When you’re working in a human resources department in a company that is growing at a very fast rate, sometimes it’s challenging to stay on top of everything. But, there are some things you can do to maintain the company culture and employee satisfaction.
I’ve been working in Degordian’s human resources team for two and a half years. It’s a short period of time, but in Degordian time goes by very quickly and you get to experience a lot. The company is rapidly growing and your experience in Degordian can be very intense if you put your whole heart into it.
Although I have a lot to learn about human resources management, there are a few key learning points I’d like to share with you. Hopefully you’ll find this interesting if you’re working as an HR or a team leader in a company with a similar culture as Degordian’s.
1. Get to know your core business
One experience that shaped me the most in the early beginning of my work in Degordian was developing job descriptions for the company. That was something I started with. At that point I wasn’t fully aware of how much will this part of my responsibility help me to get to know our core business: what we do, why we do it, how we do it and what challenges do we face along the way. When I go back, I wish I had done some things differently, but all in all it was an amazing learning experience because it helped me understand what’s holding us back from progressing and what’s helping us to create excellent solutions for our clients.
Degordian has changed since then, but my knowledge about our core business still helps me to understand what we do and most importantly how we do it. Knowing this enables me to provide support to people in Degordian when they are creating new processes, solutions, ideas or when they are facing challenges.
If you are working in HR or a business unit that supports the core business, you need to know everything about it. Just as you learn about your own responsibilities you should keep learning about everything that’s going on with the business. It will make your job much easier!
2. Conflicts mostly arise from undefined processes and responsibilities
Degordian has a specific company culture. Since most of our staff are millennials, our company culture is very flexible and informal. Something that is valued most in Degordian is teamwork and a friendly attitude.
But what happens when things go wrong? Let’s start from the assumption that everyone wants to feel good about themselves and achieve their own self-worth. Basically, everyone is trying to accomplish the same thing – a successful career, a successful project and a great teamwork experience.
There are many reasons why conflict arises. It could be because we have a different vision, different personalities or sometimes we just don’t click. But, one of the most common reasons I see in conflict situations that happen in Degordian is the lack of clear procedures and responsibilities. In a fast growing company it’s challenging to define everything at the rate of the company’s growth. Also, most of the time your company is not mature enough for some definitions. So, once a conflict arises between two people ask yourself if the process of collaboration is clear to both sides? Is it user friendly enough or is it too birocratic? Do both of them know their responsibilities? Do they have the same expectations of how things should be done?
If you get mixed answers to one of these questions, maybe it’s time to set clear responsibilities through job descriptions and define the process with the departments involved. Also, make it their own. Let them define the process and have them agree on it. By giving them ownership, chances for them working out the conflict are much higher.
3. Foster transparent internal communication
As your company starts to grow, honest and transparent communication becomes a challenge. People don’t know everything anymore. The management starts to slowly move away from the people. You don’t get to see people as often as you did when there were 15 of you. So, how do you ensure that the communication is clear and in due time, especially when it comes to crisis communication?
As I mentioned, our company culture is quite informal. You can expect that news will run through the company very fast. So, be very aware of the consequences that may arise if an important piece of news isn’t shared with the people in due time. In Degordian, we have created several formal channels for communication. Except for team meetings and monthly company meetings, most of the departments in Degordian have their own weekly time for team educations which they use to share informations. Our CEOs do something called “Quality time with Tompa and Aki”, where they meet employees every Friday to discuss anything they want to talk about: an idea about a project, a problem they’re facing, their own career development and so on. There are many more ways through which communication flows in Degordian, but sharing good news was never the problem.
What happens when there are bad news to be shared and there aren’t 15 of you anymore to share it on a short meeting? I’ve learned that, when it comes to communicating change and bad news, the best way is to communicate honestly, in due time and primarily to the people who are directly affected by the change. Sometimes we underestimate just how much an honest information shared in due time can ensure that people feel good about the change in the end.
4. Develop your leaders from the moment you reach 25+ people
Our CEO’s have very high expectations of where they want Degordian to go. Therefore, they put a lot of trust in the people in the company, especially in the leadership body. Leadership might not seem important when there is a few people in the company, the CEO is managing almost everything and the communication is open and transparent. Specialties in job roles start to develop but most of you are still doing everything. That’s definitely not the case when there are 50 of you. Our experience has proved that you need to react before your reach that critical number when the management can’t manage everything anymore.
Start identifying your leaders and make it clear what do you value in a leader. Who is the best choice for a leadership position in your company? Share your vision with them, give them regular feedback and expectations, talk to them about their development and react to their needs. Start developing your leaders by defining their roles and responsibilities in the organization. Also, give them necessary tools and support for leading their people.
5. Maintain a healthy balance between formal and informal relations
Of course, you want to keep the informal environment as it was when there were 15 of you and everyone were best friends working together. But in most cases, that’s not going to happen. Growth carries alienation with it, and it becomes harder to be informal and friendly. It becomes easier to take care of your own work and forget that we’re a team working for the same cause: to feel good about ourselves and create amazing things in our line of work.
That’s why I believe that you need to maintain a healthy balance between your formal and informal relations. This is especially hard if you’re managing someone, but your job as HR or management is to provide your people with support. Your leaders will have to accept the responsibilities they have, both the positive ones and the negative ones, such as giving feedback, getting people on the right track, communicating what’s desirable and undesirable behavior within the team and company. If they lack leadership experience, this will be a challenge for them.
As HR or management, you should ensure that everyone gets education and support. Encourage them to maintain a balance between formal and informal relations, and give them support and advice when they need it. Make sure that you encourage them to grow as leaders with all of their responsibilities and challenges.
6. Tell your CEOs when you believe something is good for the people
Degordian has two CEOs. As expected with leading any company, things will not always go as smooth as you’d expect. Sometimes, the people in charge will have completely different opinions. Sometimes they’ll be well intended, but the people won’t see it in the beginning, and often they’ll try to implement new things in the company. If a company is doing well, most of these novelties will be good for the people and the company, but what if they’re not and they affect the people.
As an HR, I learned that you have to listen to the people. You have to get in their work and understand what is their frustration and how can the CEOs solve it. In my experience, the best thing to do is to talk to the people, ask them for the solution, what is it that they want to do and how do they want to solve the problem, and then create a set of arguments and come to your CEOs. Just tell them what you believe is right for the people in the company. Also, encourage people to provide feedback to the CEOs. If they still decide to implement something you or others disagree with, provide them with the necessary support. They are the leaders and they need to grow through the choices they make. If the management consists of good people that care for the people in the company, most of their decisions will, hopefully, be good for the organization!
So, this is a short overview of my HR experience in Degordian. There are many more insights I could share, but I’m still working on figuring some of them out. :)
What have you learned from working in a company with a similar culture like Degordian?