As human beings we all need a sense of belonging. We like to be part of something bigger than ourselves, something we feel we can identify with; a family, a group of friends, or a sports team for example. The same thing goes for our work environment. Ideally we want a perfect fit, a place that gets us and vice versa.
In a budding startup this is usually the case. A small, tight-knit team of hardworking – and like minded – founders all share the same dream: to build a great business together (closely followed by world domination). It’s when the company starts to grow that things get a little more complicated. The team is expanding quickly and new people want in on the founders’ dream. Keeping an eye on preserving your company culture can be tricky during those times. But if you want to successfully scale your business, it’s important you maintain the very essence of your company: its culture. To get you started, we’ve listed 5 ways to preserve your company culture during a period of rapid growth.
1. Define Your Company Culture
This may seem obvious, but without a culture there is nothing to preserve. What types of behaviour, attitudes and approaches does your company value for example? Talk about it with your employees and establish your philosophy together. You may want to write everything down in a manifesto that you spread among your teams. Make sure there can be no misunderstanding about your organisation’s core values and core purpose and ensure everyone in the company truly knows them. Why? Because this is crucial when it comes to transferring your philosophy to the new recruits – and thus to maintain your culture.
2. Highlight Company Heroes
Once you’re on point about your company culture, it’s time to look at your teams. Identify those employees who, culturally speaking, fit right in; they’re going to be your culture ambassadors. Highlight their behaviour so new employees have an example to look at.
3. Hire Right!
This is where it all starts. Hire the right people and you’re onto the next part of your journey towards world domination. Hire the wrong people and it could all fall apart. Too dramatic? Not at all. A culture misfit – someone who may do the job well, but otherwise just goes through the motions – is very likely to leave prematurely and do some damage to employee morale in the process.
No matter how fast you’re growing, try to be thorough in your recruitment. In your selection process, spend time not only on an applicant’s skills, but also on their personal values and motivation; are they aligned with those of your company? If possible, show candidates a sneak peek into the business, what does a day in the office look like? What’s the company vibe? In other words: hire – and fire! – for culture fit.
As good as ‘being part of something’ feels, the opposite is true as well: nothing’s worse than feeling you’re excluded. The workplace is no exception to that. You don’t want people to feel like they’re being kept in the dark, unaware of what’s going on. Especially in a period of rapid growth, when there’s constantly a lot happening. Even if you’re super busy, take some time out of your day to update your teams. You’ve probably got new developments popping up on a daily basis, so schedule a moment – for example first thing in the morning – where you share whatever is relevant with everyone. It creates this ‘we’re in this together’ feeling and that’s exactly what you are: in it together.
Touching base like this has another advantage. If your employees are unhappy with something, they can share their concerns with you during those daily updates. Let’s say some of them feel your current rapid growth is damaging the company’s culture for instance. They can voice their concerns in the morning meeting and together you can work out how to best preserve your philosophy.
5. Measure Your Culture
Yep, culture is a vague term, but that doesn’t mean you can’t measure it. And that’s precisely what you should do: measure your culture. Particularly when you’re growing quickly. How? Well, there are several things you can do. First off, as we mentioned earlier, communication is an important one. Simply ask your employees how they’re doing. What do they enjoy most about working for your organisation? Are they happy in their jobs? You can also use internal surveys or get a special measurement tool to keep track of employee morale.
Try to have regular feedback sessions with each and every one of your employees as well. Not just to talk about their performance and career development, but also to have another way of measuring your culture.
What About Remote Teams?
Good question! It’s becoming more and more common for companies going through a period of rapid growth to work with remote teams. And although different offices and time zones may seem like extra obstacles when it comes to preserving your culture, they’re not. We recently wrote a post on how to work with remote teams and 3 best practices we believe you should adopt. In it, we tell you how to create an optimal environment – and culture – that include remote teams as if they were sitting right next to you. Go here and read all about it.
Have Fun (and Get Started!)
When your company goes through a period of rapid scale, it’s important to blow off some steam sometimes. You know, have a bit of banter along the way. Chances are your employees make long hours (probably for zero extra pay) and focus only on building the business. To keep them happy and motivated, you need to invest time in your staff and culture, no matter how busy you are. So go out, even if it’s just for a few hours, and have fun!
Alright, that’s it people, it’s up to you now. If your company is in the midst of a speedy growth spurt, it’s time to take action in order to preserve your culture. There are many (more) things you can do of course, but if you start by defining your philosophy, hiring the right people and open communication, you’re definitely on track. And hopefully on your way to that world domination.