5 People Programs that every growing company needs

People Programs, what are they and why you need them? We cover it all.

Β min. read
July 24, 2023

You ever wonder if a certain term or phrase is well known enough to use? We had this thought recently at Aboard. We wondered what everyone thought or read when they saw the term "People Programs". Our good friends over at Lattice put it nicely:

People programs bring your People strategy to life. They are the sum of the ways companies exchange information with employees in order to enable their best work β€” aligning on goals, providing feedback, and taking and responding to employee input.

What better way to explain something than with a few examples. We've written up our 5 favourite and most important People Programs you should have at your company πŸ‘‡

1. Hiring πŸ™‹

Yes, your hiring or recruitment pipeline is a People Program. You might think of this as a simple workflow or process. You probably have an applicant tracking system or kanban board that looks like this:

Move theΒ People from left to right and you win!

Regardless of the structure on how an applicant goes from stranger to successful candidate, think of your hiring process as a dedicated People Program. This is an opportunity to share your culture & work style early on. Treat that candidate as if they're part of the team already, see how they react or respond. Pitch them issues your team is dealing with, or projects that are soon to start, see what they say.

Pull in existing team members into the hiring process so that both existing employees and potential new employees get some face time. This has a double-sided benefit. The existing employee gets to feel part of the company's future, helping to build the right team. Meanwhile, the job applicant can get a feel of who actually works at your company (beyond the simple hiring manager or HR leaders) and decide if they can see themselves working with them in the long run.

Don't just think of hiring as a few checkboxes to filling a vacant role, use it as a way to build your company for the better.

2. Onboarding 🀝

Well, who saw this one coming 😜. Right after hiring, the MOST important People Program you need to invest in is your onboarding plan (system, process, etc., call it what you want). This People Program is all encompassing and should include numerous stakeholders on your team.

We always say "onboarding is a team sport"

Similar to your hiring process, onboarding is both an art and a science. You will have the set, step-by-step tasks and action items that need to happen to enable new employees for success. These should start as soon as the offer letter is signed, and carry on to at least the 3 month mark, if not beyond. What's that? You're not sure where to start or your process is too time-consuming? We've got you.

On top of the workflow, you'll have the culture sharing and general assimilation of the new employee. This comes from individual interactions that new hire will have with their peers, Buddy (more below), leaders, manager(s), etc. They should also contribute their voice in team calls & group gatherings. The benefits here are twofold, your employee is integrated into the team and becomes part of the existing culture. They also have the opportunity to influence the culture and be a part of the where the company goes next. Your organization will always be evolving and improving, new employees are a great source for (ideally) positive change.

Make sure to treat onboarding as a crucial People Program, otherwise you might lose that hard to find talent you worked for.

3. Buddy πŸƒπŸƒ

A hugely beneficial People Program is the Buddy system. It's been studied and proven to be helpful. In a study conducted at Microsoft, 97% of new hires who met their Buddy more than eight times in the first 90 days (i.e. 1 to 2 times a week) said they were able to be productive in their role more quickly. Best of all? It's pretty cheap to implement and run.

Unlike our hiring & onboarding plan, the Buddy system can be a more informal People Program. There should be some set meetings between a Buddy and a new hire within the first few days & weeks. After that period of time, Buddies and the new employees they support might continue to stay in close contact, or only check-in sporadically. Best case scenario, the new employee is empowered to turn around and become a Buddy for the next new employee.

As far as a People Program goes, here are some things to cover for the Buddy system:

  • Who should or can be a Buddy?
  • When should the Buddy & new hire meet? (frequency & length in particular)
  • How do you ensure Buddies & new hires are connecting & understand each other's role?

Test this with your next individual or cohort of new employees, you won't regret it!

4. Learning πŸ’‘

Once onboarding starts to wind down, your new hires will be hungry for that next thing to sink their teeth into. They'll of course be busy doing their job, the one they've recently learned how to do, but they will gradually seek opportunities to continue learning & expanding their skillset. A study from Gallup found that 60% of Millennials say that the opportunity to learn and grow on the job is extremely important.

The right People Program here is how to enable the opportunity to learn, and deliver that right to employees. A lot of organizations set budgets, i.e. each employee gets $500 a year to use for learning, but how clear are these policies? Do employees know how to easily access this funding? More importantly, do managers know how to encourage their team to access & use it?

Taking it one step further, you can offer employee's direct access to learning resources or courses. This can be through well known platforms like Udemy or Coursera, or by partnering directly with colleges or universities where your employees live.

Learning People Programs can start simple. A focus should be put on clarity and access. Give employees what they're looking for, knowledge!

5. Career Growth πŸ“ˆ

The last key People Program to put in place is clear career growth paths. This is last in our list because it is probably the hardest to bite off and will take the most time to figure out. Once your employees are learning & growing individually, they'll want to see and know what types of roles at the organization are available to them.

At Aboard, we want to see companies take this to the most radical level. Show a new sales rep how they can become the Chief Revenue Officer in a 15 to 20 year career.

"Sure, we'd love to do that, but where to start?" Great question!

Your career growth program will need to be role or department specific as a starting part. It may be easier to go team-by-team and work on how to adequately track & reward employees with a higher role, salary, compensation package, etc. An underlying theme here is transparency and fairness. Career leveling must typically be run in tandem with pay management. If you haven't done a pay review yet, just leave the "salary" fields blank for now, focus on the necessary criteria and to-do's for someone to move up.


There you have it, 5 key People Programs to put together at your earliest convenience. Every company needs some version of these. Maybe not from Day 1, but if you want to build a sustainable and lasting company, don't skip out on these!


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