Building a People Manager Community of Practice: A Practical Playbook For Startup People & Culture Teams

Learn how to prevent turnover by building a thriving People Manager Community of Practice in your startup.

Building a People Manager Community of Practice: A Practical Playbook For Startup People & Culture Teams
 min. read
July 5, 2024


Inconsistent people management creates all kinds of problems you really don't want to be having. Team members not getting the same level of support, the same quality of 1-2-1's, the same cadence of personal development planning, the same management of expectations around  performance....all contributes towards whether people are going to leave, disengage or execute well.

Establishing a People Manager Community of Practice is a great low-cost solve for these issues by creating a safe space for managers to help each other and align on critical conversations and rituals that need to be done excellently. By securing executive buy-in, identifying key managers, and setting clear objectives, you can create a thriving PCoP that drives your startup's success.

Well that's not how my manager does it...

– Recurring bad dream for Startup People & Culture teams


Why an Inconsistent People Management Experience Hurts Execution

An inconsistent people management experience can have profound and far-reaching effects on a startup’s execution and overall success. When team members receive varying levels of support, guidance, and feedback from their managers, it creates confusion and frustration, undermining trust and cohesion within the organisation.

New and/or accidental managers without proper onboarding struggle to lead effectively, which hampers team performance and slows down execution. If you don't have a way of sharing knowledge amongst managers then the onus is on someone else, this is a waste. Often a waste that gets absorbed by the People team, further stretching it and taking it away from other strategic priorities.

Ultimately, inconsistent management experiences can disrupt the alignment of teams with the company’s goals, stifle innovation, and impair the startup’s ability to execute its vision effectively.

”Help! People management is inconsistent, we have accidental people managers, inconsistent 1-2-1 PEX and i’m concerned this is a root cause for a whole host of our performance, engagement and retention challenges but I don’t have a big budget to invest here.


— All Startup People & Culture Leaders, at some point in their career.

Identifying The Need And The Symptoms To Watch Out For

👉 Team members aren’t receiving a consistent people manager experience (messages, performance conversations, feedback conversations, expectations management)

👉 You have newly minted people managers, but lack a structured and effective manager onboarding experience

👉 Your people managers aren’t sharing best practices and helping each other to grow

👉 The role of a people manager is not well regarded within the org

The Solution: Establishing a People Manager Community of Practice

Building a People Manager community of practice is really about 3 things:

  1. Creating a safe space where people managers can share best practices and align on key comms and rituals they need to nail together
  2. Getting clear on the principle accountabilities of the role of a people manager in your org and how to measure success and impact
  3. Designing a way of working for this community of people managers to meet, prioritise and deliver value

It's a simple idea, that doesn't cost a lot to setup and sustain.

How to Get Started

While the detailed steps are outlined in the playbook, here’s a high-level overview to pique your interest:

  1. Secure Executive Buy-In: Get support from leadership
  2. Identify Champion Managers: Choose credible and respected managers to champion the community.
  3. Set Clear Objectives: Define what you aim to achieve with the PCoP and communicate this vision effectively.
  4. Create a Framework: Develop a structure for regular meetings, knowledge sharing, and feedback loops to keep the community engaged and productive.

The mistake a lot of People Teams make is they try and 'do this to managers'. Sounds obvious but, that is not the most effective way to start. Instead you need to treat this more as a change initiative than say a people ops project. Depite the language not being very 'startup' still (imo!) the best resource on understanding how to lead change is Kotter's principles.

Overcoming Initial Skepticism

Resistance to change is natural. Use data from surveys and team health checks to highlight the need for consistent management support. Partner with respected managers to advocate for the community and secure executive sponsorship to lend credibility.

Open Org's Culture Playbook: Building A People Manager Community From Scratch

If you'd like an accelerator for getting this off the ground. We (The team at Open Org) built a highly practical and actionable step by step playbook (in Notion obvs!) to help you get going rapidly.

Open Org's Culture Playbook: Building A People Manager Community From Scratch

Grab a copy of the playbook here:

👉 Open Org's Culture Playbook: Building A People Manager Community From Scratch

Conclusion: Empowering People Managers for Organisational Success

A People Manager Community of Practice is more than just a training initiative; it’s a strategic move to unify, empower, and elevate your people managers. If you are experiencing some of the symptoms mentioned earlier in this post, then it's time to act. Any questions or need help with this please feel free to get in touch! 

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