Building People Capability

So a friend calls me and tells me that the companies his organization is helping scale are HR averse (maybe rightly so). So, he suggests I take a couple of days to think it over and give him some options — vague and with a timeline, just perfect!

Surprisingly a few ideas crystallized overnight and I was able to give him something to get started (or thrown out, either way I’m off the hook!).

Here’s the core of my POV on this vague / soft topic. I consider this a quick level 1 assessment you can do for an organization to check their maturity levels w.r.t to People Ops. While each one has specific mechanisms / tools that can be used to go deeper, a simple interview to assess will do to begin with to understand org specific Reality & Aspiration.

  • The Leader should care genuinely: This is numero uno. Care is spelt “TIME”, ie spend his (and extended team’s) time discussing people development on par with any other core function. If leader doesn’t buy it, everything becomes a compromise / stressful. In such cases better to not promise too much (that raise expectations) or put too many rules in place as a substitute.
  • 2 Main Levers are Hiring and Performance Management: Spend maximum effort / investment getting this right. This way you will ensure only better talent comes in (to increase team avg) and you help them develop faster (journey to mastery). Do not run behind “programs / initiatives” that are typically nothing but feel good quick fixes.
  • Participative Management: Involve employees (based on competence not hierarchy) in aspects of running their teams / organization that they operate in. This could mean setting the rules, goals, hiring, payouts, etc. This develops “Skin in the Game”. They have maximum context and can use this knowledge only when given the platform / responsibility. This requires tremendous amount of trust (do it only when ready).
  • Establish Rituals (formal / informal): Ways in which the tacit aspect of growing the company, the values and interpersonal relationships are built. Could be daily lunches together, weekly all hands, etc. Think minimal effort but long term compounding results. Consistency is key here.
  • Minimal Hiring of HR / Support Staff: Managing people and organization is everyone’s core responsibility. Do not outsource it — it will lead to bloated bureaucratic departments. Hire specialists (Recruitment, Payroll) and use as advisors.