- 25 years in HR for networks, entertainment, and Internet, retail, insurance, semiconductor sectors.
- VP HR for LinkedIn, Electronic Arts, PMC Sierra and Cisco.
- Led WW HR efforts on more than 60 M&A transactions in publicly traded global organizations.
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Organizational Growth Inflection Points - Challenges and Pain Points
- It is hard to maintain channels of communication as your company grows.
When you start out, your business is so small that you can just bark down the hallway between the cubicles and communicate fully with everyone on the payroll. As your company builds to a larger scale, you are not sure of your ability to communicate as clearly with everyone and to make sure that you can focus your organization properly to achieve the outcomes you want to achieve.
- Growth can disrupt your company's culture and organizational structure.
As you grow, how do you want to build your organizational structure? How many layers do you want? Do you want to create several layers, or do you want to create as flat an organizational structure as possible?
That decision affects not only how nimble you can be in reacting to challenges and in making decisions, but it affects how easily you may be able to recruit new employees (often people from larger companies who are being recruited because of their experience at larger companies). Your recruiting targets may be more focused on what their job title is than the people who have been with your company from the beginning.
You're typically hiring people out of bigger companies to help you get bigger and they really have a lot of emotional attachment to their job titles. So, you're saying, “Hey, well, you're a VP over there at Motorola, but here you're going to be a senior manager.” That's a challenge for them. A healthy organization thinks through those challenges and helps people you recruit arrive at a position that works for them.
It's very important to be thoughtful about these kinds of issues when you are a small organization that is about to grow quickly.
- Your company's growth may raise questions about whether you have the right team in place.
Wherever it may be that your company is currently, are the people who got you to this point the right people to get you to the next point you are trying to reach.
Do you need to upgrade your personnel? When should you know that you need to upgrade? And if you do upgrade, how do you do it in a way that's not going to disenfranchise the people who helped you build the company. It's the phenomenon some people call "outgrowing your founders."
Again, you need to think through how you are going to approach this question.
- Your growing company is in competition with larger, more affluent companies for talent.
Another big challenge as your growing company reaches each inflection point is coming up with a way to attract, retain, and reward a team when you cannot afford what your bigger, deeper-pocketed competitors can offer. How do you get a great team without having the tools, the resources, the shiny object benefits to be able to attract them in?
You need to think through your brand, purpose, and mission and use them to draw in great talent.
- As your company grows, it becomes more difficult to gauge how your employees are responding.
An increasing number of organizations are asking:
- How do we know how we're doing and how do we know that this thing is heading in the right direction vis-a-vis our employees?
- How do we pulse them, check in with them, survey them?
- If we do survey them, what should we be asking, and what's the expected follow-though that we should be thinking about as we grow?
If you're involved in a fast-growing company, you are likely in a super-competitive market for talent. People can make decisions to leave a company and join someone else at the drop of a hat, and they can easily find another job and find more compensation if that's important to them.
So, it's incumbent upon your executive team to step forth with compelling opportunities for people and to make sure as you are steering the ship that you have a really good understanding of what's motivating people.
- You may struggle to find the right ways to motivate employees.
Generation Y employees are more loyal to projects and assignments than they are to their own companies.
So, if you believe that the new worker today is really motivated by excitement, you need to think differently about how you attract and retain talent. And you have to consider changing your mantra to talk about how exciting your work is and how your company is changing the world.
As people move from project to project, you want to insulate yourself from the vulnerability of their sniffing around and seeing what else is out there. You are most vulnerable to losing your superstar when they are just finishing up a project. Your company has to think in advance, three months before a project ends, about what the next project will be. You need to start sharing with the teams how splendid the next project will be.
- Growth challenges the focus of your executive team. It's important to make sure the team retains a collective sense of purpose.
Often as companies grow beyond the common inflection points, whether it's from 50 to 100, or 1,000 to 2,000 employees, there are many different perspectives on the leadership team, and even more broadly in the company beyond that. What should the company become and what kinds of products should it be building?
It's easy to lose focus and have your energy diluted in different areas. What's really hard is that you want to win on everything, but you literally can't. You can implode under your own success by trying to do too many things well, when the truth is you have a finite amount of investment resources and market opportunities.
That's the challenge: saying no.
It's agreeing on what you're not going to do. It's really important to be aware that there are going to be differences about how you should grow and you have to work through them.