Preserving Company Culture when Growing a Business Rapidly

There’s something to be said for running a small company, where everyone feels like a member of the family instead of a mere cog in the machine.  While every company needs to grow in order to remain relevant and increase successes, it can be difficult to transition to a larger corporate culture when you love the close-knit dynamic of your original team.

Is there a way to preserve your company culture when your business takes off and starts to grow?  There’s no denying you need new talent to manage a growing workload, but hiring for education and experience alone could quickly disrupt your cohesive community and irreparably damage the spirit that makes your company unique.

How can you avoid this when you have no choice but to hire new employees?  The trick is to hire the right employees – the ones that can not only handle the workload but also fit seamlessly with your established company culture.

This is no easy feat.  However, there are a number of steps you can take to determine which candidates fit the bill and there are several reasons why you should try.  Here are a few things you really need to consider when it comes to preserving company culture when your business starts to rapidly expand.

What Makes Your Company Culture Special?

More and more, businesses are coming to value company culture and the impact it has on employees.  Perhaps this is related to the rising tide of millennials in the workforce demanding jobs that provide more than just a paycheck – that also provide a fulfilling experience on both a professional and personal level.  Or maybe it’s about performance and profitability.

Either way, preserving company culture starts with understanding and defining what makes it special.  A good example of this principle at work is Zappos.  The company has a strong reputation for nurturing employees and maintaining employee engagement and retention.

This could have something to do with their reliance on 10 core values that define their culture and permeate their everyday operations.  These values include the following:

  • Deliver WOW Through Service
  • Embrace and Drive Change
  • Create Fun and a Little Weirdness
  • Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded
  • Pursue Growth and Learning
  • Build Open and Honest Relationships with Communication
  • Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit
  • Do More with Less
  • Be Passionate and Determined
  • Be Humble

What makes this company so special is that they don’t just pay lip service to these ideals – employees are encouraged to embrace them in everything they do.  Even as the company grows, staying true to their core values has helped them to retain the community spirit and commitment to employee welfare that got them where they are today.

Another good example is MyCorporation, a California-based company that helps other businesses form corporate entities by providing online document filing services.  According to CEO Deborah Sweeney, working with startups helped the company to adopt a “startup mentality”, even as the company grew and the staff expanded to over 50 employees.

The team remains connected through activities like potlucks and field trips, but the most important factor is how they treat each other.  Says Sweeney, “We treat one another with kindness and encourage each other to contribute. This allows us to focus on the big picture and work hard, but also enjoy those work days, too.”

Why Should You Preserve Company Culture?

Pinpointing what makes corporate culture special is just the tip of the iceberg.  You also need strong reasons to work hard at preserving it, and there are several.  An attractive corporate culture not only helps you to nab top talent, but it also contributes to job satisfaction, overall performance, employee retention, corporate image, and everything that makes a company successful.

Columbia Business School accounting professor Shiva Rajgopal became interested not in the effects of corporate culture on employees, but on how corporate executives value company culture.  Along with a few colleagues, he set out to survey more than 1,400 CEOs and CFOs in a 13-month study that ended in October 2015.

His intensive, 17-point survey found that 90% of executives thought corporate culture was important and 92% believed improving their culture would increase the value of the company.  Over half of respondents agreed that culture has an impact on creativity, performance, productivity, and growth, but tellingly, only 15% believed their corporate culture was where it should be.  In other words, corporate culture is important, but many companies have yet to make it a priority, or perhaps they don’t quite know where to start.

As an executive recruitment firm, we have seen the impact company culture has on its employees.  Take a look at these stats we put together:

Finding the Right Fit

Once you’ve defined your company culture and made it a priority, it’s time to figure out how to hire the people who are going to support and contribute to the existing community.  First, you need to take a multifaceted approach to hiring that includes consideration of education, experience, and personality.

Building a diverse team, with many backgrounds and opinions can add significant value and perspective to your team. Look for those who identify with your brand, but still, have their own unique opinions and ideas to contribute.  You want people who are comfortable working with others and embody a certain flexibility that allows for tolerance and growth.

How do you “find the right fit”?  For starters, you’ll want to shake up the interview process.  Try interviewing candidates in batches to see how they respond in group settings (versus one-on-one).  You should also have several different people interview top candidates to get different reads on their responses.  You might even walk them around the office and see how they take it in and how they interact with employees.

From there, you need to deviate from standard interview questions to get a sense of personality.  Present candidates with a framework for your culture and values and gauge their reaction.  Are they excited, confused, or bewildered?  Ask questions relating to your culture, ideals, and values.  Ask about their interests and activities outside of work.  Ask about their personal values, why they want to be part of your team, and what they can contribute beyond filling the necessities of the position.

Preserving company culture in a rapidly growing business is not easy, but it can be done.  You just have to take a thoughtful and forward-thinking approach to the hiring process by defining your culture, understanding why preserving it is important, and working to find the right people to add to your team.

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