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#WantedlyMeetup Recap: Culture of change in a growing environment

Startups are meant to scale. When we think of scaling we regularly do so in financial or technical terms. It's often a second thought that actual scaling is done by people. Exponential growth, or any growth for that matter, is only possible if the organization behind a product comes together to succeed together. How do you do this and how do you repeat this - every day - in an environment that is changing so fast that it can make it difficult to maintain that social cohesion, a sense of belonging and culture.

On February 19th, we invited Karen Cordle, Head of People at Foodspring, and Matthias Pianezzer, Talent Specialist at Shyftplan, to talk about their experiences in their current and previous companies.

It's not surprising that Karen and Matthias are particularly interested in the topic of oragnizational culture. Both have a background in philoshophy and education and have worked in training and development. Fundamentally, they believe that people, particularly development of people, is central to the success of organizations.

Karen focused in her presentation on the role of the millenial, who is going to make up the largest group in our workforce in the coming centuries, as baby boomers are slowly leaving the workforce. She described millenials as tolerant of differences, highly diverse, networkers that are looking for a balance between private and work-life. They are also very purpose-driven. Millenials don't just want to execute, but act purposeful and create value. This means that they are questioning the status quo constantly.

"This requires an overall purpose beyond the next funding round, in our case, to help people live a better, healthier live. The aspect of always asking why and trying to find out how you can achieve this is a powerful driver for your organization." - Karen Cordle

This oftentimes leads to the misconception that performance reviews, money and consistent employer behavior will lead to employee loyalty. The opposite is true - growth and development opportunities help to retain millenials. In other words: they are willing exchange their loyalty and work-power for personal development.

With this in mind, Karen developed the vision for the People Organization at Foodspring around Capabilities, Community and Culture, incorporating purpose-driven values along the Golden Circle of Engagement and effective feedback cycles that allow each indivdual to grow and develop as part of - and in collaboration with - the larger organization. In the center of all: communication, not at random, but targeted at the individual development of employees. One of the goals for the people organisation is to enable those conversations to happen, which on a day to day basis have to be held by the team leads. In practice, this means leadership training coupled with review and feedback structures that are not classic performance reviews, but instead focus on the development of capabilities and the individual's growth.

Matthias empahsized that people do not necessarily strive in every organization. Past success does not correlate with future success if the environment does not fit the individual's personal vision. The best people are those who fit "right" in - educational background and prior experiences are only an element. Similar to Foodspring, however, the retention driver for Shyftplan are Causes, Community and Career - analog to Karen's Capabilities, Community and Cultures - emphasizing a purpose driven organization that allows for personal and organizational growth and flexibility, while creating a sense of belonging. Shyftplan based it's model on a study conducted by Facebook's people team on the most important retention factors.

Cause, Community and Career become the starting point of all people related activities at Shyftplan. Every initiative has to have a positive impact on those three pillars. From Matthias' experience, the difficulty is to keep the balance among the pillars. It's relatively easy to focus on the community aspects, because it is often associated with free food, events, stylish offices, and maybe a Playstation. As a result, things look nice, but can fall operationally short. Career and Cause need structures that employees can rely on and help them find a place and grow in and with the organisation.

It's the responsibility of HR to build solid workflows early on that allow employees to get on board swiftly, so that employees can understand (and question) the goals and targets of the organisation, reduce silos, and allow to mitigate the collision of formal and informal structures. This also means that in his opinion the role of HR Managers is very much rooted in facilitation, where communication and feedback loops become decisive factors for people operations success, but also to be able to create processes and structures that allow the facilitation of company growth at people-scale.


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