The term “growing pains” comes up a lot when startups and high-growth companies talk about culture. Rapid expansion can sometimes cause certain things to fall by the wayside. But, when it comes to your company’s culture, it’s incumbent upon leadership to ensure those foundational principles you worked hard to establish remain constant as your business grows.
For the most part, growth is good — really good. It means you’re doing something right. So, while you’re growing and succeeding, make sure your entire team stays on the same page. A few simple strategies can go a long way toward fostering a healthy work culture.
If you’re already doing these things, keep going. If you aren’t, start now.
1. Set the tone immediately
The signals you send about your company begin the moment you sit down with a potential employee. That makes the initial interview a perfect time to tell candidates what your company cares about most.
If you have a set of values, put them on the table. If it’s more of a mindset, describe the day-to-day interactions that happen in the workplace. Be transparent about what you’re looking for — the hiring process will be easier if you’re honest about the business and your expectations.
I always make sure to explain our company’s three values — Don’t Say Nothing; Change Shoes Often; Own the Outcome — to let candidates know we’re seeking people who are confident, empathetic and responsible.
Your company values are the pillars that support your company and the common thread that unites your employees. These values should align with the work your company does every day, and they should resonate with members of your team.
As your company grows, you’ll have new people involved in the on-boarding process. It’s important that everyone shares in your commitment to transparency and that new employees are able to convey the same messages about your company values. The goal should be each prospective candidate having the same experience during the hiring process.
Be transparent about what you’re looking for — the hiring process will be easier if you’re honest about the business and your expectations.
Removing the element of surprise makes the entire process more straightforward. Anyone who makes it past the interview knows what to expect, and they’re more likely to be direct in future interactions.
2. Create a safe space for others to be heard
Once you establish your company values, it’s important to provide employees somewhere to speak their minds.
Startups are known for their open communications and the absence of a traditional hierarchy. Companies are best-served taking a page from this playbook and fostering a workplace culture where employees who speak up are encouraged and celebrated.
An open-door policy is a great place to start; employees should feel comfortable going directly to their bosses with concerns. But all the reassurances in the world won’t change the fact that crossing that threshold is still intimidating.
Take it one step further and carve out a time and place for team members, or the entire company, to gather and share ideas in a non-judgmental setting. (Making it a regularly scheduled event only adds to accountability.) There’s power in numbers, and people who aren’t comfortable in one-on-one settings can feed off the energy of their peers to speak confidently and freely.
The tone and setting of these gatherings are crucial. You want to create a professional atmosphere, where people’s thoughts and opinions will be taken seriously, but it shouldn’t feel like a formal meeting. A relaxed setting makes people comfortable, and that comfort can have a snowball effect on people’s willingness to voice their opinions.
There’s power in numbers, and people who aren’t comfortable in one-on-one settings can feed off the energy of their peers to speak confidently and freely.
All of this adds up to happier employees, and happy employees do better work. An October report from Comparably on the “Happiest Companies” found that work environment and company attitude are among the top considerations when determining employee satisfaction.
Creating a space for employees to share their ideas is a great way to boost morale and bring people together, especially if you’re growing quickly and new faces are regularly sprouting up in the office. Bonus: Your employees’ ideas could prove pivotal in helping your company in the long-run.
3. Ensure underrepresented people are thriving
This is, perhaps, the most important metric to track, as we often hear about inclusion and diversity and the challenges and failures of these initiatives.
But it’s more than a vanity metric. Including more diverse employees in business decisions has proven to contribute directly to the success of a company.
People want to work at a place where they feel included and equitable. It’s really that simple.
One of the best ways to ensure underrepresented people are thriving is through microsponsorships, those small affirmations that can help validate people who might otherwise feel excluded or overlooked. Simply making sure that your employees know they are being seen, heard and valued by their peers can go a long way.
Accountability is another important aspect of inclusion and diversity. It’s one thing to say you’re committed to equity in the workplace — the hard part is actually following through. Making a public pledge is an easy way to make sure you stay on track, but doing so with like-minded companies (remember: there’s power in numbers) lets your employees and customers know where you stand.
Simply making sure that your employees know they are being seen, heard and valued by their peers can go a long way.
As business leaders, it’s our job to speak up to not only foster a culture of positive reinforcement but to also speak up when we see or hear negativity. Culture is a shared experience, and the only way to make certain your company culture is (and remains) healthy during periods of growth is continuous self-evaluation.
So, keep growing. Keep looking for ways to improve. Keep raising the bar. And never settle for anything less than excellence.