Scaling Up – An HR Perspective

By Rowan Larsen, Executive Director of The Human Resources Project

Most growing businesses find the human resources aspect of scaling up challenging – especially when many of these organisations don’t have a dedicated HR function or lack confidence executing HR initiatives.

The good news is that implementing basic HR building blocks is fairly straightforward, doesn’t require much time or money and provides immediate benefits.

Scaling Up Your Business – Key HR Practices

The first step for scaling businesses is to establish simple clarity around five key HR practices:

  1. Role purpose
  2. Role responsibilities
  3. Performance measures
  4. Review processes
  5. Linking company purpose and values

When staff understand the above, so too does the organisation, and both benefit equally.

The benefits of implementing these basic building blocks are many and include management clarity around skills and capabilities within the organisation, revealing skill gaps and hidden talents, identifying ‘missing roles’ in the organisation, increasing staff morale and engagement, and improved productivity.

It’s important to remember that staff need to feel enabled to make the difference that is expected of them. We know that staff engage best (and hence are most productive) when they feel:

  • Effective
  • Relied upon
  • Valued
  • They understand their purpose

Therefore, implementing the above five key HR practices will create engaged and enabled employees. To help you get started, here is a little more detail around each practice.

Role Purpose

To help staff understand their purpose and feel enabled to achieve that purpose, you need to review or create your Organisation Chart. This will help determine where each role fits best. For example, in the service industry or an operationally focused organisation, ‘Customer Services’ is often more effective when reporting through as part of ‘Operations’ and included with the ‘Warehouse’ and ‘Distributions’ functions. This is a simplistic example and is not new, but when close and highly effective working relationships develop, both the understanding of the role purpose and the feeling of enablement to achieve that purpose improves.

Role Responsibilities

Clarity around the duties of each role is vitally important. It ensures that staff have the detail to explain their purpose and to understand their accountabilities and responsibilities. There is also a real benefit to the business when this clarity is established. Duplication or under-utilisation is detected. We commonly see organisations where some staff work unsustainably long hours whilst others are bored. It’s vital that any such imbalances are corrected and clarity of role responsibilities will help achieve this.

Performance Measures

The Job Scorecard can prove a little difficult for managers to understand at first. In simple terms, the main difference between a Position Description (PD) and a Job Scorecard (JS) is that a PD simply outlines the key duties of the role, whereas the JS adds a description of what outcomes are expected when a person performs those duties – this is their ‘Score’.

Many employees misinterpret the ‘Score’ as an ‘all-or-nothing’ requirement and fear that if they fall short, they will lose their job. It’s important to reassure them that it is a ‘target’. The outcomes are ‘winning’ (achieving the target outcomes) or ‘learning’ (reviewing the targets to see if they are realistic and whether changes need to be made or if training and development is required).

Review Processes

One of the most misunderstood and ignored of all company processes would have to be the annual or bi-annual review. We call this process the ‘Achievement – Capability Review’ or ‘AC Review’. This is where you celebrate the employee’s achievements:

  • Give them their deserved recognition
  • Assess their capability for future growth
  • Map out a plan for their development
  • Set goals for them to achieve

The name should say it all and avoids the nasty connotations of ‘Performance Reviews’.

Company Purpose and Living the Values

For the most part, communication of the company purpose occurs easily and naturally over time. However, the most challenging part – connecting existing staff with a new set of values – requires a more deliberate and sustained effort. The AC Review is one of the most valuable tools towards this end.

All employees should be ‘scored’ on their consistency in demonstrating the company values as part of their review. In addition, ‘Values Building’ activities can help employees understand and link their roles and performance to the company’s purpose and values.

When you have all your staff working towards a single purpose and living your values, you are well on your way to achieving your business goals.

If you’d like to know more or need some ‘on-call’ HR assistance please don’t hesitate to contact us at The Human Resources Project.


View other Four Decisions People Resources