January 26, 2017

Spot and grow convenors, facilitators & amplifiers of other people’s actions

As an HR Director, you are absolutely critical to the success of any people-powered strategy. It is all about people inside and outside of the organisation and how they relate well and effectively to one another. Your staff’s key competence needs to be built around excellent service provision to other actors and a high skill to foster alignment and connective impact for the shared cause.

1. Hire and train convenors, facilitators and amplifiers

The expertise you are looking for when hiring and growing staff is their ability to build relationships in a way that advances the shared cause. In this letter to senior staff candidates, Ricken Patel, Executive Director of Avaaz, calls for manager’s capability to ensure that members, their priorities, views, and desires are central to what Avaaz does. In 2015 several Greenpeace offices elevated mobilisation and engagement staff into senior leadership positions such as Chief of Engagement or Deputy Program Director. To ensure staff comes from and stays close to the communities they shall further relate to, CIVICUS hires young local people and trains them. 350.org allows people to continue working part time in their old organisation or movement. Invest heavily into training staff and volunteers which is traditionally one of CSOs’ chronically underinvested areas. For it is people and their ability to grow, reach out and align that will create impact!

2. Ensure dynamic HR practices – foster staff leadership

Digital and non-digital networkers need a lot of freedom to act. The Accenture Technology Vision report 2016 calls for a reconfiguration of long established employment norms. Young talented employees look for more agile ways of working, across ecosystems composed of looser partner-based collaborations and continuous investment into their development. Be rigorous in choosing the best people. But then set a lot else free. Attendance clocks are out – people are in!

3. Build HR incentives around successful people/partner engagement

HR incentives should support external relationship building. You could for e.g. regularly ask staff: Who did you meet that you did not know before? What happened as a consequence of your interaction? What did you do to help others do their job better? When did you last celebrate a partner’s success? Amnesty International has developed a set of minimum project standards that include an assessment of how external stakeholders would benefit from and shape AI’s work. 350.org fosters a service mentality of staff towards volunteers in the network.

4. Put feedback loops: right, left and centre

Ensure feedback loops for all you do. Develop quick and easy tools to have a simple tested view from staff, beneficiaries, boards, volunteers, supporters, members or local actors. You don’t need to ask many people; Feedback Labs found that five is usually enough. Ask people after every meeting to just put down one word on how they liked it. It will give you the most honest response on which to build a much better formal debrief. We also see platforms for collective feedback developing like Transparency International Kenya co-piloting Integrated Public Complaints Referral Mechanism, a hub for feedback and complaints by 40 CSOs and local government bodies. They hire people specifically to make this possibility for feedback well known and used among communities.

5. Know what people and partners think!

Regularly ask partners, staff or donors to rate you from 1-5 on the questions below. Add one open question for qualitative feedback. Compare results over time.

  1. Does our staff listen to you?
  2. Do we support you effectively in advancing our collective purpose?
  3. Do you as staff of our organisation feel enabled to optimally contribute?