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Navigating the Shift from High Growth to Scale-Up: Insights from an HR Leader

In this thought leadership article, we will explore the challenges and strategies involved in transitioning from a high-growth phase to a scale-up phase in an organization. The discussion is based on a transcript of a conversation between Penny Farinha, VP Human Resources at ecobee, and Jeff Waldman, Founder at ScaleHR and the host of the Unmuted podcast. Feel free to watch the podcast episode here

Don’t forget to smash that “subscribe” button on our YouTube channel so you get notified when new podcast episodes are dropped. The conversation highlights the blurred lines between high growth and scaling and emphasizes the importance of adaptability and change in HR leadership.

Key Takeaways

  • Transitioning from high growth to scale-up requires a shift in strategy and approach, driven by factors such as business needs, product success, and competition in the market.

  • There is no playbook for this transition, and HR leaders must be nimble and adaptable to navigate the challenges that arise.

  • Seeking guidance and inspiration from both industry peers and professionals outside of HR can provide valuable insights and perspectives during this transition.

Embracing Change and Adaptability

The conversation begins by addressing the blurred lines between high growth and scaling. Penny Farinha emphasizes the need to understand the needs of the organization, the success of the product, and the competitive landscape to determine when a shift in strategy is necessary. However, she also acknowledges that the transition may not be apparent until the organization has already crossed over.

Penny highlights the importance of adaptability and change during this transition. She notes that there is no defined playbook for navigating this phase and that HR leaders must be prepared for the challenges that come with scaling. The ability to change, flex, and learn becomes crucial in this context. Farinha suggests that having a north star while being open to ebb and flow along the way is essential.

The Changing Landscape of HR

The conversation then delves into the changes that have occurred in the HR field over the past few years. Penny acknowledges that the expectations of employees have evolved, and the economy has presented challenges. However, she also sees these changes as an opportunity for HR to refocus and shift its approach. The emphasis on adaptability and change in HR aligns with the broader theme of the conversation.

Farinha highlights the complexity and challenges of HR in the current landscape. She emphasizes that there is no defined path or playbook for HR professionals to follow. Instead, they must be open to change, learn from their experiences, and adapt their strategies accordingly. The evolving nature of HR requires professionals to take a more business-focused approach, positioning themselves as strategic partners within the organization.

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Seeking Guidance and Inspiration

The conversation concludes with a discussion on seeking guidance and inspiration during the transition from high growth to scale-up. Farinha shares her experience of reaching out to inspiring individuals in the Toronto tech scene and finding that most of them were eager to connect and share their wisdom. She encourages HR leaders to tap into the knowledge and experiences of others, both within and outside their field.

Farinha also emphasizes the value of seeking inspiration from professionals in different roles or industries. She shares her own experience of connecting with a CFO who had successfully scaled various companies, even outside the tech sector. This connection provided her with valuable insights on taking a more business-focused approach in HR.


The transition from high growth to scale-up requires HR leaders to embrace change, adaptability, and a business-focused mindset. The challenges and complexities of this transition necessitate a shift in strategy and approach. HR professionals must be open to learning, seek guidance from industry peers and professionals outside their field, and be willing to challenge traditional HR practices.

As the HR landscape continues to evolve, adaptability and change will remain crucial for success. HR leaders must be prepared to navigate the uncertainties and complexities of scaling organizations, leveraging their experiences and seeking inspiration from a diverse range of sources. By embracing change and adopting a strategic mindset, HR can play a pivotal role in driving organizational growth and success.

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