As companies grow, change is both imminent and exciting. During periods of rapid growth, companies often bask in the glory of increased revenues, thriving teams, and the sense of pride that comes with a positive trajectory. On the other hand, this success can also create “growing pains” that hit squarely at company culture.
As each new employee influences and evolves the culture, strong senior leadership is required to maintain a clear vision and navigate through turbulence that could spike turnover or a distancing from core company values. Remember that culture is critical in that it implicitly keeps people together and moving in the same direction.
Here are several tips we’ve found helpful in retaining company culture during our rapid growth:
Being honest with your teams about the changes that you are undergoing is fundamental in maintaining a strong foundation and a productive environment. Being transparent and socializing change are essential to success. Insist that senior executives model these behaviors in their interactions with the rest of the organization.
There is a constant conflict between rapid growth and maintaining standards over time. In the long run, it is not worth sacrificing standards in the name of growth. If your organization gets a reputation for poor quality assurance, sloppy documentation, or shoddy live presentation preparation, it’s hard to turn around customer perceptions. It’s even harder to suddenly ask employees who have been allowed to run quickly but with lower standards to suddenly change their mindset and their processes. Ensure that your values are maintained as you grow.
“Strive to ensure that action is based on solid analysis and hold people accountable to execute the items they commit to doing.”
Encourage responsiveness and accountability
Encourage a “fail fast and learn from it” mindset among employees. Remember that time is of the essence. Reinforce the understanding that not everything will be successful and keep in mind that risk-averse personalities will need more help adjusting to the new pace of the organization. Strive to ensure that action is based on solid analysis and hold people accountable to execute the items they commit to doing. As challenges occur at an increasing pace, encourage the formation of ad-hoc teams which can respond to and overcome obstacles.
Expect authenticity and open-mindedness
Create a work environment that fosters a sense of openness in expressing ideas that may be different from the way things are currently done or that are just different from what the larger group is proposing. Out-of-the box thinking probably had a lot to do with how you became successful so ensure that it continues.
As the needs of growing companies change, the competencies needed in your employees will also evolve. Collaborate with employees to ensure that these competencies are developed. Be open to developing or retraining an employee internally, rather than looking outside of the company for new skills. Long-term employees have a great deal of knowledge that can add significant value to a company, though the role the employee plays in the organization may need to change.
Keep the quirkiness
Many companies start off small, with a casual or even familial feel to them. That usually means there is a great deal of tribal knowledge, which is challenging to scale effectively. You need to ensure that remote employees or those in offices away from headquarters have access to the information and materials they need as you grow. Remember that remote employees need to feel connected to what is happening at “the mother ship.” It’s impossible to do things exactly like you were before so take the time to be creative and think about how you can extend the unique culture of your organization across a larger scale.
Related: How To Brew A Blended Culture