How to safeguard your culture in the face of growth
Often, one of the key elements of startup employer branding is culture and DNA. Rightfully so, as smaller organisations are usually more flexible, less hierarchical ala. bureaucracy and more approachable. The CEO and the newly minted social media executive share their lunches and talk nineteen to the dozen about the latest TV series or product feature. Opportunities abound for fresh ideas to come to fore irrespective of whom they come from. The ability to learn directly from the C-suite is yet another attraction for the millennial workforce.
But small organisations always run the risk of losing this culture as they start to grow. With growth come more people, more distributed centers of power and decision-making, and widespread responsibilities, making it highly likely for startups to fall into traps such as red-tapism. Here’s how you can avoid this trap:
Core value-based hiring helps retain your DNA
As organisations grow, they will end up hiring more and more people. In the rush to get a pair of hands to “just do the job”, it is easy to lose sight of value-based hiring. That is a mistake. Before you get on a hiring blitzkrieg, remind your hiring managers to look for the softer aspects. It is important that people are hired on the basis of their alignment with the company mission and DNA, and not just as additional pair of hands. Prepare a list of soft skills and questions that reflect your company's culture. Ensure that hiring decisions take them into account just as much as they do the candidate’s technical skills and past experience.
Easy access to the leadership
Executive accessibility is a crucial attraction for your young workforce. While coffee and lunches may not be possible when your workforce grows beyond a point, you can still ensure accessibility using tools like town hall meets and one-on-ones with new hires. Employees need to be able to access the top rung of leadership for guidance, mentorship and more importantly for dealing with challenges and feedback.
Smaller teams instead of one big family
In order to maintain their culture, startups and small organisations continue to treat their workforce as one large entity with the founder/ CEO as the proverbial head of the family. Such teams are harder to manage and it is easy for the introverts to get overshadowed. Smaller teams ensure microcosms of organisational DNA. It also ensures that everyone’s voice is heard in his or her own teams and business functions. However, it's important to ensure that the smaller teams don't go into silos and are aware of the larger goals that the company is chasing.
Retain the fun rituals
Whether it is monthly birthday celebration or weekly pizza lunches, the small rituals help remind everyone of the organisational identity. Having more people in the organisation is, even more, reason to religiously stick with the fun rituals. It signals the “work hard and party harder” culture for your new employees and reminds old ones that the organisation might be larger and more layered now, but it is the same old fun place they loved in its early days!
Clarity is essential
In its early stages, startups are a bunch of people who do everything! But growing, dynamic workplaces are different. New employees, new processes, freshly minted teams can often present a lack of clarity in terms of who is responsible for what. This can also breed insecurity and conflict among teams and individuals. To escape the backlash, avoid overlapping skillsets between teams and ensure that everyone knows exactly what their roles and responsibilities are.
As organisations grow, it is important that they don’t lose out on the authenticity and transparency between the top rung leadership and employees. Your employees need to see the advantages of business growth – more flexibility, more ideas, and more help. It shouldn’t take away from the organisation’s core mission and purpose. Employees who are able to uphold the organisational culture in such times of flux must be rewarded too. This validation will give them a reason to partner with you in maintaining the sound, transparent, and open culture that they have so far enjoyed and been proud of. Your early employees are your first culture champions – give them reasons to stay that way.
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