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How do you protect your small company culture as you grow? It’s a great question. Now that you’ve hit operational running speed, how do you incorporate the badly needed business processes that will allow you to scale without sacrificing the “startup vibe” that has become your company identity and employer brand?
Culture starts at the top.
If you want to protect your culture, start by walking the talk. One of the perks of leadership is that you get to set the tone. Culture is the combination of the ways of working, communicating, and making decisions that helps define a company’s identity and provides the foundation upon which everything else is built. Protecting your culture starts with you.
Build processes that support your culture, rather than contradict it.
If you want to that the next 100 people that you hire to work according to the same key behaviors as the first 50, then build processes that reinforce that behavior. Look at the process holistically. For example, if you want decentralized decision making, make sure that you put the financial responsibility at the level it needs to be to make sure that the decisions can be implemented efficiently. When you are defining your recruiting processes, make sure that you incorporate key culture indicators in your selection criteria. You can train people to close skills gaps. You will have far more difficulty changing behaviors that contradict or erode your culture.
Tell your people what good looks like.
We’ve never met an employee that didn’t want to do a good job. We’ve met a lot of employees that couldn’t figure out what good looks like. Make sure that your employees understand where you’re going and why you’re going there. Explain what’s going to change in the company to help you get there. Finally, help them bring the best of themselves to the job every day by telling them what they’re doing well.
Leverage seasoned HR support.
HR is much more than just the daily general and administrative activities related to the entry and exits of your employees. Seasoned HR can provide guidance on how to develop your HR processes that support, reinforce and, at times, augment the behaviors that shape your culture. Look for someone who has experience working in organizations that have undergone change, whether growth or downsizing and leverage that experience to help you take your company to the next level without sacrificing what got you there in the first place.