team performance in it. They can help teams to, therefore, to achieve more and bring in more ideas from multiple different team members. So think about the right balance between individual performance and team performance, how you measure that, how you reward that.


Consider the role of values. Does your bonus scheme fit with the values of your organization? Does it align with the kind of culture that you want to promote as well as the achievement of the actual hard-measure business strategies? These can be very effective tools to help motivate people and to help people move in a direction that you want but the indicators need to be aligned. You need to ensure that you’re measuring what it is you actually want people to do clearly and in a way that people can understand, and feel is fair, because that will be most likely to help their behaviors move in that direction.


Consider how you can develop KPIs, key performance indicators, that are relevant to an individual’s contribution, but also how they’re relevant to a team contribution. So one of the ways that you can do this is by thinking about techniques such as 360-degree feedback, getting feedback from the other members of the team on how an individual has performed against certain criteria. That will often give a very powerful indicator as to how well that individual is working within the team. It also incentivizes individuals to work more effectively as team players.

Having a scorecard with clear KPIs on it also helps drive transparency for individuals in how they’re being measured. One of the biggest frustrations that a lot of people have is that they can’t transparently see how they can influence their own bonus or how they can influence their own salary progression. Whereas if you have a series of measures, some of which can be hard measures like sales, or leads generated, or cost per click, or, you know, level of marketing budget spend versus target, that’s one side.

The other one can be softer measures. So things that focus on team-working, things that focus on learning skills development, things that focus on new ideas contributed to the business, things that contribute on the ratings of people who work for them, for example. You can start to deliver a more broad set of scorecard measures that can help people to deliver in the areas that you want them to, but also within a team environment rather than just an individual environment. road set of scorecard measures that can help people to deliver in the areas that you want them to, but also within a team environment rather than just an individual environment.

Employee share-option scheme

An employee share-option scheme is a trust that holds shares for the benefit of all the employees who participate in that trust. The performance of the company will genuinely pay back to the performance of the employees. So these share-option schemes can take different forms in different organizations but fundamentally, you’ll receive a certain number of shares or interest in a certain number of shares relative to your level of performance. And obviously, the better the company performance overall, the better the share price, the more valuable the shares are, the more the employee shares in the success of the company. So it’s really a powerful way of ensuring that team motivation is aligned to company performance.

Now, clearly, it’s important with share-option schemes in different markets, in different territories that, you know, you’re managing it accordance to the appropriate laws concerning compensation, and taxes, etc., but it’s just an example of how you can have what is a relatively simple tool that can align people’s interests to the overall performance of the company.

Digital marketers sometimes may feel a little bit divorced from some of the other things that the company is doing if they’re newer into the business or if they’re working in a particular specialized area. This scheme helps them to think about how what they’re doing contributes to the overall performance of the company. If they are directly linked to the share price of the company, that link is more formally established.

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John Garnett

John Garnett is Managing Director at Bee Dance Consulting. He specializes in advising and helping businesses with strategy, marketing, and innovation challenges.

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