We’re advocates for building company culture early—the sooner the better. But we’re also advocates for revising as your company grows and develops.
Company culture isn’t something that should be stagnant: just as people change with time, so do their values. What seemed appropriate two years ago might not align with your values today; what you’ve learned about other cultures and organizations might push you to make big changes.
What we’re saying is, as your company scales, your culture should adapt. We checked in with HR experts about their advice for scaling company culture and put together a list of three best practices for scaling your organization’s culture.
1. Prevent culture dilution
As your company grows, especially if you’ve adapted a co-located team to different sites or a hybrid/WFH model, you’re more and more at risk for culture dilution. Without making a conscious effort to grow your culture with your team, it can get lost in the excitement of growth and new hires.
According to one of the HR experts we spoke to, “The best way to scale your culture is to articulate your company’s values and what the core purpose of the company is and to always be transparent. Sometimes it’s better to have someone external speak to people at all levels of the company to get this right. Make sure that the values you articulate are more than just words, but have meaning behind them.”
By exercising honesty and transparency, you can naturally inject culture into all of your team-, department-, and organization-wide communications.
2. Seriously. Commit to transparency.
Not just to avoid culture dilution, but to keep your people engaged. Growing organizations find it more and more difficult to keep the lines of communication open between executives and team members. Staying transparent becomes an even greater challenge once an organization starts expanding into different locations. But culture will cease to have a positive impact if employees aren’t kept informed about new developments in the organization.
Constant communication is key to giving your people a sense of purpose about the work they’re doing. Indeed, purpose-oriented employees experience 64% higher levels of fulfillment in their work compared to non-purpose-oriented employees. Communication tools like Slack are a great way to keep all your people in the loop.
3. Hire the right people for the right reasons
Skill training isn’t hard; attitude adjustment, however, can be impossible. This is why it’s important to only bring people into your organization who are likely to fit in with its culture and long-term vision. While individuality, innovation, and risk-taking should be encouraged, these should all serve your organization’s mission, vision, and values.
An effective way to find out if job candidates are likely to fit in with your culture is to place them in various workplace situations and see how they connect with other team members. As one of our HR experts told us, “When you are hiring for your growing company, make sure to hire people that are smarter than you and better than you in areas you don’t know much about…In today’s world of work, individuals value learning and personal development over financial gain…If you aren’t keeping people outside of their comfort zone enough for them to perform, they will find somewhere else to go.”
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4. Hard work pays
It takes a village to scale successfully. What these ideas for maintaining and strengthening culture have in common is that they’re focused on your organization’s single most important asset: its people.
Creating open and supportive relationships and treating your people like they’re indispensable to your organization’s growth will reinforce the culture of success that initially propelled it. In today’s increasingly competitive and rapidly evolving global economy, it takes a unified team, department, or community of talented and committed individuals to positively impact an organization’s long-term viability.
All of the experts we spoke to agree that the most important thing you can do while scaling a startup is to care about the people you are working with; putting people first does the right thing for you and your business in the long term.