4 Ways to Proactively Shift Your Culture Before You Outgrow It
The thought of upheaving a culture you've worked tirelessly to perfect might feel a bit unnerving, but it's a natural step for any growing company. After all, your four-person startup's culture should look starkly different from that of a 200-person company. Like the entrepreneurial landscape itself, you need to adapt in order to survive -- culture included.
Unfortunately, many entrepreneurs lose sight of this fact. They assume that sponsoring happy hours or furnishing their morning meetings with a spread of fruits and bagels constitutes a healthy culture.
But perks don't make a culture -- unless, of course, they support it.
Take Digital Telepathy, for example. The website designer provides employees with betterment bonuses. Team members receive $1,500 each year to spend on a project to better themselves in some way. They can take on anything they want; the only caveat is that they must share their experience with the team.
Digital Telepathy understands that culture doesn't exist in a bubble. It's a living and breathing thing that needs to evolve, both inside and outside the office. If you don't attend to it, moods will plummet, employees will disengage and turnover will skyrocket.
If you've kept an eye on your company culture, you'll inevitably start to see signs of a cultural shift. Instead of letting it happen without you, take an active role in the process.
Here's how to do that:
1. Make a conscious decision to mold the culture you wish to create.
It has to start with you. If your company is undergoing a growth transition, choose the kind of culture you wish to establish going forward. Have a clear idea in mind, and cement the values most important to you. If you're not leading by example, it doesn't matter how many emails you send or how many town halls you hold -- your company will not shift.
2. Gain staff buy-in.
Although you hold the power to change your culture, that change won't materialize unless others support it. That's why employees should play a role in cultural shifts. Talk to staff about their opinions, and administer a survey or two. If employees take part in the process, they'll be more likely to adopt the new culture.
But don't rely on existing staff alone. Tap employees leaving the organization. By conducting thorough exit interviews, you can better understand why people choose to leave. If you see a clear trend, fix the areas where staff members are most dissatisfied.
3. Put it in writing.
You don't have to produce a long, drawn-out statement, but you should document your expectations for the cultural change. Define the change in terms of values, customers, policies and services. Refer back to it regularly.
Make sure the content you produce is helpful for your staff, as well as new hires. Create slides, graphs or presentations that are easy for your team to understand; there's no point in issuing another 100-page HR manual.
Netflix became something of a celebrity company in the Silicon Valley community when CEO Reed Hastings created his renowned "Netflix Culture" presentation, in which he detailed how he hires, fires and rewards employees. It was written to clarify for employees what's important for success, what to expect from one other and how the company operates.
4. Incorporate the cultural changes in hiring (and firing) practices.
From the moment you decide to change your company culture, base all hiring decisions on it. Make sure every employee coming into your organization aligns with and believes in the new culture.
Take a long, hard look at existing staff, and do the same. Regardless of background or contribution, a particular employee may need to go if he no longer fits the culture. One person can disrupt the positive changes you're making to your company, and stringing him or her along might not be worth it.
Your company culture should reflect the mission and direction of your growing company. If they're in sync, employees will feel excited to come to work every morning and stay engaged throughout the day. And when you build the framework for a culture everyone can get on board with, no one will want to leave.
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