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Powering Business Fundamentals & Innovation in HR

May 24, 2023 9:30:19 AM | By

Sophie Kitson began her developer journey as a client-facing consultant at Accenture before moving into owning and leading people talent performance leadership and culture organizations at high-growth, high-performance organizations — such as PagerDuty, Salesforce, Mercury Interactive, and more. She is coming up on her first anniversary as CHRO at SumoLogic. Bonus fact about Sophie: She also spent four years consulting as an executive coach.

Pulling from her experience starting in development and transitioning into People Ops, Sophie shares the hard-hitting lessons she has earned in that evolution — from the necessity of valuing the people using technology to embracing fall-on-your-face moments when developing new skills.

This blog has been adapted from our podcast conversation and covers:

  • How to cultivate consistent company-wide growth 
  • Leveraging cascaded and contextualized education
  • Embracing the changing nature of management positions

To hear the full episode, visit this page, or subscribe to the show on your favorite podcast player, such as Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

How to cultivate consistent company-wide growth

During her time as a consultant, Sophie learned the power of one question: What does people growth mean in an organization? To uncover the answer, she starts with business growth.

For example, ARR requires highly success-correlated hiring profiles, sales account executives (AEs) operating in a given amount of time, and an understanding of how to get your sales AEs to full quota or beyond on a predictable basis.

“At Salesforce, we did an analysis where we took our top-performing AEs and correlated the employee engagement scores to see what positives and negatives emerge from that correlation,” Sophie says. “And that told us what environment the top performers in our sales team consistently performed well in.”

By recreating that environment, Sophie and her team raised performance across salespeople and delivered a more cohesive employee experience. Approaching growth from the core of people metrics — serving business impact, innovation impact, and customer impact — establishes an engine supporting business and employee success in unison.

Leveraging cascaded and contextualized education 

Educating a team on company initiatives is one thing; contextualizing those drivers for internal and external audiences is another. Whether you’re educating members about net ARR, margin, shareholder value or anything else, says Sophie, it’s important to contextualize those teachings to connect with each employee group.

Different employees often value different components of an essential metric based on the context of their daily work. For example, net ARR will hold different value and meaning to a team member on the sales team than it would for someone in customer service. Ensuring you’re communicating effectively to each group my contextualizing education is key for the effective implementation of important concepts and initiatives. 

“The communication process isn't easy,” Sophie says. “The good news is, I don't think this education is complex. These are relatively straightforward things to understand. The hard part is contextualizing how they matter to a specific team.”

She has seen the impacts of transparency first-hand in multiple instances, with PagerDuty as one shining example. 

“Not only did PagerDuty leaders educate and make sure everybody in the organization understood these concepts, but they provided awesome access to transparent information,” she says. “Helping employees understand how we won successes and how our lessons or failures impacted the business was important.”

In today's macro-environment, one of the top challenges in People Ops is helping organizations form situational awareness. Cascading education throughout each team with context and transparency is crucial for consistent, accurate decision-making during times of change.

Embracing the changing nature of management positions

As much weight as transparent team education carries, educating managers has just as much impact. Increasingly remote and hybrid workforces pose new challenges and learning curves for managers.

“We have to have empathy for managers in this environment today because they are working with a hybrid or remote model where they are the primary person that much of their team will turn to, and expect answers on a whole host of things that in an office-centric culture, you could understand by osmosis,” Sophie says.

When a situation arises in which people managers requires training, transparent education should provide the following, so managers can effectively educate and motivate their teams, prompting the next stage of cascading education.

Managerial education should include:

  • Thorough understanding of where data is sourced
  • Detailed explanation of data management procedures
  • Explanation as to why procedures exist in their form, or why they are changing
  • An accessible, robust science or source behind all shared information

Context around these metrics fosters employee confidence and equips managers with the tools they need to thrive and, in turn, help their teams excel and feed into company growth.

To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The High Growth Matters Podcast on our website, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or just search for The High Growth Matters Podcast in your favorite podcast player.

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