An Interview with Stuart Hockridge of Align Technology

Strategic Hiring, Talent Retention and Agility Key to High-Growth Company Success

Leading the HR function in a high-growth company certainly comes with its challenges. Complex business goals are dependent on talent capabilities, personnel agility, and strategic recruiting efforts. As the company powers forward, the right people are needed to support that momentum and take the organization to the next level.

This is why Align Technology Chief Human Resource Officer Stuart Hockridge doesn’t believe in having an HR vision independent from the company. “To me, success becomes more achievable when there is one vision for the company and every function/group within the company complements it and contributes to the achievement of that vision,” he says.

Align — a medical device company experiencing tremendous growth — prioritizes talent acquisition because leadership knows it’s a key part of company success. “If we don’t recruit, we don’t grow, and recruiting high-quality talent has to be the first, second, and third priority,” Hockridge says.

While recruiting may be front and center, HR offers rich support in many other ways at Align. From his experience, Hockridge points out several tough questions HR leaders must ask themselves when dealing with high growth in order to ensure success:

Scaling: How can you successfully manage global expansion and rapidly evolving markets at the same time?

Organization design: How do we ensure the organization has the inherent capacity to proactively manage that scaling?

Leadership: How do we ensure we have the right diversity of experience within our leadership ranks – that create the links between the past and the future?

Capabilities: How are we ensuring we know what future capabilities we need in this changing environment and are proactively addressing any gaps?

Culture: How do we ensure the way we behave as a business and as individuals evolves to meet the changing demands of our organizational growth and our industry evolution?

“It’s important that we work with agility, we focus on our customers and we have clear lines of accountability and execution,” says Hockridge. “HR at Align is at the center of these changes.”

High growth can mean high change, where agility is essential every day. Embracing agility as a part of a company’s core values can create a mindset primed for the possibilities of the future. That being said, being consistently nimble can be challenging.

“I believe the biggest challenge facing all of us at Align is how we evolve the way we work, develop ourselves, and how we learn from our experiences so that we continue to grow with the business,” Hockridge says. “We have implemented some development resources to help with that and have aligned our performance management system around our values of agility, customers, and accountability.”

One of those resources is Harvard Manage Mentor for managers. “That has proven to be very successful for us,” notes Hockridge. “We’ve worked hard to market and showcase the capabilities and content of the platform and that has really helped drive great utilization.”

Additionally, Align launched two management development programs aimed at building a more robust internal pipeline for commercial and operations leadership roles. Soon Hockridge hopes to launch a program aimed specifically at senior leaders.

“In a high-growth company, there are a lot of opportunities for employees,” he says. “It is important that we create a team of highly skilled, highly motivated people to ensure the continued success and continued growth of our company. Each hire needs to be strategic and add value to the core principles and vision of the company.”

Efforts shouldn’t stop after the employee on-boarding is complete, he stresses. Employee growth must become a key part of the company culture as to empower everyone and position the organization for success.


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