The Top PLG People Leaders You Should Know (And Their Predictions for 2020)

As 2019 comes to a close, it’s the perfect time to reflect on our people and talent strategies and map out a plan of action for the coming year. What’s working well? Where should we focus? We spoke with people leaders from some of the top product led growth companies, and asked for their thoughts on what we can expect to see next year and what major trends should influence our people strategy & decisions.

To kickstart your 2020, follow these folks and read on for their insights on what’s to come.

Anita Grantham
Chief People Officer, Pluralsight

I think in 2020 and beyond we will witness a real change in how Talent and People leaders escape their silos and align themselves as strategic partners to the business. Everyone says it, but how will they actually do it? They will do it by partnering with
the business in a way that drives performance. They will do it by getting buy-in from the whole executive team and the board, and making it clear that the programs they are building are not a separate function of the company. They will ship products to their customers—leaders and team members—knowing the full company is behind them.

Vitri Bhandari 
VP People Ops & Strategy, Klaviyo

My prediction is that the market for talent will continue to be tight, so in order to attract and empower the best people to perform at their peak, it will become increasingly important to focus on what motivates people. While many of us do this to some extent, I’m personally excited and looking forward to taking that to the next level. Companies will need to double-down on the cultural design elements that impact the “direct motives” (i.e., play, purpose, potential). Successful companies will ensure that they attract and retain people who love the work itself, are motivated by a specific purpose and are looking to learn and grow (which is increasingly a topic of focus for talented individuals).

Great leaders, understanding that this is what ultimately drives business performance, will actively cultivate a culture and operating model that positively impacts these motives at every touchpoint—when interacting with the community, in conversations with potential candidates, during an individual’s onboarding and into their day-to-day, all the way through to if/when they one day become an alumni.

Marissa Parillo
Sr. Director of Business Recruiting, Datadog

Organizations will place more weight on hiring and building a well-rounded recruiter than the one who is just built for speed.

Expectations of recruiters today are extremely high, and the need to blend both right and left-brained approach in order to see success is nearly contradictory. If you think about the entirety of the recruiting lifecycle, a recruiter needs to attract and close hard-to-win talent, inform and develop interview processes, ensure interview teams are aligned on the search and tell stories with data to help shift focus and alignment.

Organizations will need to dedicate time to developing their recruiting team’s capabilities across selling, marketing, reporting and business partnership in order to succeed in a growth environment.

Adriana Roche
VP People & Places, Segment

2020 will continue to be a challenging year for hiring and retaining talent. The current workforce is more than ever expecting more flexibility in their work arrangements and the new generation is looking to move away from the traditional, larger corporate hubs. Companies need to start exercising the muscle of having a more distributed workforce and double down on ensuring they have the right people, processes and systems to make them successful at scale.

I see a future where working from anywhere at any time is the norm and we need to start investing in this work model sooner rather than later.

Matt Hoffman
Partner & Head of Talent, M13 (former VP People @ Digital Ocean)

One thing that we know will be true in 2020 is that the most talented people will continue to have many choices around where they work. We’re seeing a shift in what drives engagement and performance in the best employees, and it’s no longer primarily compensation. What’s increasingly most important to top talent is to be part of a high-performing team that genuinely cares about each other and works collaboratively to achieve success. And even more critical is to have leadership that is also authentically aligned with their values to create products, services, and experiences that contribute a net positive in their community.

This is an impactful evolution in the world of work, and it’s thrilling to help our teams be at the forefront of this transformation.

Mary Good 
Chief People Officer, Squarespace

My prediction for 2020 is that there will be a strong need within the tech community to cultivate the concept of the personalized work experience, particularly when it comes to helping employees create an individually tailored career development plan. With relentless competition for talent, and employees striving for upward mobility and a purpose-driven work experience, there will continue to be an increasing demand to provide answers to the question “what’s next for me” in terms of skill building, promotion opportunities and broader career leverage.

Companies that focus on tailored work experiences and personalized career guidance will succeed relative to the uninspiring and bureaucratic one-size fits all development landscape that is all too common now.

Kirsten Spoljaric 
SVP People, Zipwhip

Talent and People Teams will become more of a critical partner to businesses in 2020. They will be key to not just bring in diverse talent to companies, but ensure employees are retained in an environment that allows them to show up as their authentic self, perform at their best and do meaningful work.

Education and support on mental/emotional wellness will become more critical for People teams to lead with, as the separation between “home” and “work” are no longer as distinct. Bringing forth diverse programming and benefits that supports the healthy integration of home and work (inclusive family forming benefits, financial planning, stress reduction, community connectivity, etc.) will be key.

Amongst all of this, people analytics will show up more to purposefully measure and support employee productivity and engagement.

Chris Tobin
Vice President, People, Intercom

After a few years of increased entrepreneurial interest and VC investment into the HR, recruiting and workplace functions, many of the tasks, both tactical and strategic, that HR teams have traditionally accomplished manually or through disparate systems will now be solved through new and integrated products.

In 2020, HR leaders will test, implement and champion new services, products and systems and begin to unlock incredible efficiency and effectiveness gains for their teams and companies.

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