How to Maintain Company Culture During a Period of Hyper-Growth
There is a quote by Akio Toyoda, president and CEO of Toyota Motor Corporation, that resonates with me: “Trouble results when the speed of growth exceeds the speed of nurturing human resources. To use the analogy of growth rings in a tree, when unusually rapid growth causes the rings to grow abnormally thick, the tree trunk weakens and is easily broken.“
When my company, WalkMe, grew from 40 to 150 people within a year and a half, I knew that I didn’t want the “growth rings” of my company to “grow abnormally thick.” I saw a need to maintain a close-knit startup culture in order to nurture the very things that made my company successful in the first place — these things included my staff, company culture, traditions and values. In order to keep WalkMe’s structural integrity intact, we implemented changes in the way we connected so that our 150-person team feels just as close as when the company first started.
Here are four tips on how to successfully grow your company while maintaining the winning formula that preserves your company culture:
Recognize Employee Contributions
During the early stages of a company, it is easy to personally praise employees who make substantial contributions, because you bump into them in the hallways or even share a room with them. As the company grows and the ranks begin to swell, keeping up with each employee’s accomplishments becomes much more difficult to track and recognize. We go the extra mile to recognize employee accomplishments and make them feel appreciated. For example, we award breakfast vouchers and other fun gifts to employees who have exceeded their key performance indicators, in addition to doling out standard bonuses.
Maintain Stellar Hiring Standards
Scaling up means that there is a great deal of pressure to hire quickly. However, if you sacrifice talent and passion for numbers, you will take a hit as the average quality of your workforce declines. Try to maintain the hiring standards you had from the beginning. At WalkMe, we are adamant about hiring passionate superstars who are not only the best at what they do, but also fit our company culture. All candidates are subjected to a personal interview and are asked to complete high-level professional skills tests. The professional skills tests are exercises that candidates are asked to complete using WalkMe products to ensure that the candidate understands what we do.
Preserve Company Traditions
Traditions create the uniqueness that distinguishes your company from others. The type and strength of company traditions are often the defining factors that sets apart successful companies and thus, it is imperative to maintain and develop these valued traditions. One of our traditions is a company-wide assembly every Thursday afternoon for beer and munchies, where a representative from each department presents his or her team’s accomplishments — usually to rounds of applause. This is a tradition we started when the company numbered just 15 people and continues to this day with over 150 employees. And with departments growing, we make sure each has their own night to bond with each other.
Encourage an Open-Door Policy
During periods of expansion, communication between employees and senior management can be tougher. Even so, a direct line of communication should always be open between employee ranks. Foster an environment that nurtures the fluidity of ideas so that employees feel free to voice their opinions, share their experiences and offer advice. In practice, we do this by regularly initiating one-on-one conversations with employees and scheduling brainstorming sessions with each department — not just with the department head.
Scaling up is one of the most exciting periods in a young company’s life. However, make sure you don’t get caught up in the excitement and fail to continue investing in the core values that made your company the success it is today. Following these tips above should help “keep the spirit alive” and safeguard your greatest asset: your human capital.