This article originally appeared on Virgin.com.
Most companies face a common challenge at one point or another: maintaining culture as their organisation grows.
When you think of today’s typical start-up, what comes to mind? Maybe it’s all-night hack-a-thons, or Friday happy hours and free beer on tap, or laid back offices where even dogs are welcome to come to work. Whatever you think of first, one thing’s clear: start-ups care a lot about culture. But, once a company’s crossed that start-up threshold, how can they preserve their culture and ensure it thrives as they scale?
The examples above are nice, but corporate culture goes well beyond benefits and perks. Real company culture comes from shared values and people working together to support an organisation’s mission and the problems it’s trying to solve. Company culture is fostered when you support employees’ wellbeing and empower them to bring their best selves to work each day.
Creating a great culture isn’t easy. But here are a five ways you can work to keep your culture intact and your people thriving as your business grows:
1. Care about your staff
People want to work for companies that care about them and want them to be well. To create a great culture, it’s critical you support the well-being of your workforce – both on the job and off. Founder of the Virgin Group Richard Branson’s long said, “Take care of your employees and they’ll take care of your business.” That’s true for businesses of all sizes, and something to consider while working to create a great place to work.
2. Focus on your infrastructure
As your company grows, communication, training, and knowledge sharing becomes harder. When scaling, putting more investment into and emphasis on systems and processes is key. But it’s critical that you do so in a way that’s designed for simplicity, efficiency, and collaboration – rather than one that’s highly bureaucratic. Nobody wants another software system for the sake of software or a process for the sake of process, so be mindful of what you’re putting in place and why.
3. Support your managers
Empowering your staff is one of the most important things you can do. As your company grows, managers become even more important in helping to shape culture. Great companies promote from within whenever possible. When people prove themselves in their roles and within your culture, help them grow. Give them the training and support they need so they can help others grow, too.
When looking for new, talented people to join your team, hire for both skill and potential. Value capability and potential and you’ll shape career paths and help people feel like they have opportunities to flourish. Great cultures emerge when everyone rolls up their sleeves, helps the company achieve its goals, and helps each other be successful in the process.
4. Model companies you admire
So many companies have created great cultures… Google, Facebook, Yahoo to name a few. People clamor to work for these companies! So, how can you create a culture just as compelling? First, you’ve got to know what’s critical for your organisation and the wellbeing of your people. Then, take a look at what other companies are doing well and figure out how to emulate those practices while making them unique to your own culture and organisation.
You many may not have the money for the same great office features as Google, for example. But there are plenty of things you can do to create an environment that supports accessibility, fun, flexibility, collaboration, wellbeing, and more.
5. Walk the talk
There’s nothing more debilitating than the hypocrisy of a leader with a “do as I say, not as I do” mentality. It destroys culture fast. People want to feel respected, valued for their contributions, and they want to have a say. Now, that doesn’t mean everyone always gets their way. But you can’t create a great culture by dictating, micromanaging, and undermining your staff. Structure roles so people feel appreciated and set leaders up to coach instead of operating with a command and control mindset.
At the heart of it, your company is your people. They’re the ones who design, build, sell, and service your products and keep your customers happy. The second a company forgets that and looks at staff like numbers, assets, or liabilities, that’s when a company gets away from the core of what drives it.
Preserving a great culture gets harder as companies grow. But it’s critical for your business to make sure your culture thrives. Create a great culture where your employees can be their best and succeed, and your whole business succeeds.
Looking for more ways to avoid cultural growing pains? Download our ebook to learn the roles employers and employees play when it comes to company culture.