I’ve been fortunate to work in organisations at every stage of the business life cycle. I’ve worked with new businesses fighting to exist and mature businesses suffocating in policy and process. It’s the growth phase where I see businesses setting themselves apart — its what happens here that will influence the culture of your business as you scale. It’s the time when every day is crazy fast and people operations can be an afterthought. Having a plan to align your people operations to your strategy, and to make your business a great place to work, will ensure you grow in a way that your people want to work for you and perform at their best.

1. Be ready to shape-shift, as and when required.

Growing businesses need to pivot regularly, depending on where the opportunities for growth arise. To respond to this, your team also needs to be able to pivot quickly and easily to seize new opportunities. This may mean re-organising your team so you have the best person on the job, changing reporting lines, or moving people to be co-located. It could also mean redeploying team members to other roles, exiting some and hiring others. You need to ensure your culture is one where leaders are transparent about the need to pivot, and why change is constant in a growing business.

2. Celebrate and reward failure.

Driving a culture where your team sets audacious goals, that may or may not be achieved, underpins innovation. It’s how game changing products and services are created. People will only create these audacious goals if it is ok if they miss them. You need to reward your team for killing a project when they know it’s not going to be amazing. Trying something and failing is a much better outcome than trying something and pursuing it when you know it’s not going to deliver. This was exampled beautifully by Hooli with their persistence in Nucleus (HBO’s Silicon Valley is so good sometimes I like to pretend it’s real).

3. Accept nothing less than diversity and inclusion right from the start.

If you want to grow, you need creativity, innovation and disruption. Nothing breeds this better than diversity. Don’t hire a whole lot of people just like you. You need all genders, you need people of all ages, you need people who think differently and see the world differently. All this difference will help to create an inclusive environment. It’s harder work when the people around you tend to start from a different point of view to you, but it ensures a better outcome. Diversity = better design = better customer solutions = growth.

4. Use an online collaboration tool.

I’m a huge fan of Slack. Quite frankly it changed my work life. The death of the ‘reply all’, the transparency across teams, the knowledge sharing, the removal of hierarchy, all these things make team work soooo much better. If not Slack, then try one of the other collaboration tools. No more inter-company email, no more meetings to plan meetings. It takes a bit of getting used to, and you’ll have to drag some of your team to it kicking and screaming, but once you are all using a collaboration tool, it will have a hugely positive impact on team dynamics and effectiveness.

5. Don’t default to the way you’ve always done things. Try HR Tech disruptors.

If like many of us, your first stop when recruiting is advertising on a job board then the traditional screening and selection processes, this will probably no longer be fast enough for you. The quicker method (refer a friend) may lead to a lack of diversity and your team becoming insular. There are lots of great HR Tech disruptors changing the game for people operations. Some are doing amazing things with big data to provide precise information about the background and experience a hiring manager is looking for. From this you can create a targeted recruitment campaign. VideoMyJob will tap into the passive recruitment market through well-placed video insights about your company and a job you are seeking to fill. 

I’ll look to start showcasing HR tech disruptors in future blogs.

6. If you don’t measure it, you can’t manage it .

I’m really into People Analytics. Most companies rely on a whole suite of metrics to run their business, but many don’t yet get value from their people data. Companies like Culture Amp provide easy to use surveys that ask your people the questions you want answers to. Measuring employee engagement will provide data on how likely your people are to stay with you, how likely they are to put in extra effort at work, and how likely they are to advocate for the company. It’s the employee engagement figure which can be used to benchmark against external organisations, and is often used by people looking to join your company. Looking deeper into the data you’ll get insights into the kind of activities to undertake to increase engagement. The data may tell you your people feel like you aren’t managing poor performance, or you are working them too hard, or it takes too long to get approvals. Most of these insights can be corrected at little cost or with only small tweaks to your leadership style.

7. Keep it simple.

When businesses grow, they risk becoming cumbersome and losing the agility that was their competitive advantage when they were a startup. Suddenly there is a 3 step approval process to book travel, there is a painful performance management system and a 3 day turn around for a new hire to gain access to the network. Rather than bolt on solutions from other organisations, take a design thinking approach to your people systems and processes and design simple solutions with the employee in mind. Co-create with your team to build buy in and ownership. By simplifying process and approval layers you will stay close to your customers and respond to their needs quickly as you grow.

8. Understand that the capability you need today may be different to what you need tomorrow.

Having people you can rely upon to keep your business performing is critical, but just as critical is hiring people who have the potential to grow with your business and lead it through to the next phase.

The capability that got your business started, will need to evolve to grow your business to the next level. Leading a Startup is very different to leading a business that is in the growth or mature phase. You’ll need to keep an eye on the capability of your team and invest in developing it as the organisation grows. You may even need to pro-actively bring new capabilities into the organisation through new hires and consultants.

Being mindful of the capabilities you require in the future will mean better People decisions today.

9. Build your social capital.

Your social capital is the value you build from the networks and relationships your people share. I don’t mean how friendly people are with each other, its more about how willing people are to help each other and to ask for help. Often the answers to your difficult problems can be found by a diverse group of people sharing ideas. ‘Water cooler conversations’ was a term first used to describe the office gossip or informal chat that happens when people are away from their desks getting a drink from the water cooler. I think I only see water coolers at the doctors surgery now, so how can we create opportunities to have conversations that get our thinking on a path to where it hasn’t been before. What is your modern day office water cooler ?

10. Know your own limitations.

Don’t surround yourself with ‘yes’ men and women. You need to be able to trust your people to tell you when your not doing it right, when you need help and when someone else is doing it better. Is it time to hire a Chief Operating Officer? To outsource your marketing? To fire your best mate? Did I just say that? Keep an objective view of what’s still working and what needs to change as you grow. Who in your team will be the voice of truth when everyone else keeps telling you what you want to hear. Is this the person you need to go out and hire?

Often growing businesses, particularly in the early stages, are not thinking about setting their People Operations for success in the future. Use these 10 tips to make people decisions today that will deliver your strategy and grow your business into a great place to work now and in the future.


This was first published on Medium.com