How Do We Get the People Part Right?

November 2, 2022

"Human capital"—what a term—is the key ingredient in any company apart from the initial idea to start the company in the first place. It is really all about us people, our passions, our beliefs, our motivations, our families, that eventually determine the success of any business. 

The issue we have is that many times companies are in search of a culture, or have one that needs to change with times, or perhaps have not cultivated one at all. Personally, I have been involved with a mix of such environments at various companies, whether I have been a small or large part, led them, advised them, or been on their boards. No one place is the same. All have been at different stages and sizes, and that accounts for some of the differences. However, it is astounding to me how many companies do not focus on developing employees and creating a culture that fosters belonging, engagement, wellbeing and retention. 

As leaders, I would argue that we all struggle with getting these right and spend an inordinate time working on the people side of our business. What has been exciting to follow is the explosion of various online tools that help drive a deeper connection with employees. Some make processes more transparent to everyone and incorporate metrics that give the employee as well as the employer a clearer picture into what is going on in the company, others take the pulse on how people are feeling on a daily / weekly / quarterly basis, and still others focus on alignment metrics around the mission and vision of the company.

Whichever tool or platform you select, they are mostly very good, but you have to choose them based on the fit and the information you want to bring into your specific company. By the way, feel free to reach out to me for feedback on some of them. However, the issue is that the ones that my teams and I have researched and adopted in our companies were one-to-one based solutions. No one took a team-based approach and specifically focused on developing the EQs (Emotional Quotients) in a consistent manner: how we collaborate productively together, communicate well, create a sense of belonging, support each other’s mental health, to name a few.

If you are leading a company with a large number of engineers, you are probably familiar with the term "scrum teams". You may very well use a scrum team approach within your development teams today. (For those of you who are not familiar, scrum teams are cross-functional, highly productive, and self-organized teams that work together to deliver high quality product and improvements.) If you do use such an approach, you also know that members of a scrum team come to the team with different skill sets and it is highly unlikely that anyone on the team reports functionally to each other even though they are responsible for completing projects and delivering products together. Often a scrum team includes a scrum master, a product owner, and a group of developers. There is no rank or hierarchy in the group; the objective is to contribute the requisite expertise and create the solution / solve the problem at hand together. The ideal size of a scrum team ranges from five to ten members.

So, how do you deal with this type of situation when these individuals bring diverse skillsets to the table (deliberately), must operate cross-functionally, and are self-organized? Unfortunately, productive collaboration does not immediately and naturally “just happen”. Communication and collaboration, often referred to as “soft skills”, require as much development as the technical hard skills. The only way to proactively create effective team contribution and an efficient problem solution process for these engineering teams as a whole is to implement team-based HR tools like AwakeTeams. AwakeTeams is the first company to drive a team-based, data-driven approach to develop these crucial employee “soft skills”. 

Innovative companies, like AwakeTeams, are tackling major employee problems. Especially in a ‘post pandemic’ environment. The above analogy with scrum teams applies to all aspects of our companies. There is virtually nothing we do that does not involve cross-functional teams and collaboration with colleagues. 

Sales or customer facing jobs depend upon adept interpersonal skills. In large sales teams, success also depends upon information sharing and seamless communication with product marketing, engineering, and management. A reciprocal feedback loop is needed to close deals and to iterate on the product in a way that creates sustainable customer success. 

Finance professionals also need to work closely and transparently with sales, product management, and other functional areas to ensure the modeling and forecasts are correct. And on it goes for virtually every functional area.

As leaders, we know that people eventually will win the day but it is people operating with a team mindset that are the true winners. 

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