What people strategy tips can you get from top performers?
Like most aspects of modern businesses, the right people strategy and optimal HR practices are ever-changing. Tech giants like Amazon, Google and Netflix know this and are constantly innovating and seeking improvements. This is crucial to how they create higher than average employee engagement and retention and, ultimately, high performance.
So, looking at what top-performing companies are doing can be a great source of ideas and inspiration. After all, there’s a reason these companies are fixtures in ‘top employer’ lists. They create HR strategies and programmes that best fit their needs. And, in some cases, the strategies have been fundamental to their fortunes. So, who’s doing what?
Smart recruitment by Apple
Apple is a great example of clever recruitment. When Tim Cook poached Angela Ahrendts from Burberry a few years ago to run Apple’s retailing arm, he’d successfully persuaded her to leave one of the highest-paid CEO positions in the UK. In a letter to Apple employees at the time, Cook explained that he’d been prepared to wait for the right person for the role, and then, having met Ahrendts, was prepared to wait a further 18 months to secure her.
In such a competitive market, getting the right people in the right roles is more important than ever. Consequently, as Apple’s example shows, top firms are not only keen to hunt out key talent, but are prepared to wait for them too. What’s more, such businesses are flexible too and are more likely to offer key strategic or technical roles on a flexible or part-time basis to ensure they keep the right people in the right roles.
Peerless retention by Google
Google has been pioneering in its approach to HR and does everything it can to retain excellent employees. Instead of an HR department, it has ‘People Operations’. The biggest difference here is that it’s situated in the middle of the company. It is the beating heart of Google and is seen internally as the one area that connects all others.
As their most valuable asset, Google rewards employees with enviable benefits. The working environment on ‘campus’ is fun, including the much-vaunted bowling alleys and climbing walls. But these are no gimmicks. Fun is central to Google’s philosophy, as the company believes it provides an opportunity for exploration and discovery.
Google takes a keen interest in the physical well-being of its employees too. There are masseurs on site, dental and optical plans available and free nutritionally-balanced meals.
And, perhaps most importantly, Google provides enriching and challenging work. Employees are given several projects at a time to work on. They see each project through to its completion, thereby gaining an understanding of precisely where their contribution benefits the business as a whole. As a package, all of this makes Google a pretty difficult place to leave.
Radical talent management by Netflix
Netflix realised some time ago that the best thing they could do for their employees was to employ only the very best people.
They looked carefully at their current employees and let go those whose talents no longer fitted with what the business needed. These were tough decisions, particularly when they considered long servers who’d made valuable contributions to Netflix’s growth. Redundancies were dealt with sensitively and generous severance packages were given.
While clearly pretty radical, Netflix realised that if they wanted to take the company to the next level, they needed to fill their teams with employees who had the right skills and were the best in their field.
The second change Netflix made was equally radical at the time. They ditched a number of company policies and encouraged and trusted employees to use their common sense instead. People were employed on the basis that they would put the company first.
Practices such as holiday allocation, time off for sickness or training, were left to the discretion of employees. People were told to take off whatever time they felt was appropriate. It was a refreshing approach. Netflix found that when they encouraged people to behave like adults, speaking openly to colleagues about issues, and judging such things for themselves, people behaved in an entirely reasonable way. What’s more, all this was achieved without the need for policy enforcement, so was much cheaper.
World-class training by Amazon and Facebook
Amazon is known for its focus on customer service, but less well known perhaps is its employee-training programme.
All new employees undergo intensive, month-long training, which includes leadership skills. Furthermore, Amazon funds 95% of tuition fees for their employees at their fulfillment centres. Employees who work from home undergo training from a virtual contact centre.
Facebook has a similarly extensive and immersive approach to training its employees. It runs a ‘Facebook Bootcamp’ training programme for its engineers and project managers. The programme lasts for almost two months and employees begin working on projects that go live soon after they join.
Their training also helps the business to identify people who may be adept at leading. Engineers aren’t assigned fixed teams. They’re presented with real problems to work on and, through this process, they discover an area they enjoy working in and excel at.
Reinventing your own people strategy
If you’re evaluating your people, HR or L&D strategy, it’s certainly worth seeing what others are doing. But keep in mind that, what works well for one company, may not be right for another. Most important is ensuring that any approach, policy or strategy change is the best fit for your own organisation and employees.