People Operations (people ops) teams have become integral to the success of many companies across industries. From engaging, retaining, and developing employees, to reporting important metrics and offering solutions to improve processes, People Ops plays a vital role in helping companies survive and thrive.
A challenge that many high-growth companies are facing is how to effectively scale People Ops to best support evolving organizational goals and needs. As a company scales, so does the quality of your foundation - with strengths and weaknesses being amplified accordingly.
Here’s some advice on scaling People Ops thoughtfully along the way, to maximize your company’s success.
1. Set up a formal People Ops Department
When you’re tiny, you don’t need to have an official People Ops department. But as you grow, you’re going to need one to effectively manage hiring, benefits, professional development, inter-employee issues, etc.
● This new department will also need to plan and manage budgets for benefits, professional development, recruitment activities, etc.
2. Adjust your strategy and priorities
Once you reach a certain threshold, People Ops needs to quickly expand in scope, from mainly administrative duies to making strategy and data-based decisions.
● You start operating strategically based on business goals, in addition to still fulfilling administrative roles
● Based on the company’s shifting needs, People Ops needs to re-evaluate goals and priorities. For instance, manager training and general employee development will start becoming higher priorities with rapidly-expanding teams
● The gathering of more data points (which needs to be as streamlined as possible) becomes more important
3. Focus More On Relationship Management
As your company expands, it becomes important to make sure the People Ops team is communicating well with internal leaders and creating strong rapports based on trust and credibility.
4. Re-assess current human capital
As you grow, it becomes even more important to regularly take stock of your most important asset - people. By doing this, you can determine what resources you have, what resources to add, observe trends among your employees, and figure out what industry changes they’re going to need to adjust to.
Here’s a list of areas to assess regularly:
● Employee skills and strengths (e.g., knowledge, technical ability, leadership, and relational skills)
● Trends observed from employee feedback and reviews from managers - especially relating to the ability of employees to successfully fulfill tasks
● Knowledge, skills, training etc. compared to successful competitors
5. Plan for a growing staff
The earlier you plan, the better. Brainstorm about what your company is going to need at various growth milestones.
● What new tasks will need to be performed?
● Make a list of new roles and when they’ll be added.
● Create job descriptions for jobs you know you’ll need in the future.
● Determine the milestones (e.g., a specific amount in sales volume or number of customers) that will be associated with the addition of each new job.
6. Invest in Employee Development
As you determine your growth strategy, start developing your employees to fulfill the projected needs of your company. For instance, if you’ll be needing more project managers, start training some employees to fill those roles. Start thinking more about internal promotions rather than relying mostly on external hires.
● Think of ways to offer strategic professional development to current employees
7. Plan for internal management succession and transitions
As you grow, you’ll inevitably need more managers. In a ConAgra study, untrained managers had twice as much turnover as trained ones. And as you expand, turnover will become more costly.
Plan for this growing need by training and identifying potential managers now. Promoting internally helps minimize succession and transition issues, and helps retain more employees.
● Create a system for identifying those likely to be successful managers
● Talk with employees about their career goals and find out which ones want to become managers
● Determine which management training opportunities would be most effective (internal and/or external) and which ones can be offered to employees
8. Add People
You’re going to need to add staff across all departments, including the People Ops team. You’ll need to think about a few things going forward.
● Create streamlined, effective hiring and onboarding processes ASAP
● Prioritize diversity & inclusion goals
9. Add Tools
Simple spreadsheets may have worked fine when you had a 5-person company. But as you grow, your business will benefit from exploring other types of tools (for tracking applicants or employee benefits, assisting onboarding and professional development, collecting and storing employee reviews and feedback, etc.).
● The right tools can increase organization and effectiveness, save time, and reduce frustration
● When shopping for tools, consider helpful integrations
● No matter what tool you use, it’s important to get in the habit of keeping data as clean and up-to-date as possible
10. Get comfy with collecting and analyzing data - lots of it
As you add effective tools to streamline your processes, you’re going to have a more sophisticated system for evaluating the effectiveness of People Ops’ strategies and determining next steps.
● Collect useful data consistently and regularly
● Use data to measure productivity; managerial performance; retention; diversity & inclusion; costs of recruitment, onboarding, and training.
11. Create an official employee handbook
An official handbook will provide helpful information that gives guidance to employees on a range of issues, and holds them all accountable to the same rules and procedures.
● Review it at least once a year and make any necessary updates
● If updates are made, all employees should be notified and confirm that they’re aware of them, in writing
12. Find a good mentor
Connect with others who’ve been successful in scaling People Ops teams and benefit from their wisdom. Reach out to individuals in People Ops roles at companies that have seen rapid growth in the past few years ago and ask if they would be willing to answer some of your questions.
13. Clean house
As I mentioned before, as you scale, the strengths and weaknesses of your foundation will magnify accordingly. As you grow, it’s crucial to part ways with any employees (including senior leaders) who have proven to be greater liabilities than assets - especially if there have been issues with ethics or major interpersonal issues. It’s important to take an honest look at processes and positions, and eliminate any that are no longer necessary.
Please share this post with your networks using hashtag #nextplaymentoring. You can email us at Charu@nextplay.ai if any of this resonated with you - and especially if you have a mentorship success story to share!