Scaling People: Start with the End in Mind

On January 31, 2017, in HRExaminer, Jason Seiden, by Jason Seiden

photo of Jason Seiden on HRExaminer.com

Jason Seiden, HRExaminer Editorial Advisory Board Contributor.

Last year, I heard Matt Maloney, CEO of GrubHub, say that the hardest part of building a business is scaling people.

Scaling people has always been a challenge, but there are aspects to the way business operates today that make it harder—or easier—than ever. Ten years ago, “employee experience” and “candidate experience” weren’t things. But then the internet happened. And when it did, sites like LinkedIn, Glassdoor, Indeed, and Facebook (OMG, Facebook!) made it easier than ever to (1) get information about other jobs and (2) apply for them. So now they are. Which can be either really good or really bad, depending on how you go about things.

Here are five things you can do in your organization right now to make the internet work for you and make scaling people easier:

  1. Track the way your people talk about people.

Take your notebook to your next meeting. On an empty page, put a line down the middle. Write “Invested” atop the left column and “Detached” atop the right one. Listen to conversations and put tick marks down every time someone talks about people in a way that is either invested or detached. Every culture is different, so the specific cues you’re looking for to figure out how invested in the people around them is going to be a little unique, but as a general rule, something like “He’s a nice guy” would be “Detached” while “I like him a lot” would be “Invested.” Note the trends—especially if they’re negative—and report out to people. Putting sunlight on the way people speak should be enough to nudge things in the right direction.

  1. Remind managers that their job first and foremost is about building a team. Remind them a lot.

Too often, the hiring process gets pushed down the priority list in favor of whatever work needs to be done today… and “management” gets done with an eye roll and a “What am I, a kindergarten teacher?” Managers need to be reminded that taking care of people is their job #1—and that doing the work is the job of their people.

  1. Remind your executives of the same thing.

A manager with a full workload cannot build her team because she has a full workload. In a well-functioning, established team, that can be fine, as mature teams tend to be more self-managing. But if your company, business unit, department, or function is going through any sort of change, then the managers there will need the space to build their teams. And that means you need executives who are willing to create that space. The alternative is spending 3x as much on consultants to do the same work your own people could have done themselves.

  1. Got gamification? Take a hard look at what behaviors you’re rewarding.

From pay to points, every reward you offer drives a very specific behavior. Got a sales manager who’s a fantastic trainer/coach/motivator? That’s an incredible resource for a company trying to scale up. But if her comp is based on her team’s performance relative to other teams, forget it: she will actively prohibit other teams from benefiting from her knowledge. Before you blame her (or others) for not being team players, look at how they’re being rewarded; sometimes the answer is baked into the incentives.

  1. Engage your people in big decisions.

Instagram moves a button, it’s conversation for a week. Imagine having the system you need to do your job change on you—and you have no say in the matter and no idea why. It’s demoralizing. And that’s important because if you’re aggravating your people while trying to scale up, you’re creating headwinds that will get in your way in form of attrition and apathy… bad enough on their own and amplified today by Glassdoor, LinkedIn, and Facebook. The alternative is to actually treat people like adults and ask their opinion and explain why stuff is happening. It takes time but yields big dividends… that today get amplified through those same social channels.

Scaling people is a job that requires engagement from the CEO all the way up to the front line. It’s never simple, but keeping communications positive, making sure team builders have the room, support, and incentives to build their teams, and treating people with respect will go a long way to making it easier.



 
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