People Development at Thorgate
Why people development is essential for our success
We believe that one requirement for an employee’s personal development is the need for a safe playground or supportive environment provided by the leaders. Experience comes with learning on the course and providing people an environment where learning is truly valued is not always the easiest to reach at first. However, this helps companies to start training their future leaders, allowing them to take small steps forward, all while making some mistakes in a safe environment where they get constructive feedback about the process, and the outcome. This is the method we are fond of adopting at Thorgate.
We like to carry out these methods in the most lean way possible. We might want to give a small exercise to our team members as an initial taste of the future once they get promoted. It is true that these methods might provide opposite outcomes at times, for instance one of the trainees shares his/her thoughts after the first or second assignment that they are not ready for the job or they do not want to grow in a specific role. From our perspective, this is very good to have come out in the initial stages of development and we are happy that the person is honest. When a person who hasn’t been promoted yet, and hasn’t given any promises to his/her network, tells us that he/she can’t take on a new role or scale up their role, we don’t have to turn the wheel back.
This small exercise has helped Thorgate to mitigate the risk of “Peter principle”. According to this principle, ‘In a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence’.
We invest (time, people, money) into a person's development and get positive outcomes anyway. If we would understand after a promotion that the person is not capable enough to fill the position, this would be a bigger loss for us in terms of money, time or even people we might lose. In a company where our most valuable asset walks out every evening after a work day, we need to make sure that they will return the next morning! Today, people move freely and the leader’s job is to keep them engaged and provide them the environment they would like to see themselves in.
How we do it
Quantity of information determines the quality of decision at Thorgate, so we love to equip our team with information and knowledge. Our main goal is to inspire each other and so we have created a system where flow of knowledge or information among us is smooth and guaranteed. It is important to keep everyone aligned with the organisation, team and personal goals.
The goal is to build a leadership pipeline to make the process of promotions within the company more like a logical evolution than leading it into crisis. Promoting a person from their current role creates a shock for the organisation if there are not enough substitutes. To manage that risk of no substitutes we need to have a system for people's professional evolution. Through that system, the company can get an overview of the risks inside and is able to mitigate them early on.
On one hand removing risks as early as possible is cost efficient and keeps away larger problems and on another hand promotion of people doesn't cause any crisis when people move inside or outside the organisation.
There are 3 key activities
- In the beginning of the year we set goals and objectives
- Progress will be reviewed during monthly one on one meetings
- Annual People Development forum
As someone joins Thorgate, the first thing we do is having a personalised onboarding plan to follow through within the first 3 months. We start onboarding even before new hires come to the office. We prepare tools including physical and digital office space for the new member. Our goal is that the new member of our team feels valued from the very first moment. When we start personal onboarding, we set a clear plan for the first day, first week and the first few months to come. During the orientation period we help people set goals and milestones that are S.M.A.R.T. These goals can be revised every year to set new goals for a new year. One essential thing we do at Thorgate is that we assign a mentor to everyone who joins. This mentor guides the team members on how to put personal development at the fore-front.
Goals and milestones that we set include the following:
- Strategic organisation level goals with key result areas and KPIs for the person in focus
- Team goals, milestones and the budget required to achieve them
- Personal goals and how they align with the key areas of team goals and organisation goals
During monthly 1on1-s we cover personal growth and milestones achieved. The most important part is to discuss what people felt while executing their tasks and what they saw as an outcome. Also looking at their feedback and actively listening to what they think now about their career aspiration is what personal mentors do.
We value our 1on1-s because through those sessions the management gets so much valuable information about people's perspective, who they really are, what inspires them, how they see the future and most importantly how we as an organisation can help them succeed. The effort trickles down to the team as every team leader discusses the personal and professional aspirations of their team members and how Thorgate can help them with those aspirations.
Our system helps us to know our people, their strengths and their career aspirations. Therefore, when the management needs to grow the company, we have the right information at hand about who to put in charge and who are team member candidates. The constant development of each person in their role also helps us and themselves understand if they would like to choose to grow in a specialist role or a leadership role. The flat hierarchy within Thorgate facilitates growth and development of people as it fits them. This benefits the organisation by mitigating the risk of having one key person absent, making the culture at Thorgate more flexible towards extra vacations, sick leaves, military service leave, maternity/paternity leaves and anything that may be required without having to lose a vital team member.
Following the monthly people development process leads us to the annual peak event - People Development Forum (PDF). PDF is an annual event where we get a wider view from the people in the organisation represented by each team leader. We discuss our strengths and development areas, personal growth, communication within the company, our growth plans, and we also give and receive feedback.
PDF session provides information about people's performance, progress and what challenges they face on the road and sometimes how they cope with different situations. This helps us understand our people and set forward-looking ideas to lead the company as a whole. The whole process gives me information about what people we have on board and which dreams we have in our organisation. Top managers do not interact on a daily or weekly basis with everyone in the organisation but they still know them and their career aspirations by heart thanks to our people development system.
After the annual process of people development we see it beneficial to discuss people’s salary changes according to their annual progress and it helps us align similar roles with similar salary levels. It helps managers to provide open and honest feedback to their team and everyone can see how their actions affect their benefits.
Another important factor in people development is taking care of the key players. Thorgate is willing to engage more key players with the company and make them part of the family by providing them options schema where after vesting period they become partners of the company.
We use specific management tools and meeting formats to do people development in a smart way, to track our growth, what we do and share this efficiently. As mentioned, we have monthly one-on-one meetings between the line manager and team members which are also explained later. We also use Clanbeat which is a personalised growth support tool. Other than that we have regular standups to increase employee engagement, team overviews and PPP (progress, plans and problems) meetings to track progress, year-on-year reviews to keep our goals in alignment.
Some may think about the costs to maintain the people development system. In our experience it has given us the freedom to speak up and with the person who can actually initiate the change and at the end of the day keeps management overhead at minimum level.
All our rituals, processes and elements of our work culture do put transparency in the centre. As a leader at Thorgate, in addition to enabling your people to do their job you need to create a sense of purpose for your people, providing reason and context for their work. Then there is our innate need to know what is going on around us, so we let our people know what other parts of our business are doing, only then will they feel like a part of the business. Open communication without any hesitation towards certain roles such as CEO, creates passion and energy within team members.