Grow the Team. Keep the Culture.

By David Hassell

How would you describe your company’s work culture? If you immediately jump to thinking about rock climbing walls, monthly sporting events, and weekly happy hours, you may be headed in the wrong direction. Your company’s culture is what’s running beneath the surface. It’s a core operating principle based on an underlying set of values and beliefs that keeps your business running at its healthiest.

Culture is more than what your company wears on its sleeve. It’s a part of the job that relates to everything from management and leadership to employee performance. It’s intimately tied with trust and improving communication at work. It is easily felt, but sometimes difficult to describe. But where does it start?

It starts with an environment of supportive leadership that’s focused on letting the true talents and greatest potential of your people shine.

When people operate in this type of environment of harnessing employee motivation, they’re highly engaged and drawn to their work. They reinvent their core passions and identities into what they’re producing for your business. Now imagine what will happen if everyone is operating at this level. When employee satisfaction is at its highest level, everyone brings value, happiness, and passion to the table — that’s when your business will be at its best.

You’re Growing Quickly — Now What?

As your business matures and your revenue streams become healthier, your team will inevitably grow. This can be an exciting time in your business. However, there are growth pains and a deteriorating work culture can be one of the most dangerous. From improving team communication between office sites, or helping a dozen new hires mesh with your team, growth can have an impact on culture. As your small business or startup scales, your culture and how you manage organizational change needs to scale too.

Employees who have been there from the beginning and who are used to wearing many hats, will have to become more specialized, thus delegating or giving up aspects of their jobs to new hires. So keeping the entire team engaged and in the know, like you would a shareholder, is very important. These invaluable tips will keep your company strong and let you cultivate the best management style possible.

“The growth and development of people is the highest calling of leadership.” – Harvey S. Firestone

Step 1: Unleash the Power of the Pod

Bigger business is all the more reason to keep your teams small. It’s no secret that smaller teams are agile, nimble, and able to handle pivots and curveballs. (Think Instagram’s small team and the pods within larger organizations like Google and Microsoft.)

Smaller teams are exponentially more powerful than large-scale processes that govern entire organizations. Take a lesson from industry giants like Facebook and GlaxoSmithKline. Smaller teams mean faster velocity and greater agility in making business decisions. With teams of fewer employees engaged in cross-functional collaboration, you’re better positioned to hit your work objectives faster.

Keep in mind that pods aren’t necessarily departments. They’re teams. They may be project-focused or goal-focused. No matter the case, the most important attribute that they bring to the table is that they’re close-knit. Community, trust, and openness will be natural byproducts of these robust groups.

Step 2: Optimize Your Space

Work culture is subtle. It’s more than walk or talk — it surrounds us in the air we breathe. It is the core values that we aspire to live out every day. [Tweet this] Quite significantly, it is conveyed in our physical environment. Beautifully-decorated, colourful office spaces (and even the occasional in-office slide) aren’t a frivolous luxury – they are a clear communication of organizational values and culture.

Be aware that your bricks and mortar convey a message about you, and your organization. For example, while a slide might work for Lego, it would be out of place at a company whose mission is to protect the environment by helping consumers reduce their carbon footprint.

Take a look around, what is your space saying to your quality of leadership, your team’s value and your collective personality? And as you shape your space, consider what your employees care about, and what inspires them. Believe it or not, when your physical environment embraces the answers to these questions, you communicate an open environment that encourages collaborative culture and serendipitous interaction. Think about it — what does a game room signify? Work-life balance and creative play.

Think beyond your desks, and remember that your office is ultimately an extension of your brand.

Step 3: Hold Your Values Close When Hiring

“Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude.” – Zig Ziglar

The foundation of organizational culture is the underlying values and beliefs a group of people share. As you grow your team, you may be faced with the pressure to recruit quickly to meet demand. It may be tempting at times to sacrifice culture fit for immediacy, but be warned that this can have a lasting negative impact on your organization. It is especially important in times of rapid growth to hire and fire based on shared values and goals.

Remember, skills can be taught, but values cannot be learned. Not only will hiring new employees that aren’t a good fit contribute to a negative attitude in the workplace, but it will result in eventual financial losses due to the inevitable churn that comes from hiring people who don’t share your vision.

Work culture happens whether you create it or not — so if you don’t define your culture, it will be defined for you by the lowest-common-denominator of the people you bring together — and worse still, if you create a team of people who have conflicting values, you’ll have a culture of conflict that will cause problems in the workplace.

Step 4: Find Culture In the Every Day

If you think that work culture equates to the need to have big events, you’re wrong. Culture is part of the every day. It’s something internalized by each and every employee. Every person on your team will help define it by bringing a piece of themselves to the table (all the more reason to hire for values and culture fit!).

No matter what you do, organizational culture needs to be prioritized from day 1 as part of a supportive leadership strategy. Start with a company culture orientation like an office scavenger hunt or hacking challenge with new staff. Keep employee engagement hight with regular hack days and team events. Your strategy could even be as simple as encouraging daily team lunches. To grow a collaborative culture, you need to go back to the roots and create cultural stories and myths that get spread internally. Maintain team building activities and practices that keep your organization’s innovative spirit alive in the simplest daily interactions.

By doing so, your work culture is alive in your employees. This means that no matter which office, team or pod that they move to, they will bring the organizational culture with them, and infuse that positive attitude into every new environment that they find themselves in. Encourage your staff to keep the culture alive and improve morale by finding ways to celebrate people who are living these values.

Culture transcends business — it’s your company’s lifeblood and most valuable asset. It’s in your organizational structure, your walls, and your people. Invest in it. Prioritize it. Make sure that it scales with your profits.

Do you have an example of a company that successfully scaled their culture? Leave a comment below.


Some of the world's most successful businesses use 15Five to maintain a healthy company culture. Learn How!


Leadership

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