TechBuzz News – HR and Leadership
TechBuzz has assembled articles from the past year focusing on HR and leadership issues with an emphasis on startup culture, strategy and structure. Staff and guest contributors to this series share their suggestions and guidance from years of experience as operators and investors in Utah technology startups.
People Create Value Robert Buckley, Chief People Officer and SVP, RainFocus in Salt Lake City
You are a people leader. Your earnest desire is to build and keep positive sentiment from your employees. You pored over the employee survey results six months ago to find where you can improve. You worked on those low-scoring items. Your new survey results just arrived and the scores did not change much. UGH! What went wrong? To make a meaningful difference, people leaders need to stop trying to improve their ‘weaknesses’ (i.e. low scores). Instead, work on the Critical Few items that employees say are the most valuable.
The most obvious loss a business experiences because of low-balling offers is missing the opportunity to work with some amazing people. We are talking about people who have the potential to do and bring, IO a lot of good into a company with their experience, points of view, and overall qualities. Experienced individuals who know their industry also know how much they are worth, so it’s unlikely they will settle for less. Even if you promise them additional benefits such as equity, they just don’t have to play the game if they are gainfully employed.
In the last five years, we have seen a growing trend of companies recognizing that solid company culture has a direct correlation to the top and bottom line of the company's balance sheet. A bad company culture will at best stagger the health and growth of the company, and at worst can kill a company altogether. The Intermountain West has strong Judeo-Christian values centered around treating others with kindness. The importance of kindness is taught in most homes. The saying in our family is "Kindness Costs Nothing."
Considering Retention Logan Mallory, VP Marketing, Motivosity in Lehi
Utah wins every time a successful new company comes onto the scene. Our brand as a startup community grows, we get more media attention, and your home value goes up just a little bit more. But there’s a problem that arises with the launch of every new company as well...there’s one more company trying to hire away your best talent. The more successful Utah’s tech sector becomes, the harder you will have to work to retain the highest performers on your team.
1. Your Team Wants to Be Part of a Community
2. Your Team Wants to Feel Appreciated and Recognized--All the Time
3. Managers Impact Retention More than You Think
There's no better time to think about your startup's exit than the day you decide to incorporate your business. Thinking about likely exits now will help you avoid early pitfalls. One of the first things you'll be thinking about are your goals. How will you make money? Who will sell your products? How long will it take to get where you want to go? Is your big idea enough to be a standalone company indefinitely? Will you raise money in an IPO and take over the world?
When to Hire a CFO David Sampson, former CFO of Tolero Pharmaceuticals, a Lehi-based biotechnology company. David is now consulting with start-ups around Utah and beyond.
While there really is no magic time in a company’s evolution that requires a CFO or experienced accounting professionals to handle financial statements and projections, the answer is almost always earlier than you’ve considered. Too often companies don’t value the importance of good accounting professionals and only hire those professionals when it becomes critical. At that point, it’s difficult, expensive, and time-consuming for any accounting professional to clean up the historical financial records and prepare financial statements in accordance with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP).
Anyone involved in hiring can agree that the screening process of a resume may not be the most effective way to evaluate whether a candidate is the best fit. For example, I may not know if a candidate is a good culture fit simply based on their quota attainment provided on their resume.
1. Create well-defined job descriptions; 2. Implement key disqualifying requirements; 3. Develop consistency in your process
Getting Delegation Right Ryan Seamons, CEO and Founder, Groove in Cedar Hills
One of the most frustrating parts of being a manager is setting expectations with employees. Often managers were promoted because of promising individual contributions. But managing people is very different from managing work. There are five levels of delegation. Understanding when and how to delegate is critical to up-leveling as a manager. The five levels of delegation model enables managers + employees to align and do more work that matters without friction:
1. Do what I say; 2. Research; 3. Approve; 4. Report Back; 5. Delegated
What is the difference between early, growth, and mature company operating environments? People either intuitively or experientially understand there are differences between early and late-stage environments. Unfortunately, these differences are most often described either ambiguously, unfairly, or inaccurately. “Startups are fact-paced” is one such an example we’ve all heard. But in truth, while the pace of start-ups can be fast, other stages of businesses can be equally time constrained. Thus, startups do not have an inherently faster “pace of work” compared to any other stage of maturity. Nevertheless, it is true there are distinctions. Let’s take a look at what the real differences might be.
While I’ve spent my career building technology at places like LinkedIn and Degreed, I am disheartened by the new trend in HR software to attempt to replace conversations. Feedback and recognition apps seem helpful on the outside but can make managers feel like they are connecting with employees when they are not. This is one of the reasons 75% of professionals think new technology is contributing to job satisfaction. We are a long, long way from software being able to deliver value to our talent processes sans conversations. Here are four key conversations you need to be having with your employees: 1. Career, 2. Performance; 3. Skills; 4. Purpose
People and Culture
You can’t just catch up with a coworker. It’s not as easy to coordinate quickly before a meeting or casually find out about weekends. How do you thank someone for a great job in passing or brainstorm informally? Gossiping becomes really hard without a water cooler. And we need those things! Culture is established over time and is the collection of experiences, interactions, unspoken rules, inside jokes and styles that occur amongst a group of people. And the water cooler interactions, how we engaged personally, were a big part of that. So how do we create new ways to connect?
One of the most challenging parts of launching a startup is not only building a great product, but also building a great company. Culture may seem like something that only large companies and teams need to (or can afford to) worry about. But you have a culture from day one whether you've decided you do or not.
1. Become culturally aware; 2. Communicate the culture; 3. Recalibrate often
When executives with large-company experience first enter the startup world, they most often are completely confounded. They’re AMAZED at what doesn’t exist in the company. It doesn’t take long for them—and their co-workers—to learn they’re not in large-company-Kansas anymore.
According to Johns Hopkins researchers, one in four American adults suffers from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year. Yet there is still a stigma, especially in the workplace. It’s time we start talking about mental health, work/life balance, and self-care in the workplace. I believe strongly that how a company addresses mental fitness can become a key indicator of the health of their culture.
One thing to keep in mind as you start the search, the #1 person responsible to find your new position is you! People can and should help you, but you have to sit in the driver's seat.
A resume is the sales pitch you use to sell yourself and your career to a hiring manager. It’s your first chance to prove that you’re a candidate worth spending time on. And having a success-centric resume is all about effectively communicating your value as a candidate.
Paying employees is easy. Compensation is hard. Dennis Wood offers ten ideas as a guide to managers for navigating compensation architecture and compensation change.
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