Why Strategic Alignment is Important and How to Get Started Measuring It

Interview with Julia Melymbrose, Head of People Operations at Animalz

The Head of People Operations at Animalz shares her thoughts on how to measure strategic alignment, and why it's important.

What you learn:

  • What is strategic alignment
  • Why strategic alignment is important for your growing organization
  • How to get started with aligning your organization

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To read the complete video transcript, keep scrolling...

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Visit the Animalz website! https://www.animalz.co

(Intro Music: Tess Violet, "Crush"): Uh. Alright. I can't focus on what needs to get done. I'm on notice hopin' that you don't run. Ah.

(Fionna Faulk, Recruitsos) Today on Recruitsos Learn, we're going to talk about strategic alignment.

Strategic alignment isn't something a lot of startups talk about, yet, it's a much hotter topic once your organization begins to grow, and especially as you enter...the enterprise.

A growing company without strategic alignment could result in employees in different departments spending hours working on projects and creating objectives that leave little to no impact for the greater good of the company. This is why it's so important.

Today we'll hear first-hand from Julia Melymbrose, Head of People Operations for Animalz, high-end, content marketing agency, that specializes in tech. Animalz recently scored second place in an Ahrefs blog that highlighted the 17 Best Marketing Blogs to Follow in 2019. Pretty cool.

Not only is Julia head of people operations, but she’s always been fascinated by the development of work culture and the way remote teams are revolutionizing how we connect and collaborate. Julia loves digging into all things people and understanding what drives fulfillment and happiness (at work and beyond).

As the Head of People Operations at Animalz, she's tripled the team into over 30 people across the globe and has helped set policies and processes that help team members work happily and productively.

Let's hear about strategic alignment first-hand, straight from Julia.

(Fionna Faulk, Recruitsos): So, Julia.

(Julia Melymbrose, Animalz): Hi, Fionna

I thank you again for imparting wisdom and knowledge and your expertise on the folks watching this video. I appreciate that.

Thank you for having me here. It is exciting.

I agree. So let's jump right in.

What would you say strategic alignment means to you?

To me strategic alignment means getting in line with your organization's overall goals and objectives and contributing towards achieving them by becoming an active participant and on owning part of those goals.

So it means going from the role of somebody who's executing on plans on the tactical level to somebody who creates programs and initiatives to to achieve the strategic goals of the company alongside the leadership.

When the leadership team comes up with those goals and those plans do you feel it's important for someone fromH.R. to be there at the table with them or is does it not matter if they just hand them down. No I think it's very important and I think it's something that.

It's also a challenge forH.R. We are in a unique position of being in touch with various departments if not all the departments at the company and being able to affect a lot of what happens at the same time that position can make you feel a little bit suck sometimes like you are the intermediary and trying to please everyone. And so that's why I think the strategic elevation and becoming a strategic partner is important because then you can. You can have a seat at the table and you can contribute what the leadership team is doing and help them take those initiatives and build programs and whatever they're planning to do.

Why is it important in the first place. Why why would you say it's important.

I think it's important because it's something.

Or to put it I would I would say if they'd like strategic alignment is a way for the organization to scale through its people. So by being in strategic alignment people operations can take a wider more holistic view to the business and the business objectives. And it can use people who would like the board compensation development program talent management to contribute towards the overall goal. Even if the goals are revenue related well how are we going to get there.

We need certain skills on the team we need certain you know we need to set in production we need certain outcomes and so people operations can really manage that and help everyone in the organization move towards that goal.

And so I think it's kind of like what I said before it's bringing together those departments and helping them collaborate and helping them make a roadmap for getting to the mission very good.

That's a that's a nice Segway point here. There's been a roadmap. How did you Julia begin to organize your approach to being able to tackle something huge like strategic alignment for Animalz when

I first began the approach by taking a look to where we were right now at the organization what was happening on the individual level. The team member level everyday and what were they experiencing as the company that we were all operating in and then kind of taking that and comparing it to what our goals were. Was the leadership team was talking about and finding ways First more immediate ways and looking at the short term or how to help match the two. And then slowly moving towards a more long term vision like how do we how do we plan this out. And I think that starting where you are right now is very important for strategic alignment because you know vision can be grand and great and we can talk about them all day long but if we don't let them out and if we don't have a way to actually take that force then they just kind of like the main ideas and dreams and we want to build a company that you know I could never.

We're not actually there though.

I think it's like right now where we are very important.

Absolutely. I totally agree. So the first step that you took. How would you characterize that if you could put it just in one sentence. What's the first thing you did to make take action on your plan and implementing strategic alignment.

The third step was an NPR survey an employee survey. I mean like very concrete steps. And the reason was exact was what I it before.

I felt I needed to understand where we are right now. So yes no one was left to an NPR survey. Let's see what people think we know what they say what their experience about where we are.

How did you go about implementing it. There are so many different ways you can do that. Some are more effective than others.

What way did you that choose to to rule out that survey here you played at the time that we did it the company wasn't very big and we wanted to. Our focus was to get the survey out rather than. You know implement like a wider tool and we're going to be doing this all the time and I think that's also an important point about starting where we are where you are. I always like to tell people when we roll something out. We are testing these out. We are going to see how these works. So there's no long term expectations for it from anyone including yourself about what this is and what it's going to achieve because you need to test things out. Not everything is going to work for everyone. So with that in mind we use every table as a software to manage a lot of our database and information and all of that. So and it has the opportunity within that to create the raise and you can make them anonymous. And so I was the only person with access to that I wanted it to be anonymous at the beginning because I wanted people to. Well a lot of employees are retiring anyway but.

I don't want to get into that. But you can have them with name or no name. But we wanted to have it anonymous. And I wanted to be the only one who had direct access to it kind of like the raw data as it came in.

So people felt comfortable to just say what they wanted to say do it at their own time and collect honest information what they felt what they thought were what they were struggling with.

Walk us through maybe briefly what your structure looks like as a whole. For sure change of alignment now at your organization. We have a good understanding of where you started where other people can start if they want to follow in similar footsteps or they're looking to get strategic alignment off the ground at their company. Now that it's evolved what would you say a strategic alignment looks like for you now so yes starting from where we wanted to be.

I think now that it's evolved a little bit and we've been doing it for a while. We look at the overall picture first though and we did this on our side. We had recently it's the leadership team where we put our organizational goals. For example we come to like getting a specific revenue goal. We put that on the on the whiteboard and then we'll reverse engineer from that. What needs to happen in each vertical of the business. So for example what the sales data to like for us to get there. Great. What does customer operation look like. To get there. And then from that what does our production look like to get there. And from there I work with each of the directors each of the leaders from that department to drill down and see what needs to happen on the people aspect. So for sales looks that way. What does that mean about our people. What training do we need. What people do we need to bring in customer operations and thing production and things and so that helps me plan out things like development program hiring you know how much. What kind of levels what kind of skills do we need moving people around in the organization. So. It's really at the moment it's right now I should say it evolves into working backwards from the bigger goal into what do we want to achieve. And then from where we are now. So what kind of development do we need. What kind of hiring do we need. What other initiatives do we need to make that happen.

Absolutely. And I'm curious from your own experience you have to work with different directors. Right. And you need to have their buy in on the process. You need to have their full participation.

How do you get a director who is a little more apathetic or a bit lukewarm on their participation in something like this to really show up and be a more active participant. How do you get those words it's kind of like a little apathetic.

So the ideal answer I think I would say is like you have to sell them on the benefits and it's not just ideal.

I mean it's good you really have to explain to them why know it gives them something to care about like you know is it the sale is is it the revenue you know like this is going to happen or you know we can help improve your team in this way. On the practical level and depending on depending on various things it can be. It's not it's not like you're gonna say this one phrase and then I'd be like oh yes I know I never thought about that. It may take a little bit more.

It may take like other either die or you know other directors like talking about benefits they've see in talking about how you have will help them how we will help the company. So I think always tying it back to the overall goal of the company but then also helping its person see the benefits for their team and what they care about because ultimately assisting somebody the director level. Ultimately they do want to contribute and they do care about.

They may have different priorities but I think it's just a matter of aligning their priorities that they're on board.

Well that's hey that's that's good feedback for anybody out there who's ever experience that it's a it can be interact with your structure in place.

Now what have been some of the benefits that you've noticed by getting your organization strategically aligned.

Yeah I think the biggest benefit is that we can be a lot more proactive in our general approach to the business goals rather than reactive. So before it was more of a win. You know we just got a bigger account and we need two more people on this one yesterday you know and everyone is just scrambling to get up there or you know you know just kind of like reacting to that to the reality of business. So I think being more strategic with people operations we can be more proactive we can plan.

You know we can see that in two months we're going to need somebody to feel this decision can we train in time. Do we need to hire or do we have the deals you know we need to have we we need to have reviews like you shouldn't have been when there is an issue when like things break down and you're going Oh my God everyone's going crazy there should be a constant conversation. So ... I think moving I think that I would say that that's the biggest benefit moving from a reactive to a proactive and taking initiative thing.

What have been some of the drawbacks for you since you worked on implementing this and working on strategic alignment. I would say that one of the drawbacks is that it takes a takes a lot of conversation and it takes a lot of digging into to be able to do this it's not like you're going to make a plan and you're going to make a roadmap and it's going to work out.

Perfectly. You know maybe you lose somebody like an employee along the way that you weren't expecting or maybe a sale will fall through you know and then you have to kind of like. Realize and see what's happening with the business. So I think if I said anything but you have to balance how much of the planning and the proactive you do ahead of time because you don't want to do so practice where you're building all of its structures and hiring for a company that doesn't yet exist.

And then it doesn't happen on the day you expect it. So I think yeah that's the drawback is that you need to be. You need to start having a lot of open conversation sometimes difficult conversations.

You know you your financial people or your CEO or whoever isn't gonna want to jump in here. Let's hire 10 more people because you know maybe in six months we'll be there. So it's managing that really. Managing that tension. Is a healthy thing.

Absolutely. OK what would you say as someone who is looking to align their organization their people their strategy. What are some of the pitfalls the common pitfalls they should look out for in taking this approach. One of the things is making sure that you are.

Coming to the conversation from a position where you can contribute. So you have your own your own data your own research on your own idea of People Operations on you know the kind of culture you want to build with the rest of the team. And coming to that conversation with ideas and with these ways you want to achieve because there's the danger or the people is coming in to help everyone else achieve the goals and then you end up becoming kind of you know getting in the position of a

facilitator is the right word but you mediate or you know you can't please everyone and you're trying to you're trying to make each department align with everyone else and you end.

And when you don't have your own standpoint of what it should look like to the people in the company you can get lost in that and you can end up just trying to reconcile irreconcilable things and not feeling like you have to receive over anything.

You know feeling like you're here to execute this crazy ideas and I feel like that's good life advice to I would say like I just felt a cross over those now life that the advice from you is that good.

It's kind of like of somebody like finishing high school or college rather decide on a job and then you have your parents they want you to do that job you prepare the think you should do that and then you're like... It's amazing.

totally with you on that. So last question for you Julia and thank you so much for your wisdom and knowledge so far. What final advice do you have for the person who is still watching this?

Cause you know, it always drops off by the end of it, no matter who you are, you're dropping off... What kind of advice do you have for someone who's still watching?

So what I would say is that people operation is a very important part of any organization and it's only going to become more important as we move into the digital age because we are moving toward a structure of working and a model of working where a lot of the mundane and menial tasks a lot of the factory work has already and will be more so in the future,

You know automated, and given to software and made easy so that means the work that the people that we have on the team are not contributing much more on an intellectual level. You know they're idea people they're their creators they're talent they're designers and coders and writers and they do these very kind of like human talent kind of work. So we're in a unique position where organizations and people are now kind of becoming much more interweaved.

You know it's not it's not the company versus the people. It's the company cannot survive without its people. And the people in a lot of this intellectual work needs a company and mission a bigger vision and teams to be achieved. It's not like people can just do that on their own. So we're in a unique position of facilitating that and making sure that the company gives the people the mission and the goal to achieve. But it also takes care of them and gives them the stability they need and and the space to be creative.

I think people operations is in the center of all that.

It's a very unique place to be. And you should lean in to that. It's a great place.

It's a great time to be in people operations. I think it's going to...the progress is going to be very interesting in the next few years.

So, I'm excited to see what happens, and I hope other people are.

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January 31, 2019

Fionna Faulk

Co-Founder, Recruitsos
Co-Founder, Recruitsos

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Julia Melymbrose

Head of People Operations at Animalz
Head of People Operations at Animalz