How to Implement People Success
I love talking with leaders about People Success, mostly because they intuitively get it and are hungry to create and enable it. They understand that their people are instrumental to the organization’s success. I’ve noticed that the most effective leaders take advantage of their organization’s “people programs” (e.g., employee engagement, performance, and learning and development) to help their people be happier and more successful. So it feels like it would be a no-brainer for Human Resources and People teams to unify and simplify those programs to make it easier for people to bring their best selves to work so they can do their best work.
But let’s face it. We’ve been running employee engagement, performance, and learning and development in silos for so long that the prospect of integrating them can feel daunting.
My response: It’s worth the work. In our partnerships with global organizations across industries, we’ve seen People Success approaches thrive. It works because the approach is agile (light enough to move with the business), holistic (provides layered and connected insights), and people-centric (designed with empathy).
Once an organization embraces the idea and fundamentals of People Success, we’ve found three tactics to be most useful for ensuring execution: (1) create structure; (2) provide focus; and (3) build the right habits. Let’s dig deeper.
We know from behavioral science that nudges help change behavior—and systematic nudges are a form of structure. Done right, nudges set action in motion and keep that action top of mind. For example, candy (or fruit) placed at eye level awakens a hunger that doesn’t easily go away. When you use nudges to create structure, you adjust the work experience to make it more natural for leaders to engage in People Success behaviors, instead of relying on compliance-and-reminder approaches.
The key action we want to drive is conversation—it’s the main avenue through which People Success happens. The objective and agenda can change, but the frequency of conversations is vitally important. It’s also important to focus on the right topics over time (I’ll get to that next).
As nice as it would be to leave conversations between managers and employees to chance, we need to provide guidance and structure in order to reduce the natural friction that comes with doing something new and different. An effective People Success structure draws on each of the three types of nudges to stoke conversations:
- Default settings (i.e., being opted-in): Having conversations be a standard practice, not a mandate, makes them just a normal step in getting work done and opts people into it.
- Social influence (i.e., doing what others do): Putting commitments to paper and asking executives to communicate them creates positive social pressure—but this only works if executives model a People Success approach.
- Salience (i.e., having it front and center): Timing conversations and feedback to inform important decisions makes People Success a key input and focus area instead of an extra activity to do.
What’s the right cadence for conversations? It depends on where your organization is today. To create the right structure, work backward from key decisions you will make throughout the year, and lay out how People Success practices like employee-engagement pulses and regular conversations would be best timed to inform those decisions. Then see what resources and leader readiness you have to support people through the change, and make a two- to three-phase plan. We know from our Glint customer data that organizations that do employee-engagement pulses three to four times per year grow their businesses much faster than those that survey less frequently. We also know that people who have at least a monthly conversation with their manager feel more focused and supported.
Once you have a conversation structure in place, what’s next? Much like helping people with when to talk, it’s good to help them know what to talk about. Absent some simple and memorable conversation and reflection topics, people are likely to cover what gives them the most energy and avoid what doesn’t. Some team members may want to go straight to goals, others to new product ideas, and still others immediately to their concerns. Regular check-ins centered around the Five Pillars of People Success help ensure that conversations have the desired impact. Let’s take a look at the Five Pillars we’ve identified: Fit, Alignment, Enablement, Motivation, and Growth. How does this format work? In a conversation, managers can ask employees five simple questions:
- (Fit) Is your role playing to your strengths and interests, and do you feel a sense of belonging at work?
- (Focus) Are you clear on your goals and getting the feedback you need to course-correct?
- (Enablement) Do you have the resources and support you need to do your work effectively?
- (Motivation) Is your work having a meaningful impact, and do you feel empowered to use your best judgment?
- (Growth) Are you expanding your skills, diversifying your experience, and progressing professionally?
The Five Pillars of People Success can be the basis for most touchpoints, including strategy (“Are we delivering on these areas?”), manager-employee conversations, self–evaluation, and team feedback meetings.
The emphasis and importance of each pillar will (and should) change over time, based on the employee and their experience. For example, if I feel like I’ve hit a ceiling in my current role, I’m likely to spend more time speaking with my manager about Fit and Growth.
That may or may not be a difficult conversation, but inevitably tough issues will arise. At Glint, we use and share a simple framework to help work through topics that might feel too abstract or uncomfortable.
–Acknowledge where we are.
–Collaborate on a plan.
–Take one step forward toward improving.
The key to providing focus is to keep it as simple as possible for people. This means keeping the list of topics short (hence our Five Pillars). It also means not trying to improve in more than one area at a time. For example, on employee-engagement surveys, teams that focus on one action area at a time make significantly better improvements than those that pick two or more focus areas.
Build the right habits
A successful People Success approach also relies on a few core habits to help managers and employees work toward positive change. The best habits are simple and natural, encouraging everyone to regularly surface concerns, identify solutions, and make changes over time:
- Conversation habits: they happen regularly and cover the agenda
- Goal-setting habits: they’re transparent; aligned to the organization and team; updated weekly or monthly; and adjusted as needed.
- Feedback habits: it’s sought regularly; given in a forward-looking and development-oriented way; formal (e.g., surveys); and informal (e.g., after meetings)
- Action-taking habits: it acknowledges the realities; encourages collaboration with others to focus on the most important thing; and helps people take one step forward to improving it.
These habits will be built and sustained to the extent that executives model them and recognize those who try them, get better at them, and (eventually) do them consistently well.
See the results
There’s no more critical challenge to our organizations than engaging, retaining, and developing our people. It impacts everything we do—our ability to innovate, grow, and create value for our customers. I’ve seen People Success work, and I’m passionate about seeing it benefit everyone. If your organization is already bought in to the guiding principles (agile, holistic, people-centric), then start building your structure and see what you learn. If your leaders aren’t there yet, work on making the case and finding a champion or two. Either way, I’d like to hear about your progress and your challenges.