If, after reading my conception of an ideal People function (in a previous post), you are thinking, “Holy smokes, this person thinks the People team should run the company!”, let me clarify: in many cases, we ultimately aren’t decision-makers, so no, we don’t run the company.
Instead, we act as program managers who:
- Frame key questions about the organization — who are we, what values do we stand for, what approach do we want to take on feedback/performance assessments, what approach do we want to take on compensation, etc.?
- Glean best practices and ideas from other companies/industries, from inside the company, and/or generate new ideas
- Syndicate ideas, gather feedback, highlight pros/cons, and formulate recommendations based on company values, design principles, etc.
- Lead the discussion with decision-makers (typically Execs, but might include others) to arrive at agreed-upon approach
- Crystallize methodology/what’s been agreed, and communicate that out to the broader company
- Embed this into day-to-day processes, i.e., act as the steward of the agreed-upon guidelines
- Monitor success, and propose changes as needed, potentially starting the cycle all over again; as we test out new ideas/principles, changes are inevitable
Once we have a set of principles or agreed ways of doing things, it’s our job to make sure we are ‘governing’ fairly, and considering exceptions and precedent-setting situations carefully. We want to avoid making any arbitrary decisions, and will work in consultation with leaders across the company.
A CEO asked me to very explicitly lay out how I / my team would work across functions a little while ago, so I created the diagram below. This is somewhat specific to the company in-question, but demonstrates visually the level of overlap the People team has with other functions, and the types of collaboration/decisions that need to be made together.
Responsibility for the People team’s success isn’t relegated to just the people who sit on the team. It requires the collaboration, buy-in, and supporting actions of other leaders. We can’t do this alone.