How to build and maintain a positive company culture in a rapidly growing business
Behind any successful business is a strong company culture that gives both direction and motivation to its employees, while articulating its core values to the public. However, maintaining such a culture during intense periods of growth can be challenging: how do you hold on to a business’s sense of identity in the midst of rapid change? How do you keep your employees motivated to deliver the same caliber of service that facilitated the growth in the first place?
Below are four tips for businesses to ensure a robust company culture whilst experiencing rapid growth.
1. Treat employee experience like your customer experience
The pandemic era has caused many employees to re-evaluate their priorities, particularly regarding work-life balance. Prolonged uncertainties in the economy and wider society have caused an overall increase in anxiety, both at work and outside of it.
For this reason, it is essential that leadership listens to employees. It may sound obvious, but there are many instances where someone wants to raise an issue or offer input around the company, yet they do not feel comfortable doing so. A healthy company culture champions both inclusivity and validation. Since your company culture is, in essence, a reflection of how the business is run, having open channels where employees are free to ask questions and suggest improvements will lead to a more dynamic company – one which is more capable of adapting to market changes in real-time. After all, you would do this with your customers, so why not your employees?
Equally, delivering a quality employee experience is more important than ever. For example: during the pandemic, my organization Userlane grew from 40 to 100 employees – with many working remotely across different parts of the world. What at first seemed like a challenge was actually an opportunity for us to remove the arbitrariness from many processes. We couldn’t rely on information flowing around the company because people no longer bumped into each other at the coffee machine. We had to design a new culture around virtual informal coffee chats.
Ultimately, remember that the strengths and weaknesses of your employee experience are mirrored in your customer experience. Openness and transparency, a strong culture of feedback, and excellent digital processes are all crucial.
2. Communicate clearly
When you’re going through a lot of growth, there is already enough ambiguity. I learned that it’s important to be as precise and succinct as possible.
Considering the onboarding of new hires is particularly important here; as they need to be brought up to speed on company operations, processes, and culture. Don’t make them feel like you’re surprised they show up on day one. For example, we fill people’s calendars with activities ahead of their start so that they’re set up to make lots of meaningful connections in their first few days and feel like they are part of the team, even if working remotely. And it’s worth it: with one third of new joiners leaving within 3 months due to bad onboarding practices.
But even with seasoned employees, maintaining a culture of inclusion and involvement is vital. We have learned to organize plenty of company-wide touchpoints, both in-person and virtual. This includes everything from social events to smaller things such as “high fives” on company-wide Slack channels. We also have plenty of off-topic Slack channels for employees to get to know each other, whether that be pet photos, astronomy, or music. Ultimately, the sense of camaraderie will boost morale and trust amongst team members, leading to higher productivity and cohesion across your company.
3. Be aware that culture will inevitably change
It’s a common error to try to preserve the culture as it is when an organization grows. Rather we now see culture as a constantly evolving thing, and this evolution is especially fast when going through rapid growth. I prepare my teams for that by reflecting on cultural design consciously. How would we like to work together, and how will it change when more people join? It is paramount that you constantly assess your processes as a company and do not assume that what got you to your current stage of growth is going to sustain you for the next five years.
Therefore, it is also important that employees have a good understanding of why they are doing what they already do. Providing context at every level, from values, visions, down to objectives and key results (OKR). This context will allow teams to understand not just themselves, but also their full environment and all stakeholders in it so that they can then make the best decisions on their own behalf.
4. Give employees motivation besides money
Too many leaders still believe employees are working for their monthly paycheck and fall victim to the belief that they can motivate their teams with more money. This is an outdated perspective though, and especially false for creative workers who earn above a certain amount that satisfies their needs.
To leverage the passion of your talent, you want to give employees purpose beyond just money. After all, you are not only convincing someone to invest monetarily, but you are also convincing someone to invest their time and attention in your company.
We, humans, are social creatures; we want to help each other. Companies are ultimately places where we gather around a common purpose, and that purpose can be built collectively by talking and rallying about your vision and how your company aims to make the world a better place. Perhaps this sounds a bit cheesy, but creating this common purpose is necessary if you want your team to do it for themselves and each other, rather than solely for the company.
Fred Kofman believes that we all strive to become immortal, and companies should offer work as an “immortality project”, allowing you to have a lasting impact on the world around you, exceeding your lifetime, and leverage the deepest form of motivation. Understanding this helped me to build a happier, more productive workplace.
This is a guest post by Felix Eichler, Co-founder, and CTO, Userlane, a Munich, Germany-based tech startup that helps businesses automate user onboarding and employee training. The Userlane code-free digital adoption platform runs as an overlay on software applications. It allows you to create in-app, interactive content that guides users through processes in real-time and provides them with intuitive on-demand assistance, within any kind of browser-based software.