Endgame: Building a people team for a new era of work

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7 mins, 7 secs read time

Philosophy: People teams hold a key role in people-first companies.


A people team at a people-first company has the responsibility of shepherding an environment where everyone can thrive. We understand the importance of threading people into every decision we make because businesses do not create value; people do.

Right now is essentially a “gold rush” for people in our profession. It’s hard to think of a time when policies influencing the workplace were so unpredictable, economic influences were shifting the very foundations of businesses and health crises required employee wellbeing to be on equal footing with financial performance. Effectively, this makes the voice of the People team more critical than ever to business health and success.

Every decision you make as a people team should start with the END in mind. The new era will be won by people-first companies who:

Enhance experiences
Nurture culture
Develop people

Those teams will be able to influence important rooms and introduce more diverse and inclusive thinking into every level and layer of a company. Their actions and habits position them to drive business outcomes and champion others by relating between the lines.

While I'm sharing Greenhouse's philosophy for a People first culture, I also want to share our People team's approach and vision to make that philosophy a reality for each of our employees. We hope that other companies can learn from our journey.

Approach: Become predictive, not proactive.

If your people team's goal is to be proactive, that is old school, and you are already behind. Proactive people teams inconsistently identify concerns before they happen, while predictive people teams can anticipate future growth and improvement opportunities based on insights from past performance data. People teams for the new era have to be predictive. We have to prescribe the organization's potential and derive insights from data that tells us about the landscape of our teams and competitors.

By looking at what other companies are doing and changing, we can be more predictive in our work. Predictions rooted in people insights include the potential impact of changes related to people teams at other companies. Key insights are modifications to their incentive structure, an increase in turnover or new expertise they are hiring for – and what those changes might signify about market moves.

Vision: Here’s how we’re organizing to achieve our goals

People teams are uniquely qualified to influence the strategic direction of a business because they regularly connect with people at every layer of the organization. Remarkable ideas are often inside the organization, and the people team is in a unique position to harness & aggregate those ideas. Our approach to the new era of work is being a catalyst for relating between the lines.

Our vision for the people team at Greenhouse: Energize human possibility and unleash the power of people.

We refuse to create change for change’s sake. Inclusion happens when diversity, equity, and allyship are present. We intentionally evaluate the room to ensure we have diversity of thought. Not simply through a gender or racial lens, but also a tenure and age. The takeaway is that so many factors contribute to diversity of experience and identity. The takeaway is that many factors contribute to the diversity of perspectives. Keep that in mind because part of the reason companies struggle in this area is because the room lacks a balance of views.

“Hiring people from different backgrounds with different skin tones does not mean you have achieved an environment where they belong.”

Based on our philosophy, and approach, we've organized our People team to execute that vision. Our team structures encompass the new and future norms required to build a People First culture. Each team is tied directly to our vision and philosophy of People First which serves as our guide as we make business decisions.

The Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Allyship (IDEA) team

Greenhouse's functional DE&I team has been renamed IDEA. This represents Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Allyship. Our decision to rebrand is rooted in the belief that every great idea has a consistent recipe. Our Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Allyship (IDEA) team finds ways to cultivate proximity through thoughtful connection and belonging initiatives, building bridges between people. At many businesses, historically underrepresented groups may get hired but exit abruptly because they lacked allies in the room. Furthermore, allies who understand how they can transform the room do so by advocating courageously. To candidates evaluating the next place for their career to bloom, use the interview process to find out how allyship is present at an organization.

The new era of people teams requires allyship, we have to be advocates and accomplices for unheard voices in the room.
–Donald Knight, Chief People Officer at Greenhouse Software

The People Planning & Acquisition team

To acquire talent is cool, but to plan for their arrival is even cooler. Our People Planning & Acquisition leader knows her team has to deliver a scalable acquisition strategy that enables Greenhouse to expand globally. Hiring operations, talent intelligence and workforce planning directly influences the candidate strategy and experience. We often think about this from an external candidate's perspective but it’s equally important for internal candidates. A People First company has to invest and grow talent so your talent operations and talent intelligence must be broad in scope and include both an external and internal perspective.

Now more than ever, your business performance depends on how well people can do the jobs you hire them to do. Part of the reason you see underperforming businesses today is because they mishired people yesterday by using an unstructured hiring process not built for tomorrow. To build an effective team, start with structured hiring.

So many leaders want a seat at the table and when they get there have nothing meaningful to say. Remember, the seat does not make the leader valuable; the leader makes the seat valuable.
–Donald Knight, Chief People Officer at Greenhouse Software

The People Operations and Insights team

This team has a laser focus on the connection between people and the processes that serve them. The new era requires us to connect people, processes, vendors, and technology in a way that empowers a people-first culture while providing bigger picture insights and achieving growth efficiency. Our team continues to focus on scaling quality experiences through technology that detects biases and systems that allows our processes to be automated, digital and scalable.

The People Experience team

If you still prioritize engagement and satisfaction, you need to expand your focus to think about fulfillment. People want to be fulfilled, and our People Experience team looks to nurture the culture and environment for people to do the best work of their lives. Sometimes that materializes in communications, workplace settings for offsites or the activities people experience as part of “Gather@Greenhouse,” a new program geared towards driving meaningful connections across our distributed company.

The People Rewards and Wellbeing team

If your company places total rewards on a pedestal, but not well-being, are you truly people-first? Our People Rewards and Wellbeing team is emerging as thought leaders in the space. Investments that enhance the wellbeing and health of our people include access to fertility services, adoption assistance, and working with trusted financial and mental health partners like Modern Health and Origin Financial.

People-first companies understand that improving people's lives at work starts with investments in their life outside of work.

The People Development & Business Partners team

This team understands that we must deliver a scalable People Development and Business Partner strategy that accelerates Greenhouse’s business success by elevating individuals’ contributions at all levels. We actively develop people to ensure they do the most meaningful work of their lives here at Greenhouse. We also offer a Grow stipend, dollars set aside for each person to learn and develop, as part of our philosophy that continuous growth is essential.

People-first companies will find the courage needed to build a people team for a new era of work, not because doing so is driven by hope, but because doing so solves a business imperative.

Some may ask, what is step one? We encourage people-leaders to facilitate proximity sessions (a listening tour) with your business and your teams. Be intentional in discovering the habits your people-team exhibits that are ripe for improvement. When you act on feedback given by people, you are genuinely putting people first.

Learn more
Donald Knight

Donald Knight

is Chief People Officer at Greenhouse Software. He leads with a people-first mentality hoping to unlock the potential of Greenhouse talent globally. With a laser focus on the connection between people and the processes that serve them, Donald and his team create proximity by building bridges focusing on enhanced experiences that nurture culture and develop people.

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