Alexandra Slater, UK country manager for tech recruiter Dice, explains how you can maintain a positive company culture, even as your organisation expands.
Company culture is something that is generally communicated and managed well within small businesses. Owners can easily communicate the direction of their business, as well as their values, to guide the company’s culture through regular contact with a small team. As a company expands, though, maintaining this culture can become problematic as teams grow and disperse.
How can a company’s culture be lost?
There are a few factors that can contribute to the dilution of organisational culture. Things that were previously easy to keep on top of become challenging as the number of employees increases – even simple things like speaking to everyone working at the company on a daily basis, which enables team bonding and communication about important issues. Many startups have an intimate atmosphere, which is easy to achieve with a small team, but that will inevitably be lost as the employee count runs into the tens, hundreds or thousands.
Additionally, the company’s founders often become too busy just keeping things ticking over, leaving them with little time to engage with their staff and instil their values into the workforce.
How do employers ensure that they are recruiting talent with the right skills, as well as ensuring the right cultural fit? And how can your company keep hold of its culture as it grows? Here’s some key advice:
1) Put the company culture into words
When defining your culture, start by defining your core values and writing them down. Your culture is shaped by your values, and it forms organically around the personalities of those who are there in the beginning. Your culture can be replicated as you grow if everyone is living by your core values and has clear guidelines to refer to, but if not, it can be lost. Write down the things that define who you are and how you do things as a company. This will remind you of what’s important to you if the culture you started with seems to be changing, for example: innovation, determination and leadership.
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2) Hire for cultural fit above skills
Cultural fit in a company is very important, you want your employee to be able to work well with the rest of their colleagues. Keep your culture and values in mind when hiring so you get the right people, make sure the introduction is effective and received company wide. It might seem like a lot of work, but if you compromise on this, you might be sorry later down the line.
3) Make sure those in leadership positions are on board
The people working at your company should live and breathe your culture. Those who you place in management positions are especially important, because if they have the core values and culture of the company at heart, they will pass them down to the individuals in their teams with enthusiasm – something that will be harder for you to do yourself as your workforce grows.
4) Promote open communication
Communication is key to maintaining a positive company culture – this means regularly reminding staff of your values, but also giving people the opportunity to talk about things they’d like to change, ideas they have, or problems they’re experiencing. Open communication is vital to any organisation’s success, as people need to feel valued and heard in order to invest in the company’s success. Things like interacting regularly with your employees, remembering their names and something about them, and generally showing your face around the office can get harder as your company grows, but demonstrating that you are living by the values and culture that you want to instil in others will go a long way.
5) Be open to change
As your company gets bigger, your culture will inevitably evolve with the changing personnel, processes and demands that your business faces. Keep this in mind, and be ready to adapt your culture – with the active input of your staff – as time goes by. This will also mean updating the core values guidelines that defines your culture. People at the company will feel more valued if they have the opportunity to shape the culture, not just fit in to a pre-existing one.
6) Reinforce your values and culture frequently
It’s important that before anyone joins your company, you introduce your culture to them and make sure that they’re happy with it. Once they’re on board, constantly remind them of the culture you’ve established, and suggest ways in which they can apply it in their daily activities. The core value guidelines you’ve produced will help here, as you can use the words that define your company’s values as a mantra in relevant situations, to remind people of ‘how we do things around here’.