New Manager Handbook: Effective Communication

(For regular L&D insights, sign up to our monthly newsletter!)

As a team leader you need to explain strategic decisions and champion them with the rest of the organisation. You will also have increased exposure to stakeholders outside the people you work with, and need to communicate with them clearly and logically. Here are some tips to help you manage this like a pro!

Structured Problem Solving

If you are dealing with a complex issue, draw an issue tree to help solve it and aid communication. This will: increase your understanding of the issue; make it easier to discuss with others; identify the major drivers; prioritise actions and further analysis. Issue trees rely on three principles:

  1. Hierarchy: The problem space should be broken down in layers
  2. Mutually Exclusive: Each sub-issue can only belong to one group
  3. Collectively Exhaustive: Each layer should cover 100% of the problem space. i.e. adding all items at one layer together should equal the layer above

Make Clear Recommendations
Use Problem, Insight, Action to prioritising action and explaining your rationale.

  • Problem: The top issue or opportunity you are facing
  • Insight: The analysis that identifies the most effective course of action
  • Action: What needs to be done in practical terms

Use Hierarchical Recommendations to structure complex recommendations.

  • Build a one line summary of the action to be taken
  • Support this by 3-4 lines of reasoning – the rationale for why this governing thought is the right answer
  • Prepare  evidence – a body of facts and analysis for the thinking

Breakfast Roundtable notes: People Ops & Goal Setting

Breakfast discussion

Learnitect and Ignite recently hosted a breakfast roundtable with People Ops representatives from over 30 fast growth tech companies including Treatwell, Google, Box, Lovecrafts, iwoca, Makers Academy and many more. We’ve written up our notes below for anyone that didn’t make it, and if you’d like to come to the next one, please email us.

// GOAL SETTING

  • There should be transparency across organization on organization, team and individual-level goals
  • Important that everyone in the business has a shared understanding of not only what the goals are, but also how the goal setting process works and expectations around them.
  • Good goal setting processes:
    • Team offsites are a great way to come up with team goals that support the organization goals
    • Process should iterate down the organisation (e.g. C-suite first, then each department)
    • Process should be short (2 weeks end to end at Lovecrafts), with the focus on doing
    • Use quarterly organization-wide meetings for each team to share progress on goals with each other
    • Link major team initiatives (and subsequent updates) to OKRs
  • Lots of companies are using OKRs, but there are a few caveats
    • These should be major points of alignment, not an attempt to cover everything
    • They should be understood as a framework for setting expectations
    • More suited to transactional roles (e.g. product), less suited to business as usual  (e.g. payroll)
    • In larger organisations (e.g. Box has >1000 people) then it can be difficult to link individual performance to company OKRs
  • Platforms for sharing goals:

// PERFORMANCE MANAGEMENT

  • Perks for your superstar performers:
    • Increased development support from managers (e.g., biweekly 1-1s)
    • Coaching with external coach (e.g., discussion of individual’s strengths and weaknesses)
    • Rigorous development plan with stretch assignments
  • Manage underperformers with an objective of improving their workplace experience.  If this is not possible within the organization, provide support (e.g., career coaching, networking and introductions) to help the underperformer find the right role outside of your organization

// VALUES

  • Expected behaviour is more important than “values” per se
  • Values can be tacit as long as expected behaviour is clear
  • There should be boundaries (e.g. respect / diversity), but also a range within those boundaries
  • “Micro interactions” make culture work – constant reinforcement of what everyone expects
  • “Moments of truth” such as hiring and promotion form the backbone of culture, and are most important to get right

// ABOUT US

Learnitect

We develop outstanding leadership at the world’s fastest growing digital businesses. We organise programmes that pull together high potential team leads from different companies and teach them the skills they need to be excellent managers, as well as provide them with a network of peers for continued development. We make rising stars more productive, more professional and feel more valued. More information on our website.

People & Culture Breakfast Roundtable Notes

Breakfast Roundtable

Learnitect and Ignite recently hosted a breakfast roundtable with People Ops representatives from over 30 fast growth tech companies including Iwoca, Gousto, GoCardless, Bulb, Farfetch, Appear Here, Yieldify, Makers Academy and many more. We’ve written up our notes below for anyone that didn’t make it, and if you’d like to come to the next one, please email us.

// RECRUITMENT

Employer Branding

  • Recognise that recruitment is a selling process.
  • Clarify the employee value proposition with help from the founders. Ensure you include long term upside potential. Actively communicate this.
  • Employee videos get a great response. You can feature:
    • What people are doing day to day
    • What attracted existing employees to your company
    • BUT, team must be engaged and willing to help(!)
  • Talks and meetups are great way to develop awareness for your company as an employer:
    • Making it clear that the company supports this can encourage more people to think about it
    • Providing an opportunity for people to give their talks internally allows them to practice
  • Blog posts can work well, and can also be written by people throughout the business
  • Making sure that candidates have a good experience whether or not they are made an offer is super important as this affects employer brand:
    • Assign them a buddy to keep them engaged and give them feedback
    • Get feedback from them on the quality of interviews
    • Give them feedback on what went well and not so well
    • Have clear timelines for the process and stick to them
    • Treat them with respect
  • Canva is a good resource to create graphics

Process

  • Assign a cost to recruitment process i.e. opportunity cost of each hire going through the pipeline. This allows you to trade off internal vs. external resources
  • Codify your values early and recruit against them to develop the company culture and avoid bad hires
    • Define your culture and what this means during recruitment process
    • Provide guidance on how to test for it, and make sure this is followed
    • Bulb provided examples here
  • Standardise and centralise recruitment to scale and enforce consistent quality
    • Provide interview training for all your managers
    • Make it clear who has the decision to hire. You might want to use Bain’s RAPID framework
    • Assign objectives for each stage of the interview
  • Consider creating trial days for the candidate to work at your office

Graduates & Apprentices

  • A few people had tried apprentices and placement students; impressed with Whitehat but didn’t hire due to lack of resources to train and attitude and culture fit of apprentices.
  • Soft skills are more important in hires than hard skills. i.e. look for ability to take feedback, compassion and willingness to learn.
  • People don’t know what they don’t know if learning on the job, so you need to have a clear learning pathway for people to follow
  • Graduates will also need to be coached on what the culture means for them so that they grow into it
  • Client facing jobs tend not to suit graduates as they need experience to be credible, and in contrast clearly defined functional roles tend to work well

// CULTURE

  • Defining values has to be a collective process:
    • Use small groups to brainstorm words that people associate with the company.
    • Group these into a small number of themes
    • Convert these themes into expected behaviours within the company
    • Pass all communications and people processes (especially recruiting) through values
  • Aim is to codify existing behaviour, not create new behaviours
  • Values cannot be generic but must be unique to the business
  • Much easier to codify values early:
    • Fewer people to input into them
    • Becomes self perpetuating
    • Fewer process to update afterwards, and less marketing collateral will need updating
  • Really important to make sure the leadership team are connected to the team
  • Values need to be connected to performance management process too
  • Good resources:
    • Netflix culture deck
    • Airbnb podcast

// DIVERSITY

  • Rewriting job specs to avoid gendered language
    • Example words that increase proportion of men applying: “smashing it”, “ninja”, “competitive”
    • Example words that increase proportion of women applying: “collaborative”, “supportive”
    • More examples here
    • Bulb say applications from females jumped from 24-30% doing this
  • Increasing number of minority applicants makes it easier to prevent positive discrimination
  • Clarifying and communicating your company’s vision often helps attract female candidates
  • Diversity also includes diversity of background. Look outside tech for candidates with the right mindset rather than just for technical skills alone.

// PERFORMANCE MANAGEMENT

  • Performance management needs to fit overall people strategy:
    • Match company values and culture
    • Fit with company goals or OKRs
    • Provide development plan for individuals
    • Happen on a regular basis
  • Important to communicate the goals and process for performance management well, and ensure managers get sufficient training in how to apply it
  • Radical candor is a popular framework for honest, caring feedback
  • 360s are a good way to get feedback from across organisation
  • Ad hoc informal feedback can have the most impact at changing people’s behaviours
  • Encouraging regular informal coffee chats among team members enables better information flow
  • Need to think about how you calibrate feedback across different departments
  • Consider getting coaches for top performers (recommendation: ‘Coach in a Box’)
  • Exit people the right way if they are no longer a good fit with the business

// ABOUT US

Learnitect

We develop outstanding leadership at the world’s fastest growing digital businesses. We organise programmes that pull together high potential team leads from different companies and teach them the skills they need to be excellent managers, as well as provide them with a network of peers for continued development. We make rising stars more productive, more professional and feel more valued. More information on our website.

 

How top startups in London approach Innovation and Culture

Forward Partners logo

Last week we attended a dinner hosted by Forward Partners for their portfolio companies and mentors. We facilitated the conversation on scaling people and operations, and captured as much of the ensuing conversation as we could here.

On maintaining innovation as your company grows…

  • Be conscious as to whether your team is innovating, or just iterating
  • Protect your MVP approach, even as the company becomes bigger
  • Clearly define KPIs for innovations (e.g., conversion)
  • Design incentives that encourage innovation – both reward and recognition
  • Build space and flexibility for innovation, e.g. create Hackathon days/weeks for employees from different functions to pitch and build innovations to improve the business
  • Assign funding for innovations based on employee votes
  • Encourage ruthless delegation of execution tasks to more junior levels of the organisation to free up experts’ times in developing innovation
  • Spark interesting ideas by constantly asking your team “What would we build if we are a new company, without any constraints?”
  • Invite customers to come in regularly and ask “What pain points do you have in your business today?” (rather than “What new product features do you want?”)

On building a solid culture…

  • Define your culture early and then iterate on it
  • Easiest to define it around values (though not the only way)
  • Important to make sure everyone has a say to get buy in
  • Values need to be translated into expected behaviours, so that everyone has tangible examples of what living a value means
  • Having values is meaningless if they don’t convert into visible actions

On the limits of transparency within companies…

  • You can push transparency much further than you might think… but it’s not always a good idea!
  • Sharing salaries, records of board meetings, and financial plans are all ok
  • However, individuals’ performance issues should not be shared as this can become very emotional
  • Transparency is easiest when it’s established very early on and then maintained

How to Exit Your Millennial Employees

Two weeks ago we hosted our first Learnitect Breakfast Roundtable Series and welcomed COOs and Heads of People from leading fast growing tech companies Benivo, Deliveroo, Salesforce, Mastered, Freshminds, Yoyo Wallet, Pockit, Circle and Cisco.

This is part 3 of a three-part series sharing the best practices for attracting and engaging Millennials captured at the event. Find Part 1 and Part 2 here.

The “exit” part of the employee lifecycle is an often overlooked opportunity. When managed well, employee exits can be done with a positive feeling on both sides. Former employees can be a future customer or referrer of future employees and business opportunities.

A comprehensive “alumni” programme may include a LinkedIn group, events (social or business-related) and employee newsletter.

Here are some more practical best practices for managing exits:

  • Do not keep employees that are a bad fit for their current role. Roles and responsibilities change as your company grows. If the employee is no longer a good fit, the best thing to do is to let them go. This also applies to employees with a toxic attitude. Failure to let them go may poison your organizational culture.
  • Keep exits positive – celebrate your former employee’s contribution. Be conscious of the morale of the employees that remain.
  • Inform the rest of the team together, if possible. Bad news travels through the grapevine fast.

How to Retain Your Millennial Employees

Two weeks ago we hosted our first Learnitect Breakfast Roundtable Series and welcomed COOs and Heads of People from leading fast growing tech companies Benivo, Deliveroo, Salesforce, Mastered, Freshminds, Yoyo Wallet, Pockit, Circle and Cisco.

This is part 2 of a three-part series sharing the best practices for attracting and engaging Millennials captured at the event. Find Part 1 and Part 3 here.

Employee retention is the most challenging part of the employee lifecycle. Average tenure at start-ups tend to be short and even established corporates have trouble retaining their Millennial talent.

Adobe is one of the many companies doing away with formal performance reviews, replacing the process with regular feedback. However, the practicality of doing away with formal documentation on ratings and rankings may not be right for every organization.

Easier wins include providing social budgets for specifically designed groupings (e.g., cohorts starting at the same time, teams that rarely work together, mentor-mentee budgets) or totally randomizing it (e.g., regular “Mystery Lunches” with randomly picked participants). Other great ideas include allowing employees to spend time on business improvement projects and allowing each employee a small budget to pursue their interests (with the requirement of sharing what they have learned).

Here are some more practical best practices for retention:

  • All employees should be clear about their career paths. Confusion over career path is one of the most common frustrations of start-up employees. Millennial are hungry for continuous professional development.
  • Maintaining transparent communication may be challenging as not all messages are suitable to be shared. Focus on keeping everyone informed of the company vision.
  • Feature an employee in your staff newsletter/all-hands. Keep it light hearted and fun so people can learn about each other.
  • Create simple processes/tools (e.g., forms, apps) for employees to document important conversations (e.g., feedback and goal-setting). This creates accountability. You may want to consider opening the goals to everyone to create ultimate transparency.
  • Create expectations that feedback could be both positive AND constructive. Have managers set examples of soliciting constructive feedback. Share stories of how constructive feedback help people grow.
  • Consider reviewing performance based on desired behaviours which are aligned to the company values. Displaying true ownership of work and mastering stakeholder relationships are two key skills to have in any ambitious organization.

How to On-Board Your Millennial Employees

Two weeks ago we hosted our first Learnitect Breakfast Roundtable Series and welcomed COOs and Heads of People from leading fast growing tech companies Benivo, Deliveroo, Salesforce, Mastered, Freshminds, Yoyo Wallet, Pockit, Circle and Cisco.

This is part 1 of a three-part series sharing the best practices for attracting and engaging Millennials captured at the event. Find Part 2 and Part 3 here.

Millennials will make up 75% of the global workforce by 2025. Their attitudes towards career and work are different from previous generations. These differences have already been influencing how workplaces are designed.

Research shows that 71% of Millennials are currently not feeling engaged at work. Companies with engaged employees experience significant improvements in performance and profit.

We have identified 4 Millennial career themes:

  • A longer career: With retirement age going up, Millennials are likely to work longer than previous generations. There will be increased demand for career flexibility (e.g., job rotations, lateral moves) and Learning and Development will have to be more customized to individual needs.
  • Authenticity and wholeness: Millennials expect two-way and transparent communication with the Management. It is still a challenge to decide what messages to share with the entire organization and the best way to share it.
  • Digital natives and hyper connecting: Remote working will continue to increase. Millennials are already hyper-connected and are starting to feel the burn-out being constantly on.
  • Prefers experiences over things: While still driven to work by financial incentives, Millennials may appreciate an investment into worthwhile experiences (e.g., L&D programmes) vs. giving them the equivalent in bonus.

On-boarding your employees well is a key opportunity to create employee goodwill and confidence.

Companies doing this well include Mailchimp with their comprehensive onboarding programme and Breather with their fantastic onboarding kit.

Here are some more practical best practices for on-boarding:

  • A great interview question is to ask about how the role can help them prepare for their next role, even if this is outside your organization. Millennial employees are unlikely to stay in one job forever, so your mission is for both parties to get the most out of the experience.
  • Invite “Ambassadors” from each function to introduce their team as part of your onboarding programme.
  • Get the incoming cohort to regroup after month 1 for a social. This helps strengthen cross-functional bonds.
  • Check in at appropriate milestones (Month 1, Month 3) to identify roadblocks and frustrations.
  • Improving the onboarding process (e.g., building/improving the onboarding kit, onboarding training) can be a great side project for new employees.