5 ways to keep company culture alive as you scale
It’s no secret that it’s easier to maintain a collaborative culture in a startup’s lean early days. But how do you ensure you stay true to your business’ core identity as you scale? While culture should shift and evolve as your team grows, it’s important not to lose what makes your business unique as you go from surviving to thriving.
Here are five ways to keep your company’s culture alive as you scale:
1. Know your company’s mission inside and out
Your business’ mission statement is your story. It should be simple, clear and fully reflected in your wider values. It’s essential that the whole team understands and embodies these values, from the top down.
One of the ways you can achieve this early-on is by ensuring you make your positioning clear when candidates are applying for jobs and going through the interview process. Make sure you (or whoever is doing the hiring these days) communicate the company’s values and discover how well they align with the candidate’s.
While you might not be making every hire directly anymore, as a Founder it’s important to schedule some one-to-one time with new starters. An introductory session in their first week is a great way of getting to know them. It’s also a good opportunity to tell your startup story and convey the passion behind the business.
Once onboarded, make sure team targets are centred around your overarching mission. This helps encourage everyone to pull together and work towards the same goal.
2. Build your Talent dream team
We can’t stress this point enough. A well-oiled HR team can make a huge difference in scaling success. Ensuring people feel supported, recognised and valued is (or should be) priceless to any company.
Your ‘HR’, ‘People’, ‘Talent’ (or whatever else you want to call it) team should focus on two key areas. There’s the ‘human’ side (coaching and supporting team members), and the ‘product’ side (strategy, leadership and employer branding). Cultivating a strong internal culture should be a top priority.
Jessica Hayes, Head of People and Talent at Wonderbly, gives an excellent example of how to achieve this, saying: ‘If your company’s mission is “Inspire Every Cat to be More Majestic” then it‘s the People Operations team’s role to do everything they can to enable people to achieve that mission. There is no point making a programme which affords your team the ability to craft the best pottery in Europe, unless of course somehow that pottery will be used to magestify cats.’
In short, whenever something is added to the HR/People/Talent roadmap, ask yourself - how it will help the team reach our mission? What will it do to improve our culture?
3. Welcome feedback (especially criticism)
Salesforce Research surveyed over 1,500 business professionals on value-driven leadership and workplace equality. They found that when an employee feels heard, they are more than four times more likely to feel empowered to perform to the best of their abilities.
People should feel a sense of ownership over their role, that what they do really matters to the company. Welcoming feedback of all kinds helps establish this feeling of ownership. Encourage risk-taking. Let people run with off the wall ideas. Encourage that entrepreneurial spirit that got your startup to where it is today.
As well as one-to-ones with managers, you should provide regular anonymous surveys. This allows more introverted individuals to raise their voice, plus a more neutral platform to tackle sensitive topics. Listen to that feedback, especially any criticisms, and take steps to correct things that could become larger issues.
As a leader you should be transparent about the business' success and, more importantly, failures. Startup life is hard. By keeping everyone in the loop on the good, the bad and the ugly, they’ll feel truly invested in the company’s success.
4. Develop your CSR projects
CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) projects are one of the best ways of amplifying your business’ values internally. Getting the team involved in these projects also helps grow that warm fuzzy feeling of community. In fact, 88% of Millennials say their job is more fulfilling when they are provided opportunities to make a positive impact on social and environmental issues. Engaging in socially valuable projects has also been proven to reduce employee turnover by 50%.
If you haven’t initiated any CSR schemes yet, make sure you choose projects that reflect your mission and what you're about as a business. Choosing how and where to dedicate your time can be a fun, creative team task too. The truth is, CRS should come naturally if you embrace it as a mindset, rather than as a PR campaign.
BrewDog is a perfect example of a business that lives and breathes their values through their CSR campaigns. CEO James Watts says, ‘Investing in our amazing people is core to what we believe in,’. He practices what he preaches, sharing 10% of profits with the team through their Unicorn Fund and ensuring BrewDog is a Real Living Wage employer. Read more about BrewDog, here.
Patagonia, the outdoor clothing brand, is another example of fantastic mission follow-through. They state, ‘A love of wild and beautiful places demands participation in the fight to save them.’ And fight they do. Patagonia is a founding member of the FairLabour association, promoting fair labour practices and safe working conditions throughout their supply chain. As well as using environmentally friendly materials to make their clothes, they donate 1% of sales to the preservation and restoration of the environment. You can read more about other killer CSR campaigns, here.
5. Improve diversity and inclusion
While you want to stay true to who you are as a business, don’t let things stagnate. Diversity and cultural growth are essential if you want your company to evolve. Research by Deloitte has proven that increasing diversity and inclusion directly improves business performance and increases employee engagement.
Improving your team’s diversity opens up a wider variety of perspectives, thereby increasing creativity and innovation. The Harvard Business Review sums it up neatly: ‘Hiring individuals who do not look, talk, or think like you can allow you to dodge the costly pitfalls of conformity, which discourages innovative thinking.’
Enriching your employee pool with people of different genders, ethnicity and backgrounds helps keep your company’s culture fresh. We recommend running an anonymous survey to understand the current state of diversity and inclusion within the business, then setting goals for the next 12 months. Review them quarterly by a steering group to make sure you’re on track to smash those targets.
Overall, the most important thing to remember when scaling is to drive everything back to your mission. Live and breathe your values in everything you do, and the rest will fall into place.