The role of a People Leader (which is what we at Gofore call our ‘people managers’) is one of the most demanding roles there is. They are the magic-makers juggling between the demands of their own work, that of their team’s and the needs of the business. They are the – sometimes stressed-out – heroes who provide the everyday employee experience for our employees. And we all know from personal experience what an effect a great People Leader has. You feel that you can be yourself. You’re not afraid to try something new because you know you have someone in your corner to support you. When you make mistakes, it doesn’t feel like the end of the world but rather a learning opportunity.
Last autumn, we asked Goforeans to nominate Grand Masters of any area of expertise, and this is what one Goforean wanted to share:
‘She is simply the best superior, People Person, I´ve met in my over 35 years of ICT-career. She is humane, kind, understanding, she listens to you, she takes you seriously, she helps and “kicks you to go the way” you want to develop your own career, she has a coaching attitude as her style, but she is also demanding, meticulous, and prudent when needed. – Simply The Best, real Grand Master Flash!’
Quite amazing, right? Based on our recent well-being survey, 81,5 % of respondents said that their People Leader supports and helps them in their everyday work. And in our October 2021 engagement survey 73 % of respondents agreed with the sentence ‘My supervisor genuinely cares for my well-being’. A big hats off! Even with these kinds of results, we know that being a great People Leader isn’t easy. And we, as a company, need to ensure that our People Leaders stay well and healthy in their demanding job of supporting others. Many of whom work in customer projects themselves at the same time.
Last year we started developing the next version of our leadership model which, over time, will define the role and expectations for a People Leader. From the people development perspective that means, in addition to defining our leadership principles, also creating structures that support our People Leaders’ well-being. For this we decided to utilise the self-determination theory and people’s basic psychological needs. Therefore, our primary focus has been on the competence, autonomy and the support network of our People Leaders. For competence, we built a series of trainings for people manager skills. For the support network, we started the People Leaders Circle.
What are trainings good for?
As separate events, not much. Anyone can go to the internet to find basic tips and training programs for their self development. But our approach was built on two factors:
Firstly: we have both junior and experienced People Leaders, and we need to find a way to secure a basic skills level for everyone in the most important areas.
Secondly: it’s not only trainings that we provide but also each training starts a stream that consists of a small group of People Leaders. This group continues to collaborate on the topic with the goal of co-creating our philosophy and tools for that specific area.
The topics that were selected into this set of trainings were: feedback, difficult conversations, learning facilitation, recruitment & employer branding, well-being, employment law & Gofore’s practices, and Gofore’s strategy, vision and leadership. These were selected due to their heavy impact on employee experience.
In the trainings, we try to find new approaches to or tools for familiar topics that serve as discussion-starters. There’s also as much hands-on practicing as possible. For example, in the feedback training we didn’t practice giving feedback but wanted to focus on strengthening one of Gofore’s building blocks, namely self-management. This happened by introducing a tool that People Leaders can use when their team members come to them with the feedback they have received, but are not sure of how to utilise it for their own development.
Next, our feedback stream is discussing if and how the aforementioned approaches could be utilised as a part of our leadership model. We also gather a ‘Start, Stop, Continue and Unanswered questions’ type of a feedback on Mural after the trainings, which gives good input for the stream’s work. For transparency, we have an open kanban board and open documentation for any People Leader to check the latest stream developments and topics.
People Leaders Circle – what’s that?
The Circle is our internal, group-wide support network for our People Leaders. It’s a Slack channel and it’s a Teams platform. The above-mentioned trainings are directed towards the Circlers. It’s the group of people who have the most impact on Goforeans’ everyday lives so their input and well-being is immensely important for Gofore.
Already previously we’ve had an active Slack channel, for example, for Finland’s People Leaders for the purpose of discussing and checking employment-related matters. The new thing with Circle is that this is a group-wide network. There’s a lot of wisdom in networking and sharing with colleagues from different countries and cultures, and that’s what we want to increase with the Circle. In addition, co-creating group-wide practices requires involvement from all parts of our organisation, and the Circle supports and celebrates this aspect.
Naturally, when we have around 100 People Leaders, most of whom also work in projects on a daily basis, there’s a limited amount of time they can allocate for activities such as the Circle. Therefore, the concept of the Circle is built to be more of an enabler and a resource for the People Leaders when they need support or information. For example, we’ve created and updated some of our onboarding tools to make their work with recruitment and onboarding smoother.
To better understand the needs and wishes of this large group, we also offer a possibility for facilitated small group discussions called ‘My People Leadership’. These discussions are intended to bring the Circlers closer together but also to be a way of discussing one’s own pain points and wishes towards People Leadership and our leadership model. In a group of 100 it’s difficult to create a feeling of togetherness and sharing but in a group of eight it’s easier.
So where does all of this lead?
To tell the truth, there have been times when we have questioned the need for ‘people managers’, just to then realise that there’s no way around it: it is in everyone’s interest that we all have someone to turn to. The fact that we don’t yet know where all of this leads us and what our leadership model will look like in the future is where we are right now.
What we know is that we want to clarify the role of our People Leaders and offer them the support mechanisms and tools that help them feel confident and driven in their work. We want to emphasize that this is a learning path for us all and we’re together trying to find our way. Like it was mentioned in one of our internal blog posts last year: if you notice your own People Leader testing a new approach or way of doing things, be open to that and go with the flow (and give feedback)! That’s our way to do it.