Advanced Lessons on Driving Big Change at Large Organizations - Culture Summit

Advanced Lessons on Driving Big Change at Large Organizations

Whether subbing out a CEO, troubleshooting a culture of bias, or reorganizing to pursue a new market opportunity, every organization will face a point in its development when it needs to change. And while we all know the basics of implementing any new initiative (get buy-in, craft a plan, follow through), there are nuances to driving big change within an organization that only those who have “been there, done that” can point out.

Today, Tatyana Mamut, General Manager and Director of Product Management, Design, & Engineering at Amazon Web Services, and Ellen Leanse, author, Stanford instructor, and former Apple executive, are going to walk us through five advanced (and sometimes counterintuitive) lessons on the best way to approach large organizational change to make it stick:

 

1. Ambiguity is what makes change hard

It’s natural to assume that the bigger a change is, the harder it will be to implement, and the smaller the change is, the easier it is to implement, but that’s not true. In fact, some very large, significant changes, like a CEO succession, can be fairly straightforward because there’s so much information around the topic. Organizational change is hard or easy not based on the size of the change, but on the ambiguity of the change process.

“Companies will often send out a press release about what a big change it is to replace a CEO, but most of the time it’s not a difficult change because it comes with a very well known playbook – we know what needs to be done and how to accomplish it,” says Mamut. “What makes a change hard is when there’s no playbook for it and it’s ambiguous, uncharted territory. You don’t know if you have a full commitment from other leaders to head down the same path, and the machinery and mechanisms aren’t there to support the change.”

 

2. Small changes can actually be more difficult to implement

Even with a clear playbook for change, small changes can often be more difficult to implement than large ones because we assume we can accomplish them under the radar, without looking at the big picture. But we can’t.

“If you try to change one or two small things at a time, the immune system of an organization will respond and show up to attack the changes,” says Mamut. “Small changes fail because people don’t take the time to design the larger holistic playbook and the context into which those changes will fit. If there’s a big goal you want to achieve, you may have to change everything all at once in an orchestrated and coordinated move rather than making small changes over a period of time.”

 

3. The most powerful change is changing how people spend their time

Whatever particular change you’re planning for your organization, try to focus on what impact it will have on how people spend their time at work. Not only will that give your team a definite example of how the change will affect their work but it will make it clear that the change is a holistic one, meant to impact everything about the way they do their job.

“The number one thing that makes a difference in creating sustainable culture change in companies is when they have certain agreements or encouragements about how time is spent,” says Leanse. “The most powerful change is getting your team out of their time rut of easy work and meaningless checklist items in favor of real, deep thinking. Companies that can change that can change everything.”

 

4. You can’t “Do it right and be done”

Implementing a big change within an organization requires a lot of planning, and that planning can be painstaking work. But no matter how much effort you put into the coordination and strategy behind the plan, the rollout of change is the beginning of the work, not the end. Going through the process with an open mind and a sense of persistence will yield insights, integration, and value.

“When change isn’t easy right away, people tend to want to say, ‘I did it right, and it didn’t work, so I give up,’ and the business world tries to reinforce that kind of thinking,” says Leanse. “But when you’re implementing a really big change, you’ll never get to a point when you can say, ‘My work here is done!’ Real, lasting change is built on asking hard questions and embracing and reacting to input, even when it disagrees with yours.”

 

5. Successful change is always top down

The first step in making any culture change within an organization is to get buy-in from the leadership team, but it’s even more important when it comes to driving big change in a large organization. The board of directors down must understand and commit to the plans for change (and why there’s a need for it) in order to give the change the support it needs to be truly transformative.

“Middle managers are always looking for stories of how a small team did something big in a bottom-up way, but it’s very rare,” says Mamut. “I’ve worked with CEOs on large transformation initiatives – including the transformations at Life Technologies and Procter & Gamble – and it’s always led by the top and coordinated with the support of the board of directors.”

How can you initiate this kind of support? Focus on getting an advocate on the board of directors: “Find at least one person on board who understands the change and can guide the conversation for the entire board around it, asking questions like, ‘Will we need to change our metrics of success, including our financial metrics?’” and ‘How are we going to assess the success of the C-suite for the next 2-3 years for the investment?’” says Mamut. “This person needs to not just be on board with the plan – no pun intended – but actually drive the strategy around it.”

If you’re on the verge of driving big change within your organization, we hope these tips will help get you in the right mindset to be successful. And of course if you have any experience to share, please let us know in the comments!

Sarah is a HR and HR marketing and technology writer who analyzes and condenses cutting-edge research and data to help leaders and HR professionals develop their instincts and arrive at actionable insights for employee engagement and business performance. She loves to consider the possibilities of humanizing, organizing, and minimalizing all things HR.

What We’ve Learned About Scaling Culture to 1000 Employees

What We’ve Learned About Scaling Culture to 1000 Employees

Welcome to part three of the scaling company culture series! Don’t miss part one, “What Your Company Culture Needs at 10, 100 and 1,000 Employees,” or part two, “We Just Added Our 100th Employee… Here’s What We’ve Learned About Scaling Culture.”

Whether your company is already growing at breakneck speed or you’re sure you’re on the verge of something big, one of the first things you need to start reading up on is scaling company culture.

After all, there’s a reason your company is doing well: it’s got a certain something that’s making your team and your customers flourish, and you want to make sure you don’t break whatever’s working when you multiply tenfold.

So, why not ask people who have already done it?

This is by no means a comprehensive how-to for scaling culture to 1000 and more, but we think these are three lessons worth learning from HR leaders and executives who have been there, done that:

Lesson #1: Former BlackRock Exec Says Put Your Ear to the Ground

Charting a course for company culture past 1000 employees often starts with a map of where the leadership team wants to go. There’s nothing inherently wrong with getting your values straight (in fact, that’s #1 on our list of how to scale culture), but the planning process shouldn’t be exclusively high-level leadership oriented; it should also take into account what attracted your employees to the organization in the first place.

“I start by talking to all levels of employees about what makes the company unique from their perspective and their ideas about possible improvements for the future. Then I take time to compare and reconcile the differences and opportunities amongst levels and departments,” says David Dalka, keynote speaker and Managing Director of Fearless Revival, who led numerous critical project teams that redefined industry business models at BlackRock during its 80 to 800 employee growth phase. “That feedback analyzed empirically, allows everyone to figure out which items you should attempt to scale.”

“One of the cultural values that surfaced during the early days of BlackRock was our team’s ability to incrementally innovate to create a dramatically different process from what everyone else was doing,” continues Dalka. “We were challenged to destroy the jobs we had to build new ones that contained higher and higher value work that created better outcomes for all stakeholders. You can only do that in a company that empowers its employees and sees an abundance of opportunity, not scarcity.”

Lesson #2: Lyft Says Nurture Cross-Departmental Partnerships In the Recruiting Process

Ready to be impressed? Since 2014, the San Francisco-based transportation company Lyft has scaled from 80 to 2,000 employees. The company hired 1,230 new employees in 2016 and is set to exceed that number in 2017…. all while maintaining an excellent 4.0 overall employer rating on Glassdoor.

There isn’t necessarily one secret to maintaining culture, retention, and candidate quality and satisfaction while growing so quickly. But among many great ideas like moving from “culture fit” to “values fit” to speed up the hiring process and building authentic community connections, we want to highlight the team’s focus on nurturing cross-departmental partnerships throughout the recruitment process.

Scaling Culture During Hypergrowth: The Lyft Story

Image captured from “Nailing Culture During Hypergrowth: The Lyft Story,” presented by Lever and Teammable. Click here to view the entire webinar.

“When some companies think about underrepresentation, they often set broad, company-wide diversity goals,” says Tariq Meyers, Head of Inclusion & Diversity at Lyft. “But what ends up happening if you don’t take a departmental approach is that you’re not really able to figure out what perspectives are missing by level, team, and organization. So, when I’m working with department heads, I often invite the talent acquisition leadership, recruiters, sourcers, and coordinators to join me with my team, department heads and business partners along with hiring managers in the interview loop to get in a room and ask, ‘What perspectives are missing in your room?’”

Lesson #3: Former Exxon Mobil Exec Says Don’t Forget the Follow Through

When Millie Bradley, retired Exxon Mobil exec, was scaling 200 different company cultures with 100,000 employees, the key was the follow through. Bradley was surprised to find that the culture and implementation of culture needed to be renewed over time. So right at the top of her list with clear global policies, management buy-in, and extensive training comes stewardship and monitoring.

When Millie Bradley, retired ExxonMobil exec, was scaling the company culture across 200 countries and 100,000 employees, she realized that long-term success takes follow through. Bradley realized that the implementation of culture needed to be continuously reinforced to be sustainable. So right at the top of her list of advice — along with clear global policies, management participation, and extensive training — comes stewardship and monitoring.

“Operating management is ultimately responsible for a culture of integrity and ethics, so ownership of all violations of policy, annual stewardship to senior management of organizational culture, and face-to-face participation in the training of employees is critical to sustainability,” writes Bradley. “Making stewardship of ethics a management stewardship item, along with operating excellence and financial performance, sends a clear message to the organization about the importance of culture and values.”

Are you in the process of scaling company culture past 1000? Let us know in the comments what you would add to this list!

Sarah is a HR and HR marketing and technology writer who analyzes and condenses cutting-edge research and data to help leaders and HR professionals develop their instincts and arrive at actionable insights for employee engagement and business performance. She loves to consider the possibilities of humanizing, organizing, and minimalizing all things HR.

We Just Added Our 100th Employee… Here’s What We’ve Learned About Scaling Culture

What We’ve Learned About Scaling Culture to 100 Employees

In the first article in this series, “What Your Company Culture Needs at 10, 100 and 1,000 Employees,” we took a practical look at the components that need to be in place as your company grows and reaches those milestones.

But what does it take to actually make the move from 10 to 100 employees? What challenges do organizations typically face, and how does scaling culture overcome them?

Today, we’re going to hear what our Culture Warrior community has to say about scaling culture. If you’re setting out to scale a company culture to 100 employees or your current culture isn’t scaling well, here’s what our experts think you should do:

Lesson #1: Identify what’s going wrong with your culture

People add complexity, so it’s natural that your processes and structures will grow as your roster does. But when those processes and structures have a negative impact on your company culture – when they take away from the natural give and take of your community as it works through challenges – it’s time to bring the focus back to company culture.

Here are several examples of the challenges our Culture Warrior’s organizations were facing that made it clear that scaling company culture was the solution:

  • Poor morale and high turnover
  • Lack of company direction and very green leadership team
  • Lack of accountability to goals
  • Not enough infrastructure to support growth (or to support remote growth)
  • Loss of intimacy because growing required the addition of more structured systems
  • Fear of losing control on the part of the older leaders and clinging on to old ways as part of the “old guard”
  • Fast growth and increased diversity leading team members to feel that they did not know each other well
  • Cliques forming and competing for influence

If you’re experiencing any of these warning signs, there’s a strong chance that what’s ailing your organization is culture-related and can be improved with intentional effort.

Lesson #2: Focus on one thing at a time

High-performing (and fast-growing) companies like Zappos, Google, and Apple know the truth about company culture: you can’t do more than one or two big things at a time. That’s why we weren’t surprised by our expert’s second lesson for scaling culture: you need to focus on one thing at a time and grow buy-in among your team members by moving from one small victory to another.

“Introducing one new idea at a time allowed everyone to experience the benefits,” writes Dada Nabhaniilananda, Head Instructor at The Monk Dude, LLC. “The group adopted some new ideas so completely that now they think it was their idea!”

Focusing on one or two big changes also has the benefit of limiting the amount of confusion your employees experience, leading to better implementation. Or, as another contributor mentioned, “Once you have a structure to follow for meetings or a roadmap that you’ve communicated effectively, people just ‘get it’ better.”

Lesson #3: Scale company culture with the three Cs

Our contributing Culture Champs were very clear that the key to achieving successful culture change at scale lies in three important words: clarity, commitment, and communication:

Clarity

Successfully scaling company culture requires that you know what you’re changing and why before you bring it to your leadership or employees. If you don’t have complete clarity around where you’re going and why, your efforts won’t get you very far.

One human resources professional shared the steps he took to make sure there was clarity around the culture:

We created a company playbook so everyone knows who we are, how we work, how we will succeed as a company, our core values, etc.

 

We also aligned all core values and job-specific key goals to a new performance management process and created a company interdepartmental operations manual so everyone knows the rules to follow for certain internal procedures.

 

This improved clarity and communication across the organization lead to shorter weekly stand-ups for the entire company that were more effective and fun.

It will also help you gain consensus around what’s changing and what’s not. For example, Justyna Krzych, current Change Manager at Zalando who scaled in her previous role as Head of People & Culture at Mindvalley writes that, “we revisited our values to ensure we’re inclusive of all perspectives and realized that our values remain the same.”

Through this communication exercise, she discovered something very helpful: “There were new points to incorporate, but fundamentally, in all our diversity, we were still unified by the values that were there since the beginning. We’re diverse, but fundamentals unite us.”

Commitment

It’s also critical to gain the support of the higher-ups. Without an official pledge from senior leadership, your efforts won’t have the gravitas they need.

“Get commitment from C-level players to support the change,” writes Ron Branch, HR Director at Kellogg. “A lack of buy-in from management and employees can lead to negative surprises.”

Nabhaniilananda adds to the importance of commitment: “Spend time, especially with the leaders, explaining the benefits to them of scaling the culture and inviting their input and listening to them,” she writes. “Don’t be too hasty to move forward without getting buy-in from anyone who might feel threatened by growth.”

Communication

The final piece of the puzzle in successfully scaling culture is to make communication a priority. Even with a clear mission and committed support from leadership, your employees can’t move forward with your plans if they don’t know what they’re supposed to do.

“Listen with an open mind and don’t assume that “everyone knows,’” writes Krzych. “Once you engage in the conversation, you can really understand and incorporate different perspectives to make your company more than just a workplace.”

Part of that communication process for Nabhaniilananda was introducing a specific process for encouraging communication between veteran employees and new employees:

“Some long-term employees seemed to be threatened by the idea of our organization growing and engaged in unconscious sabotage to try to prevent that growth,” she writes. “We introduced a system of mentorship so that the older, more experienced leaders coached the rising younger leaders, got to know and trust them, and felt that their knowledge and experience was appreciated.”

We’re so impressed with the extensive knowledge our contributors brought to this discussion on scaling culture. So, we have to ask:

What can you add on these thoughts on scaling culture?

Sarah is a HR and HR marketing and technology writer who analyzes and condenses cutting-edge research and data to help leaders and HR professionals develop their instincts and arrive at actionable insights for employee engagement and business performance. She loves to consider the possibilities of humanizing, organizing, and minimalizing all things HR.

4 Ways to Re-Energize a Legacy Culture Without Alienating Original Employees

4 Ways to Re-Energize a Legacy Culture Without Alienating Original Employees

Few organizations have the luxury of focusing on company culture from the start. More often than not, it’s simply the byproduct of habits and attitudes of the founding members, original employees, and first hires resulting in a legacy culture.

But what happens when you look up and realize you’ve grown to that benchmark you thought was a long way off and your culture isn’t scaling well? Or that your culture has taken a turn for the worse and too much of a certain something has crept in, like negativity, gossip, or competitiveness?

There’s no starting over. Your veteran employees are good at what they do, and you value the loyalty they’ve shown over the years. So how do you reset an out-of-date company culture – or fix a broken one – without turning off employees who have been around since day one?

Read on:

1. Tie change to meaning, not mandates

As the global innovation company IDEO wrote for The Harvard Business Review, movements start with emotions, not calls-to-action. You can ask, beg, demand, or force your team to do anything, but the results won’t be nearly as powerful as true culture change would be. At best, entrenched employees will humor you and hope the phase passes quickly; at worst, they’ll roll their eyes and start looking for a new job.

Instead, bring the focus back to the deeper purpose of your organization and tease out what that should look like in the emotional landscape of your team. Use the push for a culture change as an opportunity to check in with the employees who have been there from the start and help them connect with the new vibe.

For example, what is it about your company’s mission that originally attracted your veteran employees? Has that mission changed? (In which case you’ll need to address that and see if they can get behind the new vision.) Has that mission evolved? (In which case you’ll just need to help connect the dots). Let every conversation come back to a meaningful, “Why?” instead of a behavior-focused, “What?”

2. Welcome tense conversations

There’s no dodging the fact that change management is hard. You could be implementing a new 50% raise policy with every employee and you would still probably run into one employee who’s upset, one who’s going to quit, and one who feels like it’s a slap in the face to all the ways they’ve contributed to the company. (Just ask CEO Dan Price, who raised everyone’s minimum annual salary to $70,000 and still had a few people leave over it).

Before you start to work with your team through some of these company culture changes, embrace the fact that there will be difficulties and that people won’t always see it the same way. Welcome frustrated and discontent conversations and try to bring the conversation back around to the deeper “Why,” of the changes.

For example, when Kronos CEO Aron Ain implemented an unlimited time off policy, a lot of veteran employees actually didn’t like it! They felt like the vacation time they’d accrued was going to waste, that new employees shouldn’t get so much time off when they themselves had to work for it, and so on. Instead of smiling and nodding, Ain and his HR leadership team sat down with each employee and heard them out. They weren’t about to change the policy, but addressing each of the employee’s frustrations went a long way towards bringing the focus back on the benefits.

Related: Creating Culture Across Remote Teams: 10 Tips from Pioneering Companies

3. Honor your employee’s commitment – long-term and short-term

Jumping right to, “This is the way it is – adapt or leave,” will drive your experienced employees right to the job boards. But if you spend too much social capital on honoring the old-timers, you’ll end up alienating new employees. (After all, if there’s anything worse than feeling left out of the future it’s feeling like you’ve joined a team that lives in the past – you’re just walking around stuck in someone else’s inside joke.)

How can you walk this line? By bringing the attention to commitment and loyalty to the company’s purpose, not necessarily duration or “who was there first.”

For example, communicate to veteran employees that you value their time and the longevity of their commitment to the company, but keep relating it to where you are now and where you plan to go (not just that one isolated moment in the past). Express your excitement for the contribution of new team members freely, but bring it back to how it furthers your organization’s original or founding goals (if possible).

In practice, this could mean balancing awards or bonuses for service time, like longest tenure with the company or biggest client network, with equally valuable prizes for accomplishments not tied to service or seniority, such as most improved, biggest collaborator or contributor, or “Put Out the Biggest Fire.”

4. Ask them to lead

When you’ve been a part of a team or organization for a long time, it’s natural (and healthy) to feel a sense of ownership over how things are done and what changes are made. Put yourself in the shoes of one of your most senior employees – wouldn’t you feel powerless or left out if you thought your company was growing without you?

Instead of bringing culture change to your legacy employees as an  “Us Versus Them” event, turn it into a partnership by asking them to lead a particular change. When legacy employees are change agents – especially if they feel informed and connected to the new value – they’ll be less likely to undermine the change and more likely to promote it. Here are some scripts you can use to ask for buy-in and leadership on these company culture changes:

  • Your feedback about X has been incredibly helpful. Now that you’re confident X will help you X, what do you think about helping us bring the rest of the team on board with the change?
  • You’ve been very clear with your feedback, and I appreciate that. The leadership you’ve shown here will be really helpful when we make X change next – can we count on you to support us with that?

Don’t miss this one: A Step-by-Step Strategy for Communicating Change Across Distributed Teams

Culture is behavior. If you tell people to think a certain way or ask them to behave in a certain way, they might comply for a week or two, but you won’t achieve any of the benefits of true, fundamental culture change. If you want to change the way your company works, collaborates, and communicates – without alienating your first hires – you need to encourage new relationships, behaviors, and habits among new and old employees alike.

We hope this list can help you start brainstorming ways to welcome legacy employees into the company culture change process, but we’d love for you to share your wisdom, too.

What would you add to this list?

Sarah is a HR and HR marketing and technology writer who analyzes and condenses cutting-edge research and data to help leaders and HR professionals develop their instincts and arrive at actionable insights for employee engagement and business performance. She loves to consider the possibilities of humanizing, organizing, and minimalizing all things HR.

What Your Company Culture Needs at 10, 100 and 1,000 Employees

What Your Company Culture Needs at 10, 100 and 1,000 Employees

As a company grows, something that can make or break it is its culture. A good culture creates happy, hard-working employees who stick around for the long haul. Conversely, a poor culture leads to disengaged employees, poor productivity, and high staff turnover.

Which of these scenarios do you think is going to help a company be more successful?

Needless to say, if your employees are happy, everyone’s happy. But what does it take to create an environment that your employees want to be in, and can thrive in? And how will this change as your company grows?

Some companies think that if they offer a few fun perks, their staff will be happy and the culture will take care of itself – but they couldn’t be more wrong.

While we’re going to discuss perks that can help foster a great company culture, there is so much more to company culture than free beers and flex time.

“Company culture is not a foosball table.” Melissa Tsang, Referral Candy

  • Your core values.
  • The mindset of your team.
  • The environment or “feeling” in the workplace.

These are the things that define your company culture. The perks just help to shape it.

“[Culture] lives in the collective hearts and habits of people and their shared perception of “how things are done around here.”” Bryan Walker and Sarah A. Soule, writing for Harvard Business Review

The ideal company culture is built on people who are there to do more than collect a paycheck – they’re there because they love their work and the people they work with. They’re along for the ride, basically.

Of course, company cultures like this don’t create themselves. It takes hard work, consistency, and an open mind to cultivate a great company culture – and it only gets more difficult as your company grows.

Here are a few key things that every company culture needs at its critical stages of growth, and how your approach to managing company culture needs to change with them.

 

Company Culture at 10 Employees

Startups have it pretty easy as far as company culture goes since it’s much easier to keep 10 staff members happy than 100. It’s also a good time to experiment and figure out the company/culture fit – after all, if you’re going to get it wrong, it’s better to get it wrong now. That’s because the bigger your company is, the longer it takes to implement cultural change – reportedly about three years, for medium and large organizations.

A solid hiring process

Your employees are the foundation of your company culture, so it’s critical to lay down a process for finding and hiring the right people as soon as possible.

You want to hire (and keep) the people that want to be there. Take Zappos. They offer new hires $2000 – to quit. This is because they only want to keep people that want to be there. If you’re only there for your paycheck, you can take your cash and leave.

Zappos Cubicles

While you don’t need to go that far, you should at least be asking interview questions that are designed to determine whether someone’s a fit for your company culture.

Things like:

  • What is (or was) your relationship like with your current (or previous) colleagues?
  • What sort of management style do you work best with? (Ask this question when hiring for both management and more junior roles).
  • What’s your biggest pet peeve in the workplace?
  • What things are most important to you in your professional life?

An open door policy

Your relationship with your employees is as important as their relationship with each other. Prioritize getting to know them. Ensure they always feel comfortable coming to talk to you.

An open door policy should mean literally that – an open door. Sure, there are times you need to keep it closed, but make sure that only happens when absolutely necessary.

Let your employees know that if the door’s open, they’re welcome to come in. If it’s shut, they can send you a message, or come back later.

Of course, simply telling employees they’re welcome to talk to you doesn’t mean they’ll want to. You have to be the kind of manager your staff wants to approach.

This means you…

  • Don’t criticize staff when things aren’t going according to plan, and certainly never patronize them. Support them in making improvements, instead.
  • Work as hard, or harder, than they do.
  • Never, ever, appear put off when staff asks questions or for help. You only have to do this a couple of times before employees start to learn (consciously or unconsciously) that they have to be wary about when, how, and how often they approach you.
  • Be transparent – it has a direct correlation to employee morale.

Bear in mind that as your company grows, it’s critical that all new management adopt an open door policy, too.

Keeping leaders close to the rest of the team has been a priority for Power Digital Marketing, which holds monthly, personal one-on-one meetings between execs and juniors – the reason being that (in the words of their CEO Grayson Lafrenz) it “ensures everyone feels like a priority and that their voice is heard. It also deepens the bonds and relationships between our team members.”

A break area

Break areas should offer a comfortable place for downtime where employees can socialize away from their workload.

Prioritize comfortable seating, arranged to encourage conversation, as well as a dining area. Offering entertainment is nice, but not necessary – at least at this stage. As your company grows, the break area and the facilities it offers will have to grow with it.

A regular schedule of social events

Aim for one a month. It doesn’t have to be anything “big” – drinks in a local bar should make most people happy. Don’t feel you have to fund events, either (although a goodwill gesture, like getting the first round, will definitely be appreciated).

Trust in your employees

If anything, this last point is the most crucial.

This is because one of the worst things you can do for any company culture is to micro-manage your employees. Happy employees are born out of a management team that is there for them when they’re needed, but that ultimately trusts them to do the right thing.

“Do not keep smart people on a tight leash.” Barry Appelman

Company Culture at 100 Employees

As your company grows, relationships will naturally change.

10 or so employees are likely to form one, single, tightly-knit group. You’re probably also going to have a very flat management structure.

As more people join the ranks, different “tribes” are going to develop – regardless of how adept you are at bringing the right personalities on board – and there’s a greater chance that some people will feel like they just don’t “fit in.”

In fact, research has shown that the faster your company grows, the more apparent these shifts will be.

Image Credit

It’s certainly not impossible to maintain a close company culture as you grow, though. When MyCorporation started out, they felt like family, a feeling they worried they would lose as they expanded. However, through regular team activities and a culture of kindness and encouragement, they’ve stayed “close and connected.”

That flat management structure which was so fundamental to your company culture in the beginning is likely to change, too. That’s normal, and in most cases, necessary. What you need to do, however, is implement systems that ensure all voices are heard and that everyone, regardless of their role or relationships with others, feels that they’re working towards the same common goal.

A mission statement

While you can write a mission statement at any point, it often makes sense to hold off until the company reaches a certain size and you have a concrete idea of both your company’s and employees’ values.

It’s always a good idea to involve your staff in creating your mission statement, too. Ask them to share what they see as the company’s mission or values, look for common themes in their responses, and work this into a statement that everyone agrees reflects why they come to work and what they’re trying to achieve.

Here’s an example of this in practice from when Buffer set out to define their company values. This is the form they distributed to staff:

And here’s one of the completed forms they got back:

Regular culture reviews

Ask employees to rate your culture on a scale of 1-10 and provide feedback on what they do and don’t like about it.

Do this once a year, unless responses signal that more regular reviews are needed.

Input from employees

Allow your staff to get involved in shaping company culture. Encourage feedback and make speaking up easy by implementing a system in which employees can share thoughts and ideas anonymously, or at least without judgment.

An onboarding process

The bigger the company, the more difficult it generally is for new employees to fit in. This means that implementing (and following) a set of procedures for onboarding new employees is essential.

This should include things like:

  • Ensuring someone is in the office and ready to greet the new hire as they arrive.
  • Getting everything they need to work (computer and phone, for example) set up and ready to go before they arrive.
  • Giving them a tour of the premises and introducing them to everyone they’ll be working with.

It’s also a great idea to assign each newbie a “buddy” who will take them under their wing, show them the ropes, and be their first port-of-call for answering questions.

An ability to adapt to changing staff dynamics

The sort of relationships a company of 10 might have are often impossible or inappropriate to maintain in a company of 100 or more. Learn how relationships change as companies grow, and figure out how you can help your staff foster and maintain strong relationships – with both existing and new staff members – as the number of faces they see every day increases.

Company Culture at 1000 Employees

A company with 1000 employees probably has multiple sites in different cities. They may well have even expanded into other countries. One of the biggest challenges, therefore, becomes maintaining, across all branches, a culture that’s in line with the company’s core values, but that also accommodates the unique needs of each location and its people.

The delicatessen chain Zingerman’s is one such company that has dealt with the issue of maintaining their culture across different locations. Their solution was to push for a coherent culture across all locations, but to allow for cultural variations across different departments and shifts. Specifically, they encourage their leaders “not to fight against this diversity, but rather to focus on the positive.”

Here’s what else you need to do to ensure your company culture is consistent (within reason) in a company with 1000 employees or more.

A plan of attack for dealing with organizational change

Change puts staff morale and, in turn, company culture at risk. Devising a contingency plan that details how to positively communicate and roll out organizational changes can help staff adjust, and reduce impact on company culture.

A systemized yet personal and approachable HR department

Big companies need systemized HR departments – without this, they’re very likely to buckle under the pressure. At the same time, an effective HR department needs a personal approach. The challenge is how to balance these opposing working styles.

You might want to start with easing their workload by outsourcing some of their more basic administration tasks.

A head of company culture

A business of this size likely has divisions that operate autonomously. This puts communication and company culture at a high risk of being siloed. If you value your company culture, hiring someone who’s responsible for overseeing and helping maintain that culture across sites and divisions is essential.

Take Google, which offers perks including free, chef-prepared meals, subsidized massages, nap pods, and death benefits.

A Nap Pod in action

They understand that these perks are not enough to create the culture they want their employees to enjoy, so in 2006 they employed a “Chief Culture Officer” whose job included protecting “key parts of Google’s scrappy, open-source cultural core as the company has evolved into a massive multinational.”

It’s probably safe to say this culture has had a big part to play in the impressive 4.4 rating Google has on Glassdoor.

What do you think companies need to create a positive culture as they start out and as they grow? Do you have any company culture stories to tell (good or bad)? If you do, it’d be great if you could spare a moment to share your thoughts in the comments below.

Hung Pham is the founder of Culture Summit, a conference that brings together founders, thought leaders, and culture champions to share insights, strategies, and best practices on transforming company culture from the bottom up.

How Facebook Scaled Its Culture

How Facebook Scaled Its Culture

Janelle Gale, VP of HR at Facebook

Hung Pham is the founder of Culture Summit, a conference that brings together founders, thought leaders, and culture champions to share insights, strategies, and best practices on transforming company culture from the bottom up.