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Develop Your People Now

Why companies must develop and implement their people ops strategy as early as possible

· People Operations,strategy,Startup Development

Dear People Ops:

We are a high-growth software company that has acquired multiple companies and received many rounds of VC funding. Most of our HR efforts goes towards recruitment, and we haven't had a chance to focus on any people development initiatives. How would you suggest a company with 550 eager employees launch a people development program? Thanks!

It’s an all too familiar startup trap! In the early stage of startup growth, caught up in the rapid recruiting and hiring cycle, you’re don't prioritize building a cohesive strategy for developing your people. The result? A disconnect between your company's values and how your people are treated. The period proof underwear company Thinx is a cautionary tale of what can happen. An unapologetically feminist company whose employees couldn't afford basic birth control (not to mention the sexual harassment complaints....), resulted in a PR nightmare and an ousted CEO.

Thinx didn’t actively decide to disconnect their people ops strategy from the philosophy that drove the rest of the company. More likely the decision to offer unaffordable health care options to employees was made in a vacuum. When looking to develop your people op strategy, you'll first want to look at what is already in place. As many pieces of your people operations developed as needed without a cohesive strategy, now is the time to evaluate them together and see what they are saying to your employees about how they are valued.

Ultimately, you'll want to decide what narrative you want your people ops strategy to tell. Are you a company that wants to be known as a place people can build their careers? Then you’ll think strategically about a performance management process that gives managers tools to help their team members see how their career will develop with the company over five, ten, fifteen years. Do you want to be the fun company? Then get ready to invest in company outings, off-sites, theme days, and catered meals.

I am convinced that nothing we do is more important than hiring and developing people. At the end of the day you bet on people, not on strategies.


-Lawrence Bossidy

You should also think about the kind of person your company wants to attract and retain. Many startups build a culture that young, child-free employees embrace. But if you want to, or need to, retain or recruit more seasoned employees you’ll have to approach your strategy differently. One is not better than the other, rather you want to make sure you're developing a strategy that aligns with who your company needs to hire and retain to stay competitive.

Finally, to make a plug for my profession, hiring or promoting someone to focus on identifying and implementing your people ops strategy is critical. As your company grows, they will partner with managers across the company to ensure individual team strategies align with the overall company strategy creating a cohesive workplace culture. I typically advocate for this hire before the 100 person mark. At over 500 people I suspect you have someone in this role, but they don’t have the capacity to focus on strategy over the day to day execution of human resource responsibilities. Hire them some help so there is someone dedicated full-time to maintaining your people ops strategy. The payoff is worth it - reduced turnover, increased institutional knowledge, and easier recruiting because of a strong company brand to name just a few.

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