Alex Tonelli started Funding Circle, a platform to match investors with small business owners, in August 2010. With a small group of just over a dozen employees, he saw an explosion in growth within a few months in 2014. “We went from 15 to 40 [employees] in about two months,” he said in an interview with Blue Dun. “It was a whirlwind.”
During this up-spin, Tonelli said, he was confronted with the question, how can organizations develop strong employee relationships and maintain them as the workforce continues to grow?
He's hardly alone in dealing with this issue. Here are strategies for how HR can help you manage your employee relationships during a time of growth:
Develop a shared vision.
Despite the size of the company, employees need to share a goal and a vision, and HR can play a major part in promoting the company’s large-scale goals to the staff. This requires cascading goals from the organizational level down to the individual.
Goal alignment should be a resolution for every leader. So, provide your employees with detailed descriptions of how their daily actions contribute to the overall success of the company’s objectives.
Visuals, such as graphs and charts that show goal progression can be motivational because they show employees how much further they have to go to complete a task or project. Breaking the bigger picture down to the individual gives everyone an idea of how his or her performance relates to the team’s overall performance.
However, developing a shared vision is not a set-it-and-forget-it strategy. The vision needs to be sustained and continually exemplified in all facets of the company.
As the inventor and CEO of Ring, a mobile home-monitoring application, Jamie Siminoff says he understands the importance of aligning action with vision.
“Having a strong mission is cheating,” Simonoff said on This Week in Startups. “It makes it so easy to run the business and keep everyone on track.” He explained how a simple mission for his staff, like “reducing crime in neighborhoods,” removes distractions and keeps everyone aligned and focused on the sort of future growth that makes sense.
Foster open communication.
The larger the company, the more walls get put up, but don’t let those walls close out employees. This can lead to distrust. And once companies lose the trust of their workforce, they will have a difficult time rebuilding those employee relationships.
So watch out for a disconnect at all levels of the organization. A 2016 Chartered Management Institute survey of 1,456 managers and executives found that while 72 percent of those in senior leadership thought they were trusted by employees, only 36 percent of managers agreed.
To close this gap, provide every employee with an opportunity to speak up and ask questions. Create an internal social network to keep everyone informed about company updates. This news feed can provide information about upcoming events, like a company happy hour or teambuilding retreat.
It’s also important to create structure and order when it comes to open communication. For example, letting everyone just speak up whenever and in whatever way they want makes it difficult to manage communications. Instead, establish policies and procedures that encourage open communication in a way that’s effective.
For example, which method of communication is best for asking questions about a project or adding notes to a client’s file? Define policies and explain what channel to use when it comes time to share information.
The ultimate goal is transparency, where everyone can see what actions are being performed and understand why. Transparency also teaches accountability, where employees can get involved in setting goals for themselves and monitoring their own performance.
Giving your staff the ability to hold themselves accountable is another great way to build positive employee relationships. It shows that leadership trusts its staff members to do their work in a timely, effective manner.
Maintain your culture.
While dynamics certainly change as more employees join the team, it’s crucial to stay consistent with company culture.
If a company is built on a culture of transparency, then that culture needs to be maintained as the company grows. Open communication is a start, but it should also extend to all processes. Without open communication, employee relationships will suffer.
For example, as Wrike’s 2015 Work Management Survey found, missing information and unclear leadership are some of the top stressors at work. When employees don’t understand their goals and get the sense that their leadership doesn’t have a clear understanding of how the company plans to continually grow, they feel stressed and concerned about all of the changes.
Another important aspect of a transparent culture is recognition. To build better employee relationships, leaders should be celebrating successes and giving their staff feedback on their performance regularly. Train management on how to manage performance, to avoid turning employees off.
Also, don’t let the fast-paced environment of a growing company hurt employees’ work-life balance. Ensure management is listening so the staff isn’t under intense stress and struggling with an unrealistic workload.
Employee relationships are the foundation of a strong, unified team. Emphasize the shared vision for your company, encourage open communication, use technology to better connect everyone in a large organization and don’t let your leadership lose sight of the value of transparency.