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A guide on efficient personnel management

Collaboration with PINKMAN
March 2022

In a nutshell

Some companies experience rapid and partly unconscious growth — that’s happened to PINKMAN design studio in 2021. To flip the script, its founders, Mikki Rozov and Serge Orekhov searched for an HR — somebody who would complete all the people-related tasks, including hiring, developing, and motivating employees. So, the guys asked us to find a  person who would match their company.

Whatever problem TYPICAL is working on, our team always investigates it first. So, we followed this tradition and asked the guys to point out what their potential HR would do. We analyzed those tasks and saw that  80% of them were genuinely for managers. Consequently, PINKMAN didn't need any HR director. Instead, the company’s team was supposed to develop and motivate employees. The search for HRs was put aside, and we focused on newly-minted targets — to find out why managers were not implementing their tasks, and to solve this problem.

Mikki Rozov and Serge Orekhov

PINKMAN is a contemporary design studio that includes various design practices and includes such separate companies as Method Zero. The studio grows 1.5 — 2.5 times annually. Now there are about 150 employees.

We collaborated with PINKMAN to fix management gradually. For this, we defined the required competencies, evaluated managers and provided them with personal development plans. As a result, managers learned the ropes of employees development, and the people-oriented culture was finally shaped. All the work done helped PINKMAN to find the right direction, and the company keeps on growing.

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Collaboration period: July – October 2021

PINKMAN before the project

  • Employees used to put creativity first, but later, when the company’s values switched to performance, their motivation decreased.
  • Hiring was chaotic, managers lacked exact methods.
  • Personnel development was unsystematic, life cycles of employees were intuitively-shaped.
  • Managers lacked professional competencies. Founders didn’t know for sure where everybody was in the right position.

Our first steps

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Results

  • The company got a new approach to managerial positions. Now PINKMAN’s managers spend half of their time on personnel management. Meanwhile, they keep on selling projects, counting payrolls, and managing processes,
  • Managers became responsible for hiring and firing employees.
  • Employees got PDPs that are still raw, but already enable the founders to track the development systematically.
  • The company disbanded its board of directors and eliminated the CEO position.

PINKMAN's request

<div class='h3 color-green font-25'>Mikki Rozov, PINKMAN</div>

The studio grew big with lots of process things to deliver on. For example, we needed such valuable documents as project's rules and checklists, but didn’t have them because I was not much into working on paperwork. With such an approach, I wasn’t involved in the studio’s processes, so it seemed to grow by itself.

We believed that a fit HR director would fix everything and guide the team of almost 100 people. TYPICAL, however, explained that decent personnel management would be the right solution. Managers should set working with people as their key task. Respectively, they should be responsible for hiring and raising them themselves.

<div class='p-container'><div class='h3 color-green font-25'>Serge Orekhov, PINKMAN</div>The company has grown, but its culture hasn't matured. Suddenly we got 35 people, but we were not ready for that. I felt uncomfortable because I didn’t know half of the team and never talked to some employees. Frankly, there were people whom I'd never greeted. Obviously, the atmosphere was not friendly, and the company’s culture was not people-oriented.</div>

<div class='p-container'>The team expanded to 100 members, and the company matured. However, we had no idea how to show our care to all the employees. So, we agreed to evaluate managers' competencies, think through the logic of their work, and determine whether managers were competent enough to hire and develop employees. If they lacked those competencies, we would evaluate them and help to develop the needed skills. All this was our top priority while hiring an HR became a backup plan.</div>

<div class='h3 color-green font-25'>Anastasia Minetto, TYPICAL</div>

PINKMAN's employees had used to focus on creativity but moved to performance. As a result, they stopped doing their best to create something cool, and designers' motivation dropped. The founders thought that an HR would be the end-all answer, but after a few meetings they understood that the true underlying problem was in personnel management, so, they agreed to work on.

Stage one: defining managers' responsibilities

<div class='h3 color-green font-25'>Anastasia Minetto, TYPICAL</div>

The company needed an extra person to develop employees. So, it was important to find out why managers were not responsible for their core competencies. We studied and described managers' areas of responsibility. For this, we talked to Mikki, Serge, and all the managers.

Next, we needed to check whether managers were competent enough and whether a single one could handle all the tasks. So, we tested managers' competencies within each area.

As far as we conducted the interviews beforehand, we already had some important insights. For example, we knew that one manager was at the edge of a burnout. It was a person who managed the biggest team.

During managers’ evaluation, Miki and Serge decided to divide the studio into separate practices. However, the guys poorly explained this idea to the team. As a result, the employees didn’t get their decisions and were scared of uncertainty.

To calm the employees down, the guys explained their actions in detail. Next, the founders described the requirements for heads of independent companies inside PINKMAN. This guide enabled employees to grow organically. They learned to build teams, organize processes, and deal with employees. Now they know that without these skills they can’t become CEOs. Next, we analyzed the interviews and described all the necessary managerial competencies for each area of responsibility.

<div class='p-container'><div class='h3 color-green font-25'>Mikki Rozov, PINKMAN</div>During the interviews, I experienced different emotions including fear and shame. However, I made important discoveries, 4 or 5. Before the project, I had no idea that the employees could have numerous questions and problems. Meanwhile, I lacked understanding of their workload and competencies, knowledge and skills. For instance, employees had a vague concept of the motivation system. Aware of rewards, managers didn’t know what they were composed of.</div>

<div class='p-container'>We wanted our business to grow, but, the more we learned about employees, the more we saw that they lacked motivation. Our business needs didn’t match the workflow, the motivation system, and the lead promotion system.</div>

Stage two: evaluating managerial competencies

<div class='h3 color-green font-25'>Anastasia Minetto, TYPICAL</div>

Our second task was to evaluate managerial competencies. For this, we made a framework and selected questions for different competencies. In a word, we tested theoretical knowledge, practical experience, and skills in solving cases.

Efficient evaluation is not about ten-to-one scales, it is about a personal approach that helps to detect urgent problems and fix them immediately. So, we talked to every manager individually. We found problems and their effects on employees’ performance, tested managers’ skills and knowledge, distinguished their weak points, and growth areas.

<div class='p-container'><div class='h3 color-green font-25'>Mikki Rozov, PINKMAN</div>To solve a problem, you should acknowledge it first. No matter how cool you are or how cool you consider yourself to be. You have a slim chance to find out how your employees are doing, because people may be shy or afraid to say everything as it is. They don't want to tell you that your company makes them feel bad. For example, one employee rated her working takeaways at 8 out of 10. A week later, she quitted.</div>

<div class='h3 color-green font-25'>Anastasia Minetto, TYPICAL</div>

We discovered that PINKMAN’s employees used to become managers even if they lacked managerial competencies. As a result, the people took an office and had to learn everything at once. On the one hand, they learned the ropes of dealing with teams, sometimes huge ones. On the other hand, they assumed the burden of business management that included financial, legal, and PR directions. In a word, they had a heavy load.

We explained to Mikki and Serge that they had two options: hire new employees or develop the ones they already had. The latter plan seemed to be more complicated, and time-consuming, however it was more advantageous considering that all the work done would become PINKMAN’s legit EVP (employer's value proposition). Hopefully, PINKMAN were ready to focus on managers’ development, and chose the second option.

<div class='p-container'><div class='h3 color-green font-25'>Mikki Rozov, PINKMAN</div>If your managers lack managerial competencies, it looks like your fault, that is pretty uncomfortable to accept. TYPICAL showed my mistakes, and, frankly speaking, I wasn’t always ready to accept them. I even tried to talk Anastasia round.</div>

<div class='p-container'>I couldn't fully realize that employees’ focus was different. They weren't skilled and experienced enough to develop teams. Seemed like PINKMAN was developing just by way of luck. I recognized that our decisions were wrong: we used to hire people hoping for the best and thinking that failures could be fixed somehow.</div>

<div class='p-container'>We discussed with TYPICAL all our new decisions, worked on shifting the company's focus towards caring and taught our managers the ropes of conscious and systematic hiring. They had to understand the importance of personnel development and the value of some practices. At the same time, we wanted to level employees' stress and anxiety down.</div>

<div class='h3 color-green font-25'>Anastasia Minetto, TYPICAL</div>

Fring was another tricky problem to solve: PINKMAN was not much into straightforward actions, and had a special method. The guys didn't fire inefficient employees. Instead, they sent them to other teams. Probably, this approach seemed to be convenient, especially in the case of hot jobs.

In a word, inefficient employees were on a journey across the studio. The company could end up getting more and more people who didn't fit it. The founders understood the problem and had to part with some employees, some of them used to occupy top positions.  

Chaotic people development

<div class='h3 color-green font-25'>Serge Orekhov, PINKMAN</div>

When you pay someone to teach you, you surely dive into matters deeper. Thanks to TYPICAL, our focus has shifted to our employees. We analyzed how we should work with them, and how they should work with their teams. Noteworthy, we understood that managers inherited our mistakes.

Coincidentally, we had a period of survival that pressed us to complicate processes, tighten controls, introduce graphs, and teach employees to save money. Previously, they just did cool projects, but we aimed them to focus on profitability. So, they mastered the knowledge of financial literacy and tools.

<div class='p-container'><div class='h3 color-green font-25'>Mikki Rozov, PINKMAN</div>I'll just list our mistakes. Firstly, we had a top-down command structure. I raised art directors, hired their teams on my own, and said: "Now you work together." As for the care, well, it was situational. If I accidentally learned something, I could decide to take care of a person, but if I didn't find anything, I wouldn't. Secondly, managers were not told to develop their teams. If any responsibilities were mentioned, they were random.</div>

<div class='p-container'>Thirdly, I raised dozens of designers with the help of my personal method, efficient, but inhuman. In my opinion, challenges were more interesting than routine work, so employees had to solve problems slightly above their level. Without stable help or support, they overcame everything themselves. In a word, designers were growing in extreme conditions.</div>

<div class='h3 color-green font-25'>Anastasia Minetto, TYPICAL</div>

Not to blame PINKMAN's managers for all and everything, let’s remember that managers should be primarily responsible for projects. So, they concentrate on the operating system, not on people.

Stage three: developing PDPs

<div class='h3 color-green font-25'>Anastasia Minetto, TYPICAL</div>

After the evaluation, we provided all managers with PDPs (personal development plans). As a rule, these documents reflect the current state of people's competencies and show how to improve them. PDP is a big table that includes employees' self evaluation and their evaluation by managers.

This tool is complex and requires much mental effort. However, it enables employees to realize what and how they should improve. Work routine doesn't let them focus on their competencies. Meanwhile, PDP helps to track progress and identify growth areas.

We aimed to teach everyone how to use it. However, we had to point its value out first, because employees tend to reject their PDP results. We managed to do this via workshops and individual calls. Mikki and Serge helped us a lot. Now all managers have PDPs, and the guys should track them quarterly to monitor and record employees' progress.

<div class='p-container'><div class='h3 color-green font-25'>Serge Orekhov, PINKMAN</div>Working on PDP is a serious brain-work that reintroduces you to your employees. You pay attention to the casually-mentioned things and ask questions that may be discomfortable. For instance: “How to motivate a person in this situation? How can an employee benefit from the project?”. In a word, we had to think everything through and check whether the managers understood the mechanics of their job.</div>

<div class='h3 color-green font-25'>Mikki Rozov, PINKMAN</div>

In the beginning, we told the team about our collaboration with TYPICAL and explained that the development of management culture was our common task, something really important for us, our company, and them. We pointed out that managers of every level should know and appreciate their teams. Consequently, we all had to go through this together. Noteworthy, we ensured the team that we lacked knowledge and tools, so we had to learn. As for PDP, we explained that it was not a firing tool. On the contrary, we depicted it as a chance to get some food for thought.

Education on people development

<div class='h3 color-green font-25'>Serge Orekhov, PINKMAN</div>

Earlier, our managers spent 100-120% of their time on projects and simply had no resources to deal with the team. Suddenly, they had to devote 50% of their time to employees. They were not ready for that and wondered: "What about work? We can't do this." Therefore, we had to reconsider financial motivation and simplify targets. In a word, we freed up their time for personnel management.

<div class='p-container'><div class='h3 color-green font-25'>Mikki Rozov, PINKMAN</div>The change of mindset doesn't happen overnight. Therefore, we still make some unexpected discoveries. For example, at the end of 2021, managers didn’t ask for bonuses for their employees. A year before, all employees received annual bonuses, so managers didn't understand that their team members couldn't get them without their participation.</div>

<div class='p-container'>It was an unpleasant discovery. So, I had to explain that team development shouldn't be guidelines-based. They must recognize, appreciate their employees, and care about them. One of our managers, Alina, said: "I'm glad I can thank my team somehow." Gradually, such attitudes will develop a new culture.</div>

<div class='h3 color-green font-25'>Anastasia Minetto, TYPICAL</div>

Everything always starts with the founders. The guys realized this and began to act. Now they pay enough attention to all PINKMAN executives. For example, they hold weekly meetings and attend all our workshops on hiring.

Results

<div class='h3 color-green font-25'>Serge Orekhov, PINKMAN</div>

Earlier, our personnel management was chaotic. We had no communication between employees, didn't collect feedback, and, didn’t motivate team members. Now, everyone understands: if newly-hired employees don't get enough attention, they are likely to leave.

<div class='p-container'><div class='h3 color-green font-25'>Mikki Rozov, PINKMAN</div>Our managers got a new area of responsibility - people. I watch their independence grow: when they are responsible for something, they find resources to accomplish their  task. It works this way, and sometimes it is scary: now we have 20 managers who can hire 20 people at once without telling us. They used to say, "A bad person was hired, I'm not responsible for this." But now they make their own decisions and understand that they are the ones to work with the newly-hired employees.</div>

Working with TYPICAL

<div class='h3 color-green font-25'>Serge Orekhov, PINKMAN</div>

TYPICAL constantly questions the validity of your decisions. We hadn't been used to such an approach, and, frankly, sometimes it was pretty annoying. But experts’ questions turned out to be very useful. Now I see that founders tend to drown in their responsibilities and decisions.

TYPICAL became our partner we can discuss any problem with. Their team is always eager to share experience, check our decisions, and find solutions. Smart and experienced, these experts know what direction to take and what path to choose. Such things are hard to do yourself, so it is better to accept criticism and trust advisors.

<div class='p-container'><div class='h3 color-green font-25'>Mikki Rozov, PINKMAN</div>TYPICAL gives you an expert’s view on mistakes and encourages to put them right. At first you may feel you’ve lost the battle, but eventually, you learn, think things through, and find a new strategy.</div>

<div class='p-container'>Reflections lead to actions: during our collaboration I found my growth area and focused on its development. Now I already know how to build trustworthy relationships with my employees, I even ask them how they spend their leisure time.</div>

<div class='p-container'>Finally, I realized that I could help employees. This attitude is more efficient than the focus on their failures. It is a fountain of trust. For instance, now managers are not afraid anymore to come with feedback and questions. It is cool, but brings a new problem: now we need to answer all these questions. Funny, don't you think so?</div>

Summary

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other collaborations

TYPICAL taem: 1

Anastasia Minetto, Chief Consultant

PINKMAN team:

Mikki Rozov, Co-founder

Serge Orekhov, Co-founder

Talked to everyone and wrote this text:

Ksenia Zhebrovskaya, creator in TYPICAL

  • Talked to PINKMAN's founders and all the executives.
  • Discovered that employees were not satisfied with the org chart's changes thanks to its representation. So,we helped Mikki and Serge to depict them the other way.
  • Determined managerial competencies for each position.
  • Evaluated all managers’ competencies individually, pointed out their growth areas and made recommendations for the further development. Next, discussed the results with the founders.
  • Described areas of responsibility for each category of managers as we usually do with requirements in job descriptions.