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Advice from the Frontlines on Scaling Your Company

Mar 7, 2022| Reading time: 13min

BY Kate Super

Content Writer

“Smart people learn from their mistakes, but really smart people learn from others.” That’s one piece of advice that Devin Blase, VP of People at Truework, gives to fellow People leaders looking to scale their operations.

And who can disagree with her? When you find yourself in a new situation, it’s common to seek advice from those with experience. It’s one of the reasons why the syndicated newspaper column “Dear Abby” had a daily readership of 100 million.

It therefore makes sense to look to others when your company enters new territory. Gaining insight allows you to prepare your organization and support your employees as you grow your operations, all while avoiding unexpected (or, after seeking advice, expected) pitfalls.

To learn more, we sat down with six People Leaders who were key players in executing their company and their team’s high-growth strategies, so much so that they earned the peer-nominated award of 2022 People Pioneers. From our conversations, four themes emerged for how to successfully scale your company.

Ensure Leadership Support

Before planning a company-wide initiative, it is critical for leadership to be on board.

Scratch that.

Leaders shouldn’t only be on board; they should consistently live and breathe company values, programs, and goals. Further, their words and actions should enforce initiatives, in turn modeling expectations for others and holding them to the same standard.

So why is leadership support so important if other departments are pushing initiatives? Because, Holly Danko of Unison explains, “if our leaders don’t walk the walk, no one will.”

Guliana Zara at Aper also knows that support from leaders is essential. She witnessed this when her People team developed a standardized approach to headcount planning. Explaining their reasoning for introducing a new approach to department leaders not only created a common understanding behind the shift, but also allowed for a consensus on how to prioritize their budget so that the company could grow sustainably. And since all department leads and hiring managers were involved, that understanding and support trickled down through all teams.

Nyala Khan has seen similar positive effects of leadership support: the co-founders of her company, Eden Health, always strive “to be better than the status quo, and this attitude cascades down throughout the organization.”

That positive attitude Khan mentions is important for any company to be successful. You may know that happy employees are more productive– 13% more productive, to be exact. But did you know that 57% of employees quit because of their boss? If you’re scaling your company, constantly hiring and training new employees will become a cost that is better spent elsewhere, and is one you can’t afford if you’re looking to increase revenue while keeping operational costs minimal.

Focus on Aligning Departments

Departmental alignment is a focus for many companies for good reason: it leads to improved productivity, streamlined communication, lower rates of turnover, and increased flexibility. All of these outcomes produce stronger, healthier teams that allow your company to scale more efficiently and effectively.

Over at Nexthink, Liz Raymond knew departments needed to align if they wanted to successfully scale. Upon her hire she noticed that while individual teams were successful, they weren’t making their data visible to other departments. Although it was initially an uphill climb to align, her company now benefits from data transparency, including more efficient teams and increased productivity on daily tasks.

Natalia Vatalidis also notes the direct effects she sees due to her company’s alignment. Because Remote.com’s teams align their visions and their goals, the support they give one another comes naturally. For instance, Vatalidis credits the TechOps team and People team partnership for building integrations and automating systems that have led to positive results across departments. Now, the company can spend more time on engaging new hires, gaining crucial feedback faster, creating self-enabled onboarding programs, and continuing “to iterate and prioritize crucial People programs.”

Not only does departmental alignment create a sense of purpose for employees, but it also helps improve the employee experience. In fact, Zara believes Aper’s strong company culture and values aided their ability to improve engagement. After ensuring departments included company values in every process launched or modified, her HR team saw a growth of 70% in their company’s eNPS score over the course of a year.

In short, your employees are a crucial asset to your company, and as you continue to scale, focusing on alignment will provide a variety of beneficial outcomes that increase your business revenue and improve your employee experience.

Establish a Clear Compensation Strategy

Scaling companies need processes to continue to build and grow. A compensation planning strategy is essential for attracting and retaining talent, and it also fosters a healthy and unbiased company culture.

For example, when Remote.com wanted to grow quickly and intentionally, implementing new programs around clear compensation and performance management helped their team increase from 50 to 600 people in less than a year. Vatalidis admits that “it’s hard for an early stage start-up to prioritize compensation reviews and analysis surrounding total rewards,” but focusing on “building scalable solutions surrounding the removal of manual and very administrative work within the People Team” was a game changer to their hiring practices.

Similarly, Aper’s team doubled in size by building out headcount planning and talent acquisition processes, both of which the company supported with a compensation strategy that included career levels and salary bands. Previously, they had determined salary on a role-by-role basis, but that made it difficult for the team to plan and created more work to set individual expectations for employees. Establishing a clear compensation strategy significantly reduced time spent on managing salary offers so the team could spend more time acquiring the right talent.

Kahn also knew she wanted to make compensation equity a priority at Eden Health. At the beginning of 2021 she took a hard look at the company’s hiring practices, and determined that negotiating “with two people in the same position at the same level” was a mistake and contradictory to their ethos. She then partnered with the VP of Finance to analyze data and determine a fixed percentile of 2-3% between peers in each role/level with little room for negotiation. While she admits the lack of negotiation sometimes provides a challenge for hiring managers, she believes the decision was the right one: “That is the sacrifice we made to ensure we maintained equity and integrity from the start for future scale.”

These experiences prove that clear compensation strategies provide benefit to employees and your company due to transparent, streamlined processes.

View Employees as People

When analyzing data, it’s easy to forget there’s people behind the numbers. Paired with that realization is the responsibility of caring about employees professionally and personally.

One way companies can invest in the employee experience is through employee development, which signals to employees that you value their growth within your company. No one wants to stay in the same job for 35 years with the same basic skill set. It’s therefore no surprise that Monster’s 2021 fall hiring report found that 45% of surveyed employees said they would be more likely to stay at their current jobs if they were offered more training.

Knowing that investing in employees is good for company health, Blase aligned with Truework’s founders to prioritize transparency and career growth over the employee lifecycle. Specifically, Blase’s team mapped out the company’s performance review cycle. In addition to creating a framework for pay bands to ensure better pay equity, they also chose to map out their performance review cycle to improve visibility so employees know what to accomplish to move to the next level. Doing so allowed her HR team to be more intentional about the process and what information they wanted to collect during performance reviews. She states, “I take this people-first view because I believe if you deliver for your employees, they’ll deliver for you.” And that’s definitely the case– one study reported that 94% of employees said they would stay longer if their company invested in their careers.

One of Danko’s strategies for investing in people is embedding DEI into company culture. In addition to creating a dedicated committee, updating internal policies, and establishing new recruiting practices, Danko also set holistic DEI goals for Unison. “Instead of ‘we want X demographic by Y,’” she explains, “I prefer to set goals related to process improvement, education, and culture.”

Since People leaders typically enter the field to support people, the line between professional and personal can become blurred – in a good way. In order to support both professional and personal growth, Nexthink prioritized employees’ mental health by making mindfulness sessions available to their global workforce. Raymond reports that habitually incorporating a mindfulness practice into the work environment helped employees “with productivity, burn out, focus, and energy challenges.” What’s more, Raymond checks the pulse of her team and responds accordingly; from having personal check-ins to blocking off time on the calendar, she respects and cares for their mental, emotional, and physical well-being.

Eden Health also prioritized the employee experience by building meaningful relationships with new hires and ensuring that employees felt fulfilled in their careers. Khan believes taking this people-first view helped her company grow from 19 to over 300 employees in 2021. Two examples she’s proud of are their robust benefit packages, which led to retaining employees, and employee-driven experiences like personal celebrations of the Lunar New Year, which have increased internal engagement.

Scalability Starts With Investing In Your People

While there’s no easy or stress-free way to scale your company, there are strategies that work. And through leadership support, departmental alignment, compensation strategies, and empathetic People teams, you will be better able to scale efficiently and effectively.

Want to learn more scalability tips from the 2022 People Pioneers?

READ THEIR STORIES

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