Growth is good, but with growth comes change. As an organization expands, change impacts all aspects of the company until there are so many areas to focus on that it’s easy to overlook the effect these changes may have on the company culture.
If you aren’t paying attention to how growth changes your culture, you should be. Eighty-eight percent of job seekers think company culture is an important consideration when looking for a new role, which means it can have a direct impact on your access to talent in the future.
Finding the right balance between preserving what initially made a company successful while adapting to new approaches and processes can be a challenge. While it’s natural to experience growing pains, change may end up being for the worse if you aren't intentional about it. The addition of new employees, the demands of an expanded customer base, and new relationships with strategic partners all have a powerful effect on the culture of your company.
Here are five basic steps you can take to maintain culture as your company grows:
1. Creating connection between employees as you grow
One of the most critical aspects of company culture is the connection between your employees. As your organization grows in size and the number of employees increases, maintaining that connection can become increasingly difficult. This can be even more challenging for businesses with remote workers and multiple office locations.
The key to creating and maintaining that connection is communication. Fostering ways for employees to communicate will help ensure everyone feels informed, and providing channels that facilitate frequent, clear exchanges of information will help preserve culture. Tools that allow for asynchronous communication, when people communicate without the requirement that they be present at the same exact moment in time, enable employees to stay connected and collaborate effectively.
Asynchronous communication is particularly effective for companies experiencing a busy period of growth, as it eliminates the interruptive back-and-forth nature of real-time communication. Instead, employees are able to engage in dialogue with their coworkers when it suits their workflow, regardless of time zones and individual schedules, allowing them to be more productive yet still stay connected.
2. Creating connection between teams and departments as you grow
In the same way that forging connections between employees is critical for preserving culture, so is creating connection between teams and departments. As companies expand, the number of teams and departments increases, and if those connections are not fostered, departments and teams may develop a silo mentality.
While most people understand that change is inevitable when a business grows, teams and departments may be resistant to new or different processes. They may also be concerned about the impact the changes will have on their department or perceive them as a threat to their position. As a result, the silo mentality starts to creep in, and departments turn inward with their information and resources.
One way to avoid the silo mentality and improve the connection between teams and departments is to establish company-wide, high-level goals. By creating tasks and goals that span the entire organization, departments and teams will be encouraged to seek out various perspectives and engage with those outside of their department. Prioritizing the organization’s overarching goals will reinforce the interconnectedness of your company’s departments and teams and help to eliminate the silo mentality.
Another way to increase the connection between departments and teams is by holding regular town hall meetings, where everyone in the organization has the opportunity to connect, collaborate, and share updates. Town hall meetings not only provide leadership the opportunity to share information with everyone at once, but they also encourage conversation and engagement across all departments. During times of change, it may be wise to hold town halls more frequently and consider utilizing different or blended formats, such as video conferencing, in order to accommodate multiple locations and include remote workers.
3. Sourcing and hiring new talent that will build culture
Hiring the right people is about much more than skills, qualifications, and experience. A great deal of emphasis is placed on culture fit, but a recruiting strategy aimed toward “culture add” as opposed to culture fit will enable your company to recruit, retain, and leverage talent that will not just maintain the current culture, but play a part in improving and evolving it.
Hiring for ‘culture add’ means instead of seeking candidates that fit within the existing culture, the focus is on looking for the qualities a candidate possesses that will add to your culture, enhance it, and help ensure it is moving it in the right direction. In addition to looking at a candidate's achievements, understanding the how behind the achievements will enable you to assess the ways they will contribute to not just maintaining, but enhancing the culture.
Companies should also apply this ‘culture add’ approach when looking to outsource. While it’s easy to simply focus on skills requirements in this situation, considering how the culture will be affected is just as important to the organization when seeking out strategic partners as it is when considering permanent hires.
4. Embed your company values into everything you do
While hiring talent with the right mindset is an essential component to maintaining your company culture, it’s crucial that the values that make your culture what it is are clearly defined, communicated, and understood by everyone. These values need to be infused throughout the organization and reflected in everything the company does.
Defining abstract values can be tricky. An effective approach is to associate each value or belief with two or three observable behaviors. For example, if one of your identified company values is integrity, determine what sort of actions will demonstrate that value. By assigning observable, measurable behaviors to the company values, those values can be reinforced and reflected through the daily actions of everyone in the organization.
5. Create routines and rituals that serve to perpetuate the culture.
Whether acknowledged or not, every company culture has a set of routines and rituals. A good way to keep the spirit of your culture alive as you adjust to changes is to highlight these routines and traditions, or even establish new ones. From weekly inter-departmental lunches to company-wide volunteer days, these are the activities that employees look forward to as a way to connect with one another, and with the organization as a whole.
In particular, the ritual of recognition, whether it’s as simple as a weekly shout-out session or a more formal annual awards program, plays an important role in maintaining a positive and healthy company culture. And as your company grows, working together to establish new traditions can serve to unify employees and increase engagement, helping to maintain the culture.
When it comes to recruiting and retaining talent, your company culture is your biggest asset. These five suggestions for preserving the core of what makes your company successful will help ensure you maintain and nurture your culture as your company grows.
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