Whether you're in the early stages of developing your start-up or facing the trajectory of scaling up, it's imperative for you to consider the importance of managing a healthy company culture. As you expand your operations, you will be forced in to a juggling act of recruiting talent, finding new workspaces and adjusting your company goals simultaneously. As scary as this sounds, there are ways to prepare for these challenges in a way that will ensure that you not only survive the next stage of growth but thrive - all with a satisfied, enthusiastic and loyal team in your corner.
Building Your Company Culture
Before you consider the ins and outs of maintaining your corporate culture, you need to first evaluate if your culture is operating at its best to begin with. Your company culture encompasses your mission and your core values, and is what drives your business from its most humble beginnings to its highest potential. It is what inspires your employees to come in to work every day and not only perform but grow alongside your business.
So how do you build a positive corporate culture? It's important that you detail a set of values that your team can aspire to from the outset. Will it be a simple guiding principle like Google's 'Don't be evil'? Or will it be a detailed goal, like pursuing an 'unwavering commitment to always do the right thing by our clients, our people and our communities' like the consistently top rated company to work for Bain & Company? By outlining a goal, you create the tenets to which you and your team can always aspire.
When it comes to hiring, it's important to not just look at employees skills but see how their own personal values align with the goals of your company. With effective employer branding, you can ensure that you attract employees that will commit to your business and make it a second home. Offer perks that show your employees are valued. Take measures to acknowledge their physical and mental health, whether it's with free yoga sessions or 'happy friday.' Encourage transparency among your employees with regular feedback sessions and discuss any new developments as they relate to your growth and values, even with topics that are more sensitive.
A major cause of employee dissatisfaction stems from feelings of poor leadership and direction, so let your values be the compass to your ship and be mindful when adapting them. It takes a whole team to maintain a company, and with a crew of enthusiastic people who are passionate about the ethos of your company, and a mission that is clearly defined, understood and respected, you are entering the next phase with a truly valuable advantage.
Managing Your Company Culture
So you're now entering the exciting stage of scaling up. First, give yourself a pat on the back. Not everyone gets this far. Hopefully by now you have a strong, reliable team that is loyal to your mission and exerts a positive attitude, because now more than ever, you're going to need them.
A few challenges faced by a company's culture in times of growth tend to revolve around the influx of new talent and of changing corporate structures, which in turn affects employee retention. In this stage, the face of your company will change rapidly. What was once a team of perhaps a dozen or so people in a small office space is now expanding to a team of a hundred spread out across the country or even the globe. How can you keep the same energy alive without allowing it to feel diluted or dispersed?
First, look back to your mission. If it has guided you this far, then your recruitment process would have seen that only only fresh talent that exhibits enthusiastic and personable traits are hired. This increases the chances that the already established culture will live on through them. By continuing feedback sessions with longer-serving employees as well as new employees, you can gauge the success of new employee integration and become aware of areas of focus.
You may realise that some of the values that once served you well in a smaller team are now counterproductive to maintaining a positive culture. Be transparent with your team in addressing these problems. Discuss company changes and growth figures as a team, and allow for company-wide input in your evolution. If done correctly, your transparency will enable your employees, old and new, to emotionally invest in your company and take a sense of ownership and pride, consequently increasing retention and satisfaction.
Find exciting ways to allow different teams to interact with each other. In a large corporate environment, you run the risk of cliques forming – small groups divided by departments that are unaware of what others are doing and are free to let their imaginations breed hostility. One company who found a creative way to address this during hypergrowth is Nextiva, who established a weekly video series they called NexTV. They used this platform to interview various employees across the company in informative and playful ways, establishing a sense of collaboration and comradery across the vast network of employees.
You could even hire or promote an employee in to a Culture Operations Specialist position. By defining a role that aims to understand and enhance the employee experience, you are not only showing your employees that you care about their wellbeing and happiness, but that you acknowledge the importance of maintaining a positive company culture. When you ensure that your employees value and are invested in your company’s future, you not only increase the productivity of your team but increase the value of your business to your investors, clients and customers alike.
It is, however, worth mentioning that these approaches have their limits. Businesses are not static but dynamic, and in the end there is only so much one can do to maintain the culture of a whole company. External or unexpected financial factors may suddenly rock the boat and cause intense stressors for your employees and investors alike. Only so much can be managed and planned for, but if you prioritise creating and nurturing a team of self-guided employees that strive to grow while maintaining your values, you will be immeasurably more fit to weather any storm thrown your way.
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Wantedly is a Tokyo-based startup founded in 2010, with the mission to create a world where work drives passion. We do this by connecting like-minded companies and talents based on passion and interest, rather than pay and benefits. We currently have over 30,000 companies onboard and 1.2-mil monthly active users in Japan, and recently launched in Singapore and now we are in Hong Kong!