maintain culture growthAs you should know by now, I’m a firm believer in the power of a strong corporate culture. One of the sessions I looked forward to the most before I arrived at SHRM was the “Maintaining Your Culture As You Grow” session. I picked up some great ideas and wanted to share them here. If you are interested in more content like this, I have another post rattling around in my brain that I can write on the topic…

Some takeaways

  • Don’t let people tell you that you have to change everything as you scale up. Yes, you might have to make some changes, but they should be operationally, not at the core of what your company believes in. You might have to change processes or procedures that used to work flawlessly. Bottom line: what got you here won’t necessarily get you to where you want to be.
  • Springboarding off of that concept, there are times when it becomes necessary to remove long-time employees simply because they are unable to grow and scale with the organization. It’s painful. It’s unpleasant. But it has to be done or they’ll remain a weak link in the growth structure. The process for removing the person is simple (not easy!): respectfully acknowledge their significant contributions and then kindly and gently help them leave. That’s it.
  • Give hiring managers final say in all hiring decisions. Everyone on the interview team can vote, but when the hiring manager makes the call, everyone else needs to get on board with the decision immediately. No hemming, hawing, or “that’s not who I wanted.” Either give them your support or leave. Many companies rot from the inside out when too much finger-pointing becomes the common culture vs. organizational excellence.
  • Have your interview team members reach out to the new hire before their start date with encouraging comments and helpful tips. Many of us wait until day 1 to help them build those connections, but the sooner they start getting comfortable, the faster they will be productive employees.
  • One concept I’m not sure I really like, but I think it’s intriguing: only do performance evaluations on your highest performers. It’s a burdensome process otherwise, so make sure you get the most bang for your buck by only evaluating the best people. Make your strengths stronger instead of focusing on your weaknesses. [Again, not sure I like this, but worth discussing. My issue is that it’s a demotivator for employees who want to be great but don’t have enough coaching or communication to do well. This is going to further deepen those rifts until the potentially great B players walk out the door.]

I have other notes, but as I went through them I realized I already have started writing other blog posts about the specific bullet points. I have some good ideas here and hope to actually do a training session with some of our team to help them understand the implications for maintaining culture for the long haul.

What questions do you have surrounding culture or growth? What would you like me to cover in the future?

I’ve struggled with this for a long time, but knowing when to hire an employee is a key skill to have. We’ve been growing steadily in recent months, and the pressure has continued to increase. In just a few short weeks, I’ll have my first employee (part time, but better than nothing!) to help keep things moving in the right direction. I can’t wait! Today I want to talk a little about when to make the decision to hire someone else.

I’m going to assume that your company, like mine, is trying to stay lean and competitive, so adding people on a whim is not going to fly in this case. Here are a few of the pieces of the puzzle that had to be in place for me to support the need for more help in building a new HR department.

3 tips for when to hire an employee

  1. You have to be working hard. It might seem silly or simplistic so say that out loud, but many people are just going through the motions and not giving it everything they have. Your manager needs to see you giving it everything you’ve got or there will be no leverage or data to back up your claim for more people. Here’s how that worked for me-In the past two months I’ve been recruiting pretty much nonstop. I’ve been taking care of a minimum amount of HR duties to keep things moving, but some things are just having to fall through the cracks. I’m keeping my manager in the loop to make sure we are targeting the same priorities, and he is very aware of what is and is not getting done. As that list of “not done” items starts reaching critical mass, it becomes an imperative statement on when to hire an employee.
  2. You have to know what you want. This was (and still is) the hardest for me. Do you want a seasoned professional to come in and take over a piece of the HR workload? Do you want an admin to come in, help with the data and paper shuffle, and grow into a specialty area over time? What specific tasks are you willing to give up?For a few weeks now I have been building a profile for the “perfect” candidate. I wanted them to be entry-level, have few preconceived notions about HR, and be a solid culture fit hire. I want them to take over some specific areas of the HR function so I can focus on some other key areas.
  3. Hire what you need and don’t get sidetracked. This one is tough for many people, and the hiring team definitely fell into this trap until we pulled ourselves back out. If you’re hiring for someone to handle benefits, don’t disqualify someone because they aren’t chatty and personable. If you’re hiring someone to take over your recruiting, pay more attention to their physical and verbal cues than you do to their college degree. You’re selecting someone for a specific role, and you will never find the person with 100% of the qualifications, experience, etc. that you want. That’s why you make up a fake profile for the perfect candidate and start bouncing applicants off that standard. It helps you to see which areas are critical and which are just “nice to have.” Hire for what you need, and don’t get sidetracked halfway through the process by a flashy candidate who might be a great hire but a poor fit for the tasks, team, or culture.

You’ll notice I didn’t talk about an HR to employee ratio at all within the context of this article. I know those ratios are all over the map and don’t necessarily measure the right thing anyway. I wanted to focus on what to look for if you are trying to decide when to hire an employee.

For those of you who have had to determine when to hire an employee, what

Last week I had the opportunity to speak with the great team over at DriveThruHR about some of the things that are “keeping me up at night,” so to speak. We discussed hypergrowth (how to prepare for 50% growth in less than a month), what it means to hire for culture fit, and more. It was a great conversation, and I had a lot of fun discussing the things that make us better HR professionals.

I’d love for you to check it out and let me know what you think! The player is embedded below. Subscribers click here to see the player.

If the player doesn’t work, feel free to use this link to listen to the episode.

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

The other day I mentioned company growth phases in my review of Seeing the Big Picture. I thought it warranted more discussion, because it’s something I honestly hadn’t considered previously. Here’s a quote from the book:

Company growth phases are fairly standard. Startup, growth, maturity, decline. But what about the types of employees required in each phase of growth? I think it can shift over time. New companies look for people to take risks, work long hours, etc. Mature companies want to maintain what they have and reduce risk, which means hiring an entirely different set of employees.

company growth phasesI was mulling that over, and then I remembered another book review I had done on Jolt: Get the Jump on a World that is Constantly Changing. One of the quotes there tied in perfectly:

Growth oriented organizations require growth oriented people.
-Phil Cooke Continue reading

Get them involvedIn my first post on how to develop managers, I talked about uncovering manager development opportunities. Today we’ll talk about how to structure your organization so the managers want to get involved with their own development.

Hire right

It starts with the hire. If you hire someone who is comfortable with what they can already do and isn’t interested in doing anything more, then you’re probably going to have difficulty working with them. One of my favorite songs uses this lyric, and I repeat it to myself often when things start to get a little out of my comfort zone:

Somewhere in the grand design, it’s good to be unsatisfied. It keeps the faith and hope a little more alive.

There’s nothing wrong with finding someone who is not satisfied with where they are currently Continue reading

When you work for a smallish company, you need to be ready for growth. And I’m not talking the 2-3% increases over the course of time. I’m talking about the decisions that lead to explosive growth, seemingly overnight. Don’t be “that HR guy/gal” who finds out after the fact that big changes are coming. Have some forethought. Plan ahead. Develop a strategy. You’ll be looked at as a stronger partner within the organization, and it will mean less stress for you and your team when the inevitable changes do come.

We’ve ridden those waves before, and we’re now poised for yet another growth spurt. Here are four ways I’m preparing for this potential growth.

1) Automation

While we’re not big enough (yet) to be able to afford a lot of software/hardware upgrades, we do have ability to use things like SharePoint to organize and automate our processes and workflows. Saving time on a single new hire or employee action adds up over time. The key is for these actions to be able to scale, even if we double or triple in size.

2) Document SOPs

When you have a lull in the storm, that’s the best time to look back at how you were able to navigate the previous circumstances. Once you’ve identified those key actions that led to success, document those. While you’re at it, make sure the day-to-day activities you complete are documented as well. What happens to your work if you get hit by a bus?

3) Build a Pipeline

I plan to write more on proactive recruiting soon, but I had two instances recently where this came in handy and helped to avoid being stuck in a tight spot. The interesting part was that it was entirely by accident. We’d interviewed a few candidates several months ago and were ready to hire, but the position was closed due to customer requirements. I kept in touch with the candidates, and when the positions came available again, it was as simple as sending an offer letter since they’d been pre-screened and pre-qualified. It’s easy to talk about and not always easy to do, but just a few interviews over time can help uncover great candidates if you hire for the same types of positions often.

4) Cut Waste

Automation saves time, but financial waste is a drain on the company as well, and with even more work to be done, it will be that much more painful to continue the status quo. Consider talking with vendors, benefits brokers, and other service providers about what sort of rate negotiations you’ll be able to secure as a larger organization. Saving 3% on health insurance premiums may seem like a small amount, but don’t forget that the cost savings grow incrementally even as the business grows.

Those are a few of the ways we’re looking to prepare for the next tidal wave of activity on the HR/recruiting side. Anyone else have ideas they’d care to share?