Culture is more than office dogs and craft beer on tap. It’s people, above all else.
With every hire, your culture changes to fit the added values and behaviours that each new employee brings to the table. Whether they realize it or not, every single one of your employees plays a role in shaping the larger culture of your organization. Your culture is determined by how they engage with each other and their work.
So when you start scaling quickly and adding new people to your team faster than ever before, how do you keep your culture in check?
We scoured the Internet to uncover the secrets that HR and culture experts around the world have used to maintain their culture at scale.
Establishing Your Core Values
“By upholding our core values in everything we do. Culture is a thousand things, a thousand times. It’s living the core values when you hire; when you write an email; when you are working on a project; when you are walking in the hall. We have the power, by living the values, to build the culture. We also have the power, by breaking the values, to fuck up the culture. Each one of us has this opportunity, this burden.” - Brian Chesky, Co-founder and CEO of Airbnb via Medium
Core values help everyone understand how to work towards the common purpose. By clearly defining what your workplace culture values, you can help influence your employee’s behaviours. Establishing your company’s core values makes it clear to your employees what is important, what isn't, and how it should be done.
Amplifying Existing Behaviours
“Don’t impose management rules just because companies of a certain size are “supposed” to do that. By the same token, don’t cherry-pick any procedures from outside your organization that you don’t need to. Instead, look at the organic patterns that have emerged among your own teams and build on those.
Do lunch meetings with senior leaders take place naturally? Great–try setting up a “lunch-and-learn” mentorship program. Do managers already give feedback in real time, and is it working? If so, why would you ever want to replace that with a monthly review?” - Matt Barba, Co-founder and CEO at Placester via Fast Company
When you hit a growth spurt, it’s easy to start looking externally for solutions by scrambling for quick culture fixes that you see working at other companies. But, in reality, you should be looking internally for inspiration. Analyze the behaviours of your team and take note of what’s already working. Try to guide and amplify existing behaviours instead of imposing new ones.
Hiring for Culture
“Listen carefully to how candidates describe their experiences, major life decisions, and what they learned from each of them. Ask "why" repeatedly.
Hiring is all about alignment around values, motivation, and skill sets. It's not a company convincing a candidate to join, or a candidate convincing a company to hire him or her. It's a search for alignment between both parties, where they both conclude they could do great work together.” - Joshua Reeves, Founder and CEO at Gusto via Inc
This might come as a surprise, but hiring isn’t only about talent and experience. Cultural fit should be top-of-mind when you’re seeking out new candidates to add to your roster. The people you hire during high growth phases will shape the culture of your company for years to come, so make sure that they’re in alignment with your existing core values.
Focusing on Everyone’s Role
“Your last 100 hires are what your true culture is, so make sure that they embrace, understand, and learn the culture, so they can hire the next 100 folks. Culture definitely starts with your founders, your CEO, and your leadership, but I think it's owned by everyone in the organization. It's a living, breathing type of situation where you always have to curate, you always have to evolve, and that's going to make a very healthy environment.” - Ron Storn, VP of People at Lyft via Human Synergistics
In a lot of ways, culture can turn into a giant game of telephone. Each new crop of employees will show your next batch of hires how things are done, whether they’re aware of it or not. Every single employee has the potential to plot the course of your internal culture, so you always need to make sure that everyone is organically included in your company’s cultural fabric.
Re-evaluating Your Tactics
“The bottom line is: Don’t be afraid to let go of your cultural tactics. In fact, you should be constantly evaluating them. Are they still working? Do they still represent the value you intended? Be committed to evolving. Remember why you decided to implement an activity in the first place, even if that leads you to an entirely new approach.”- Alexandra Meyer, Director of Growth and Marketing at Keen.io via Keen.io
Culture is not a static thing. All company cultures grow and evolve and you need to expect that certain things will change. As a result, you should always practice self-awareness and make sure that the things you’re doing to build your culture are still working. Just because things have always been done a certain way, doesn’t mean that they still should be done that same way in the future.
“One of the things I always say is that I think largely the reason that the Facebook culture scaled is that no single person owns it. It’s distributed across the entire organization. If we have 10,000 people who work at Facebook, you would have 10,000 people tell you that they own the culture. We hire people who are like that. We express it to them during the hiring process and the recruiting process. We talk about it on their first day and their first week.” - Lori Goler, VP of People at Facebook via Fast Company
If you want to preserve your culture as you scale, you need to transform your team into an army of culture ambassadors. Give people a sense of ownership over your company’s values and they’ll find ways to work them into every aspect of their day-to-day work.
Communicating and Giving Feedback
“When Headspace was small and we were all crammed into one room, aspects like communication and knowing what everyone was working on was more straightforward. As we scale, keeping this communication smooth and open is something which gets more difficult but is something we really want to ensure.
We hold a weekly all-hands meeting when the entire company gets together to receive company-wide updates, and employees can also ask questions to our leadership team, which helps with transparency.” - Tom Freeman, Culture Manager at Headspace via Work Well
Communication is a two way street and maintaining a constant feedback loop with your employees helps you keep your finger on the cultural pulse of your company. As your company scales its important to find new ways of communicating, so you’re never out-of-step with how your team is feeling. Some of the ways you can improve communication with a growing workforce are:
- Use internal messaging platforms like Slack to give greater visibility across projects
- Hold AMAs (Ask Me Anythings), so that your team has an opportunity to ask important questions
- Encourage leads to schedule casual, weekly 1-on-1’s to help their direct reports feel heard
- Send out feedback surveys regularly to paint a picture of your team at scale
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