More and more companies--from small startups to long-established giants--are recognizing the importance of people-first thinking. The directors of human resources are coming to the forefront of company innovation and are finally setting up camp in the executive suite.

As we continue into 2016, we're going to see a lot more emphasis on company culture and personalized development support--all to help both employees and the company thrive.

To learn more about these trends, I sat down with Charlie Gray of Gray Scalable, a firm that helps tech startups and growth stage companies manage HR, recruit the best people, and build a strong foundation of leadership and culture. Now more than ever companies must focus on the people behind the product.

What are the trends in company culture that you are seeing in the companies you work with?

I think it's maturing a bit. Executives are growing away from the idea that they can attract talent by playing ping pong and drinking beer at work. Now it's becoming more complex and mature--and individualized. People are trying to figure out what's special about them and go beyond the amenities-only approach

What are some of the most unique people policies you have seen and from who?

One company I know has a policy where if an employee goes past two rounds of reviews without getting a promotion, they aren't allowed to go for it a third time. Instead, they are offered three month's pay and a program that allows them to explore and pursue a job they want elsewhere. Either you are developing there are they help them move on.

At Spring, employees contribute to company strategy. As they thought ahead to 2016, every employee contributed to a strategy group and decided what bold moves they could make. It was not a top down process--it was a true 100% employee approach. The company gives everyone a real stake in the strategy, so they are more committed.

What are the signs of a great leader in tech?

Great leaders bring in strong people for their team--people that are better or more experienced than they are--and then are great at delegating to those people. That is a critical requirement to getting to a certain stage, and a lot of founders have a really hard time getting there.

I think the necessities for leadership changes over time. In the early stages, you need to be determined and focused and believe in your own vision--almost to the point where you're excluding others. But when the product becomes more focused, you need to open up and listen and shift your focus. Many companies start with one person running it and then bring in another, because it's hard for the first person to become that second person. It's so important to have flexibility, a growth mindset, and a strong curiosity.

Do you see any jobs that are being created this year that have not existed before?

The talent and HR jobs at start-ups have become more important than they were a couple of years ago. Before, they used to promote the office manager into HR, and now there is a greater awareness of the importance of this role. Many people are looking for an experienced people person now.

What characteristics in your mind make-up a super star in the tech space?

Raw ability versus certain skills. When people are looking for those great hires, it's their general smarts rather than their fluency with a product. They are looking for someone to think bigger, do multiple things and evolve over time.

What does a tech company lose if they don't focus on culture and people strategy?

Some companies are still not thinking about this. The product is so strong, that they don't focus on the people. What they lose is their ability to evolve and develop over time. If the people don't grow, the company doesn't. So not focusing on the people may work in the short term, but it won't work in the long term. Focusing on people makes a business sustainable.

What is the number one thing on most Tech CEO's minds?

Differentiation, because for anyone who is committed and passionate about their business, it's a crowded market and funding is finite.


Gray Scalable is currently hiring digital sales people at all levels, technologists, and HR and Recruiting professionals, contact them here if interested.