Q&A with Jenny E. Jung, Vice President of People Operations at EyeEm
#Topic: Attracting and Retaining Talent
When entering a company that was transitioning in structure, Jenny used her people operations background to lay the foundations of scalable operations that remained stable and effective, despite trying times. She entered with 35 people and hired 110, yet her current numbers remain at 70. Throughout the fluctuations in turnover, there are key lessons she has worth sharing.
Key Question 1
How do you engage in Performance Management when you have 2 HR personnel to 40 people?
Performance management is the team leads and management’s responsibility. HR merely serves as a repository for tools that help. Culture and Performance Management isn’t a part of HR.
Demotions are common place yet need not be brutal
Honestly, telling them, “we need to get this organization in shape and functional”. If they are committed, they will carry the change with you and be willing to get demoted. Those that don’t, usually leave. At early stages, you need a person that has a “general” perspective and does various tasks. As the company grows, you need to hire experts. The beginners have a choice of either aligning their personal career goals with the company’s growth direction or leave for greener pastures. Treat people like grownups and use honesty, and even though it’s a bad situation, it doesn’t have to always be a bad break up.
Key Question 2
Do you measure engagement, and if so then how?
Measuring engagement makes an implicit feeling, explicit. You can use engagement survey tools online. You empower your team and they talk about individual engagement and communally dissect issues to provide real time data.
Don’t overemphasize Engagement Measurement
Engagement monitoring reveals trends you may have sensed (intuitively). You can use them to get a buy-in from upper management on issue you think needs working. But close the feedback loop. Come back to the people you have surveyed and convey the results: the good and the bad. Then create strategies and actionables as a reaction to the survey. Skip this step and you risk doing the opposite to what you intended (creating further disengagement and distrust).
If you don’t have the culture of communally sharing the bad, then give your team leads the option to reveal certain details of lacksities and let them have the hard but necessary discussion.
Key Question 3
How do you scale people and processes?
How do junior and young managers cope with a reality of managerial work?
How can we hire high quality talent outside Portugal?
How to scale up processes?
It’s always best to promote internally because you get a lot of buy in. Consider the style of leadership: coaching or objective based. Management has to jump start leadership by a self inquiry into their goals, and values they best represent. It’s always good to train your team leaders, but it’s better to formalize your management position first. Ensure team leaders understand that they are responsible for their team’s performance, their growth and their engagement with the brand. There’s no point training your bottom team because they will always imitate the top.
If you don’t formalize at the top brass of the pyramid, or refuse to acknowledge that the managers or the team leads are not well trained, it can be a disaster.
When you grow at breakneck pace, you find people displaying errant behaviour that doesn’t resonate with the company’s values. But you also don’t have the framework for correcting the behaviour because you don’t have a frame of reference. If you don’t have the means to do it internally then you can simply formalize the management goals & values and facilitate them externally with the help of a coaching firm.
Build your Value System
Try creating a matrix for qualities of culture and their tangible impact on how processes work? Create your qualities and translate your verticals. For example, if you care about relationships, what does that mean when considering how do you let go of people? What should the relationship between a team lead and a team member look like? How do we formalize that? What qualities do you want to embody as a company? What it means to be a Team leader in the company?
Key Questions 4
How did you identify your company’s core values and conceptualize the company culture? How did you communicate these values and have people align themselves to it? How do you prevent cultural fragmentation?
I used paper clusters to get people involved in finding out what the company culture means to them. I also interviewed the founders as well and simply boiled situations down to the themes I just kept hearing. Asking questions like “who are we?” “What are the things that matter to us?” it’s also about your customers. What common themes appear in feedback? What do our customers think of us. It’s a nebulous exercise.
Once we had that, we looked at the initiatives that we were driving. For example, what did the desk looked like for a new person? how do we handle someone’s Mom dying? Also, have it aspirational and revisit them with major growth and change. Consider this: if the founder cares about relationships, and has a company with 10 people, he or she could have Friday night drinks with every single person in the company to have a personal relationship. That changes when you have 300 people. You can’t have drinks with just a few people, because it sends the signal that you care for some people more than others.
Key Questions 5
How did the drastic changes of turnover affect the company, and how did you handle that?
If you fire an entire department or cut 10% of your staff, it has an effect on your staff and their perceived security. To get people to buy into change, you need radical honesty. Be humane about letting people go. The reason why the turnovers didn’t wreck the company, is because we spent a lot of resources to let them go easily. You may want to shrink a headcount or shrink a payroll, but being generous makes sure they leave with a decent impression. People talk when they’re let go. Its best to also have numbers to support your decisions. Like the financial ramifications for hiring and firing based on a person’ social connections within office and a possible ripple effect that might ensue.