How to Build a Company Culture While Scaling Employees
Tip #1: Start building a company culture from day 1, with your very first staff person.
Why? If you don’t, by the time you’re scaling employees, you’re already a bit behind the eight ball.
Company culture is critical to the long term success of any business. But what do we mean when we talk about a company’s culture? Is it about the free soft drinks and foosball table in the boardroom? No.
Company culture is like an internal brand, or personality: it’s what your organization stands for vis-a-vis your employees. It is concerned with elements like the overall work environment, company values and mission, expectations for staff and more. It goes beyond saying that employees need to have respect for one another—a term that can be interpreted differently by different people. Rather, the values need to be spelled out so that expectations are clear.
Two of the main reasons why good employees leave are that they aren’t feeling appreciated and they aren’t given any opportunities to develop their careers. It’s vital to keep in mind that when you’re scaling your employees—potentially at a rapid pace—you cannot lose sight of the culture you’ve worked to establish, in favour of that rapid growth.
Rapid scale shouldn’t be done without concern for details
Adding a large number of employees quickly can cause you and your executive team to lose sight of the fact that each is an individual and needs to be made to feel part of the team they are joining. Even if you’re hoping they’ll hit the ground running, you can’t really expect that if you don’t make their onboarding process inclusive. New staff shouldn’t have to wonder what the basic processes, culture standards and values of the organization are: they should be inundated with these from the get go, along with their job requirements, so they feel they’re being valued from day 1.
One way to do that is to create an online learning centre and an internal peer-to-peer mentor system so that every new person has a ‘buddy’, someone who isn’t a direct manager. Training people in a period of rapid growth can be difficult, without compromising your organization’s output, but culture is something that can be shared by peers as part of the process of bringing a new staff person up to speed on their job duties.
TIP: Remember that rapid scale does not mean hiring anyone with a pulse. Even though you need to grow, you also need to maintain established standards on the quality and fit of your hires. If you don’t, the culture that you have established and supposedly espouse will not be effective, as your existing staff feel that the core values of the organization are falling by the wayside in favour of the rapid expansion.
“”Ultimately, your values will define your culture,” she continues. “Since culture is the sum of how your employees behave, the right talent and team are crucial to shaping a positive culture. Rather than seeking good ‘culture fit’ during the hiring process, which can mean different things to different people, focus on how prospective candidates align with your core values in order to ensure you’re making the best decisions for your business.” (Source)
Keep up company standards and traditions
If you have internal traditions such as casual Fridays or BBQ lunch Tuesdays, it’s important to keep these events, even during periods of scaling and transition. The team that is already in place needs to feel like there is something that stands, even during a shift, and the new staff need to see that you are all working as a team.
Be the cultural standard for your team
The cultural influences within the organization start at the top. If you work 70 hours a week, never take a break, never eat with your family anymore, never take a day off and scoff at things like parental leave, you’re setting your team up for burnout.
If however, you set standards that family is a major priority and that health and wellbeing are as important as profit margins, not just by saying so but by walking the walk yourself, you’ll find your team is more willing to engage in their own self-care. Be transparent and open to discussion. If you want a family friendly culture but one of your employees is afraid to take the day off to tend to a sick child, for example, you’ve missed your mark.
Making finding out your employee’s goals a priority
As we said earlier, one of the main reasons that good employees quit is that they aren’t able to see a career path for themselves, they are being underutilized or undervalued. Part of your company culture, in order to retain the employees who shine, is to make sure that you understand what their goals are. Do they want to become managers? As you scale, you might need to plan in a management mentor/training program. Do they value the ability to work from home? Having a culture that supports remote work, when feasible, is the norm these days.
These are examples of the kind of elements of corporate culture that are best implemented if they’re thought of and planned for at the early stages of growth, not as a panicked response to employee requests in the middle of a rapid scaling period.
Recognize your staff and empower managers to do the same
The second main reason good employees quit is that they aren’t feeling appreciated. The part of your company culture that needs to be reinforced even more vehemently during rapid growth and scaling is recognition. You and your management team need to recognize people who not only do a good job but who reflect the company culture. This allows you to recognize people often and immediately.
For example, you can praise an employee for meeting their quota, but you should also recognize their sincere efforts to help a new employee to find their footing. It’s all part and part of the values of your organization: job done well and culture observed. Reinforcing your company’s values through individual and group recognition will do more to maintain a positive culture than most anything else.
TIP: Don’t forget to include remote workers. In a period of rapid growth and scaling, it’s easy to forget about those individuals you don’t see every day. These employees need to be recognized too, however. When you work with them on a digital platform, make sure that you keep up a culture of conversation and communication—not just about work. Remote workers miss out on the ‘chit chat’ and informal bonding that happens through that: create that even if it’s having lunch over Skype!
Ultimately, you need to remember why you’re in business, why you became an entrepreneur in the first place, and make that a part of your overall mission.
“When scaling the culture of your company, it is essential to remember your “why” — the purpose of your cause or the premise of what you believe. As your team grows, the goal is still sustainability. This is an opportunity to highlight the strengths of team members and identify areas of improvement. Learn to trust the longevity of the process, work as a collective and overcome challenges that arise. – A. Margot Brisky, ELDA4U, LLC
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