Introducing The Employee Strategy Canvas

/, Employee Experience/Introducing The Employee Strategy Canvas

Musketeers created the Employee Strategy Canvas about a year ago to help a client clarify a people strategy that would support the organisation’s planned changes and growth.

About six months ago we released this tool under the Creative Commons license on our website and from the response it’s clear that there is a need for it. With not even a blog post about it, people from throughout the world started downloading it and haven’t stopped since. We feel it’s time to provide a proper introduction and guide to using it.

The Employee Strategy Canvas helps the leaders of an organisation come together and map out a people strategy that will support the organisation’s strategic direction. It aligns understanding and expectations between leaders, it helps People and Culture teams position and articulate the value proposition for key activities they wish to implement, and it helps create a pathway for change.

The Employee Strategy Canvas helps the leaders of an organisation come together and map out a people strategy that will support the organisation’s strategic direction.

The word strategy is often attached with a bunch of meanings so just for clarity’s sake, when we refer to Employee Strategy we are talking about a roadmap highlighting the unique culture, systems and activities that an organisation needs to embrace to support the overall business strategy and direction.

You can download the Employee Strategy Canvas (released for free under the Creative Commons License) here:


From Here to There

The Employee Strategy Canvas is organised as a roadmap. How do we get from “here” (what our culture, systems and activities are like now) to “there” (what we need the culture, systems and activities to be), and the steps in between.

On the canvas the “From Here to There” line separates the Business path and the Employee path (more on these parts below) and provides space for three intermediary steps that can be used to prioritise and define the journey of change.

The Business Path

The top of the Canvas is where you identify the planned or expected strategic developments or changes the organisation will go through over your identified timeframe.

The Employee Path

The Employee path is the bottom half of the Employee Strategy Canvas, where you are able to map out the unique activities, approaches and systems that need to be pursued or implemented to support the business strategy and direction mapped above.

The Employee path is also divided into a typical employee journey with sections and prompts across a wide range of domains which are typically considered in a conversation about Employee Strategy.


The Employee Strategy Canvas was designed to be printed as a large poster, be put up on a wall and use sticky notes to ideate, discuss and iterate. Here are the steps:

 Step 1 – Get the Right People In The Room

An Employee Strategy is of prime importance to the whole organisation, so it’s important to have the right people in the room. Key leaders with insight into the direction and strategy of the organisation must be present. Of course relevant members of your people and culture team should also be there.

When inviting other leaders it’s important to frame the reason for meeting as an opportunity to discuss how the People Strategy can help meet their strategic needs. This is particularly important if you work in a People and Culture team. You are not asking them to help you create the People Strategy, you are inviting them to make sure their needs are best met. To reinforce this message you can ask them to bring a list of their people needs to the meeting.

Having the right people in the room is also important because sometimes trade-offs or extra budgets might be required for any changes proposed in the meeting. Having the right people helps to create consensus and clarity about what is required, making future requests for budget fit an established framework.

Lastly, these meetings help set the right expectations about any changes. Sometimes leaders don’t have full clarity on what it will take to implement a proposed change, e.g. embedding a particular skill set. This meeting allows you to have discussions about lead times for changes, resource requirements, and the type of leaders’ buy-in that may be needed to deliver proposed changes.

Step 2 – Determine the Timeframe that Make Sense

The timeframe for which you choose to create a roadmap depends on your business and circumstances.

Either way you have the flexibility to determine the timeframe that makes sense for your business and situation.

If you’re a startup it might make sense to be looking at a 6 or 12 month timeframe, if you are going through major transformation you may want to map out the transformation period, or if you are an established business a 5 year period may be suitable. Keep in mind that in a world of constant change, very long time frames can become obsolete. Either way you have the flexibility to determine the timeframe that makes sense for your business and situation.

Step 3 – Map Out the Planned or Expected Business Developments and Changes Across that Timeframe

This should not take a long time. All that’s required is to map out the key developments and changes on the Business Path at top part of the canvas. 10-20% of your meeting time should be sufficient for this step.

Perhaps your organisation plans to make an aspect of the business obsolete, or specialise in a certain technology. Perhaps the organisation will introduce a new database system, or expand into a new territory. All these have impacts on the people and culture of the organisation and need to be mapped out across your chosen timeframe.

Step 4 – Map Out What “There” Looks Like for Employees

Once the Business path is completed, you can move down to the Employee Path and start thinking about what will be required to support the organisation’s “There” state. In essence you are imagining the final state of your People and Culture activities which successfully support the business strategy – what does that look like?

What will your Employee Culture need to look like, what key systems, skill sets, strategies will need to be in place to support the Business Strategy?

Step 5 – Map Out What “Here” Looks Like for Employees

Once the desired destination has been mapped, it is important to map where things are at now. This can be a painful experience for the People and Culture team because it might involve managers discussing failures and dissatisfactions . Significant emotional intelligence is required at this stage to ensure the meeting doesn’t fall into blaming and justifying.

It is most productive to actively help managers unpack their issues and frustrations. Allowing grievance to be heard properly improves the chance for the managers to be actively involved in the process of improvement.

Step 6 – Map Out What Changes and Developments You Need to Get from “Here” to “There”

Once there is a starting point, a destination and a time frame, you are able to prioritise key changes that are required over that period.

Map out your planned points of transition and consider how different components of the Employee path build and are connected to each other. Which changes do you need to implement first to facilitate future changes? Which are the difficult and easy changes? Which changes will build positive momentum and buy-in from staff for more difficult changes?

Discuss these changes from an employee perspective, how will the employee experience be impacted?


Build Momentum

While completing your Employee Strategy Canvas it is easy to get stuck on particular points of discussion. It is better to identify an area as a point for further discussion and move on to complete the strategy as a whole. Bringing the leadership together like this is significant investment and it is more valuable to have overall clarity of the strategy with a few areas requiring more work, than to only being able to complete part of the strategy.

Having the overall strategy builds momentum that you can leverage to resolve any of the smaller issues.

Keep The Canvas Up

Leave the poster up on a wall, helping all people and culture staff and other management to have visual reminders of the work ahead. You may need to create a cleaned-up version.

Communicate the Changes

Obtain the buy-in from all managers and then communicate the employee strategy to the rest of the organisation – ideally in a visual format like the Employee Strategy Canvas. This will provide staff with a framework to make sense of changes that may occur and allow them to be emotionally prepared.

Make it an Event

Getting leaders to contribute their time to this process is an investment. Reward their contribution by creating a positive experience. Think about food, breaks and thank you gifts, and remember to be prepared to hear complaints. The goal is to create a mental landmark that helps them remember the impacts on the Employee Strategy for any changes they try to introduce.


You can download the Employee Strategy Canvas (released for free under the Creative Commons License) here:

Feel free to reach out to us if you have any further enquiries.