Scaling your company is practically synonymous with success. Who doesn’t want to grow their small business and their market? Yet scaling it not as simple as it might sound. Just when you’re tied up improving the brand and defining a stronger strategy of attack, you’ve also got to ask yourself how to maintain your company culture as you scale.
Why culture is important
Some might view company culture as soft value that will take care of itself. Although it true, culture will create itself if you don’t make the effort to set it – the outcome might be very different than what you expected.
The science of culture
According to Harvard Professor Emeritus James L. Heskett, there can be up to a 50 percent difference in operating profit between a company with an effective culture and one without. Employee turnover is greatly reduced, along with its associated costs – not only for recruitment, hiring, and training, but also that churn-related dip in productivity. Team continuity improves customer relationships too, leading to better sales, higher customer loyalty, and lower marketing costs.
According to a Gallup Poll, engaged employees are up to six times more productive. Now isn’t that something you’d like to cash in on?
The hidden costs of poor culture
Research has shown that people who work in high-stress environments have up to 50 percent more health-related expenses than those in more relaxed workplaces. A negative working environment decreases employee engagement, and disengaged employees have been shown to have higher absentee rates, more accidents, and poorer work quality. Not to mention, those businesses are 16 percent less profitable, with an estimated 65 percent lower share price over time.
How to maintain your company culture
Almost all startups have a vibrant culture. The founders and their core team are dedicated to their vision and reap the benefits of the excitement and productivity that comes with a revolutionary new idea.
But as in any relationship, as time goes by (and more people get on board), the novelty and excitement of the beginning fades. Maintaining that energy requires work and effort.
Articulate your vision
When you think about how to maintain your company culture, you need to know exactly what it is. What are your traditions? What are your values? Input from company leaders is vital, but everyone in your team contributes to your culture.
It can be a good idea to develop and write down your central mission from the beginning.
You can distribute a company handbook, instead of trusting team members to just ‘get it’ without having your culture explained to them outright.
Maintain good communication
When your team grows to the size of 20 or so, that effortless startup culture takes more work to maintain. Communication may begin to suffer as teams withdraw into their individual areas of responsibility. Good communication that used to be the natural result of a small, tightly-knit group may need more structure and support in order to thrive.
How you maintain your company culture can determine how well you scale.
Making time to listen to your team members’ concerns and ideas makes them feel heard and empowered (an important part of fostering engagement). Team members can also have great insights to share for improvements in products or procedures that can lead directly to higher productivity.
Keep an eye on employee satisfaction
There are a number of excellent tools you can use to keep track of these numbers. Take a little time to figure out the right questions to ask to get the information you need. A simple NPS (net promoter score) is a good place to start – “Would you recommend our company to a friend or family member?”
Other types of information you can gain from your employees include:
- Improvements that can be made in their environment or work processes
- Aspects of their jobs that are the most satisfying
- Things that make them feel the most motivated
- Education or training that could improve their performance
- How the company values have been recently expressed in their work
You – and your team – know your business best, so you’ll be able to come up with survey questions that target your specific needs and show you how to maintain your company culture.
Keep culture in mind when you hire new people
Once you’ve clearly and honestly defined your values, express them to potential new recruits. You can teach skills, but people who share your values are not so easy to find.
Facebook espouses a distributed culture that is owned by all the employees, and values proactive, independent thinkers. Mark Zuckerberg says, “I think it’s been a process over time of building a culture where people think about the mission in the same way that I do.”
Lori Goler, the VP responsible for hiring and HR, says, “It’s not obvious to the outside world that we’re intentionally trying to mold roles around people, rather than people around roles. That puts people in a place where they can do their very best work.”
Facebook’s vision has obviously worked very well for them, but the takeaway here is to select people who fit into your company and mission as well as Facebook has for theirs.
The working environment should reflect your culture
The physical environment has a significant impact on how you feel in a space. Is it warm and welcoming? High-class and professional? Fun and creative? How does your office reflect your company culture?
Your office layout and furnishings should be designed to promote employee satisfaction and communication as well.
For instance, employees can be empowered by giving them a choice of workstations.
They’ll probably feel more engaged and comfortable if they’re allowed to express their personal style and customize their space. This can also improve relationships among coworkers, since sharing parts of their personal lives can help build trust and camaraderie.
An open-plan office can help with communication among teams and company departments as well. Sometimes the best way to get things done is through informal chats that come about when people meet casually during the course of the day, instead of during the structured confines of a business meeting.
A strong company culture is a valuable asset, not only in human terms, but to your bottom line. It deserves as much care and investment as any other important resource. Not only will you have happier and more satisfied people, you’ll see the results in productivity and profits.