Unleashing your inner manager as you scale
Developing your HR approach
I'm a leader I don't need to manage
To put this into context when starting out you are often working with co-founders or very experienced people, you become peers. Your role as a founder is to have a vision and drive growth.
However, there will come a time that you will have to start managing people (if you haven't in a previous role). Interns, contractors your first employee, they all come with their own expectations and needs.
Therefore, you will have to give instructions, deal with questions on your decisions, assess resources ability as you grow and make sure there is an appropriate culture.
New members of staff want to have some structure and purpose to their role. Those that don't expect this and are happy to sit around waiting to react, are the ones you should be worried about!
Can't I just hire someone to do this stuff?
Yes, you can. However, you still need to manage this person. How you treat them will impact on how they will filter down your ethos to the team. Also, if you are openly clashing with the person you have put in place, what impression do you think that gives employees?
While you don't want to get distracted from your leadership role there will be a period you will have to tap into your inner manager to shape your HR policies and corporate culture. Even if you hire an external person, you will need to be hands-on to make sure they are carrying out what you envisaged.
Setting the tone
To avoid toxic teams developing, have a clear roadmap of how you want new staff hired, developed and rewarded. Make sure you are visibly supporting this. Don't be the jerk who turns their line managers into the bad cops to your good cop. Long term you will lose respect from the good members of your team.
HR policies and procedures
Costs will have an impact on the decisions you make. You want to balance coming to the office as a rewarding and fair experience, with keeping the business profitable. Below is a starting point of questions you have to ask as you develop your HR policy:
1. Do you want to allow people to work from home and have flexible hours?
2. What will be the dress code?
3. Do you want staff working together or in cubicles?
4. Do you want to offer statutory holidays or set more days off for annual leave?
5. Do you want to offer further training?
6. Do you want to sponsor additional qualifications?
7. Parental leave policy
8. Will you supply certain equipment to staff depending on the role?
9. Phone use - does everyone get a mobile, for landlines do you record phone calls?
10. Email policy
11. Performance review process - will you do regular 1-1's and therefore just have annual goal setting? Or not have strict performance reviews? Can staff evaluate you?
12. Probation process?
13. How will you set promotions and bonuses? Will you make all salaries known to all?
14. Expenses policy & travel policies etc?
15. Staff conduct and anti-bullying?
16. Equality policy?
The list can go on and will grow. Once you have the mechanics of your policies you have to look at making sure these fit and work with the culture you want to achieve. Wanting more diversity? Then you will struggle if you don't have fair parental leave or have flexible hours to accommodate different religious dates, e.g. Ramadan.
You can be a leader and state you want an inclusive and diverse talent pool. Great, however, to make sure this happens you will have to manage this. If you become aware that employee sentiment is negative, you will have to tap into your leadership toolbox for conflict resolution. Then partnering with your managerial skills, control how your line managers carry out your vision. It might result in replacing managers who are not following your lead.
To manage culture start from the beginning:
1. Recruitment - consider blind CV's and assessments to remove any unconscious bias. Try to avoid overtly masculine terms in job adverts and job descriptions. Also, note women apply for jobs they feel they can tick all the boxes for, men tend to apply as long as they tick at least one of the boxes. So perhaps remove requirements that are not essential.
2. Selection - make sure you are not surrounding yourself with 'yes' people, though this may require bringing in new personality types, backgrounds and skill sets. Do you have existing staff they may clash with?
When a person is marginalised for not drinking from the kool-aid they won't always have the confidence to defend themselves, or may not see the point as they see no consequences to overtly political power plays.
Therefore, as the leader, you will have to be steadfast you can manage to bring in very different personality types into the team. Have their backs and make it clear that people have to accept people for who they are. No one is that good at their job that they can get away with ignorance.
3. Induction - For a small company this can be a simple 1-hour meeting. But the key is to make sure people are welcome. The first few days are crucial to make sure expectations are managed. Be clear on the person's roles and responsibilities. Make it clear how they are expected to work with the team. Make sure on day one they have a training plan, no matter how brief.
4. Probation - It is standard to have a 6 month probation period. You have no guarantee with an extensive recruitment process that you will have an exact fit. There may be some additional training needs, for example. Therefore, make sure you have a structured process otherwise you could face wrongful termination proceeding. I would recommend having a work diary. Have the line manager (this could be you) note any major issues and the dates, you will need this evidence for a legal dismissal.
5. Training and development - On the job training is still the most effective. However, bad habits can creep in. The 'that's the way we have always done it' can embed itself quite deeply. So, training and development may be needed to help teams look at better ways to do things. Encourage innovation and in general, shake things up.
Another aspect of training you should plan for is generating soft skills like presentations, team building etc. Wellness and mental health awareness could also really benefit your team. Especially through rapid growth.
6. Performance evaluation and rewards - Remember going through the stress of a performance review, it might be even why you started your own company. As a colleague once put it to me his annual character assassination. Now if you are a founder who has never worked in an organisation can I beg you to get in a professional or go on a training course to learn how to do this fairly.
My philosophy is to focus on the positives. I tend to tackle things when they happen, I don't want to ambush a person at the end of the year. So I always shocked people at their annual review as I am so easy going. The way I see it, if you can't manage a person at the time, you have no right to hold them back months later. Anyone performing a review needs to appreciate mental health and remember men and women take feedback very differently. There is a level of tack required. You don't want to create a culture of fear.
7. Leaving - People will leave for new challenges, or if they feel they are not valued, require more money, family commitments etc. The key here is how you treat the situation. Do you want to have an open door policy? Also, don't forget if you treat people badly on the way out, they will tell others. You don't want a low score on Open door that you can't have a rebuttal for. You are not legally obliged to give a detailed reference. Just a statement of the dates they worked.
The HR side of growing a business can be tricky. Less so if you held a managerial or supervisory role in the past. But neither the less, taking on more personalities into your company will create new dynamics. Politics can develop as people start to show their ambition. If you focus on just leading and let these things fester you are just as responsible. You will have to tap into your controlling side and make sure people are following your lead.
Research shows having an environment that encourages conflicting ideas does lead to better long term decision making and innovation. Therefore, if you want a truly diverse workplace you will have to learn to filter out petty grievances from real issues. If you ask people to comment on others, they will always bring up negatives, because they feel they have to. Therefore, you will have to be mindful of unconscious bias and the baggage people bring form their background.
Managing people is hard, but getting the structure in place early on can help to reduce conflict. If people know on day one of induction there is zero tolerance for racism, sexism, snobbery etc you place the onus on them to accept this. If they don't, that is their issue and not your organisation, so be willing to let people go who won't evolve their biases.
So, encourage a culture that people get to know each other to appreciate differences. If you feel you need outside help to get you started on this journey I have built teams in very large to small companies.
Do get in touch to see how I and my network can help. firstname.lastname@example.org
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