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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Growing Without Losing Yourself

I've been doing some talking to companies in high-growth mode lately. How do you grow very rapidly without losing who you are as a company?

In high-growth mode, recruiting would seem to be the most important HR function - the business demands that you get people in the door.  However, if you fall down after that, you'll find that your efforts have been in vain and you'll lose those people and will have to do that work all over again!  In the process, morale can be damanged, your culture can suffer and productivity will definitely take a hit.  So how can we prevent this from happening?

There are many other critical areas for HR to think about:
  • Great onboarding
  • Job training
  • Culture
  • Communication
  • Feedback systems
  • Development
But, the most important thing is good management.  We simply cannot do enough management training.  Consistently improving managers' ability to motivate their employees through making their jobs meaningful, providing regular honest and encouraging feedback, recognition of a job well done and day-to-day interest in the worker will most likely have the greatest impact - much larger than the also important list above.

And managers need help with this.  People management is probably the most difficult part of any managers job, yet probably the part that they receive the least amount of training on.  We train managers to create budgets, become great project managers, learn the business model, and participate in new product ideas and lines of business.  Yet, we expect people to somehow intrinsically "know" the hardest part of the job - dealing with human behavior.

This soft side, this part of the job with so much gray area, where everyone is different and we cannot draw simple conclusions is daunting.  It's where I find most managers asking for help and most organizations failing to provide enough of it.  Managers need to know your company's HR policies well, who to go to for help, appropriate processes to follow to make sure that their employees needs aren't falling through the cracks.  They need to learn how to give effective feedback to all kinds of people (the "sandwich" method doesn't work for everyone).  They need to know how to find out what motivates each of their employees so that they can ensure that their work is meaningful to them.  All of this requires training, practice, role playing and mentorship.  And that's where we need to focus a bulk of our efforts and resources.

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