What I Learned About Scaling Up Amid Digital Transformation
There are many things I wish I knew before we dove into scaling our company, exponentially increasing our headcount, and pursuing digital transformation all at the same time. That’s why I’m writing this article. In the early days, when it was just myself and the first few employees, we worked in a room so small that the person sitting closest to the door had to stand up and move out of the way if someone wanted to go to the bathroom. Fast forward a few years. WalkMe is a global company with three U.S. offices and locations in Israel, Australia, and France. We have over 750 employees and use more than 170 internal digital systems. We’ve pioneered a new breed of software now used by 30% of the Fortune 500 and just led the establishment of a new SaaS category, digital adoption solutions. I can’t overstate how proud I am of the success WalkMe has achieved, but it wasn’t without growing pains. After some reflection, I’ve outlined the five most important pieces of advice I’d give other leaders who are scaling their companies in the digital era.
Hiring is not as easy as you think it will beFinding top-tier talent fast is critical when you’re growing rapidly. At WalkMe, we’re expanding our human capital by 20%-25% per quarter. Identifying the people who are qualified to fulfill your needs and take your business to the next level is one challenging aspect. The other is successfully onboarding them.
Building out your management team the right way is the first essential consideration. It’s difficult to hire and sufficiently onboard more than two executives in a year, but sometimes it’s a necessity. If I could go back and do one thing differently, it would be to invest many more resources in human resources and appoint an HR executive much earlier. With a solid management team and alignment with HR, you can be more confident that every subsequent level of management and employees are aligned with the core vision. The reality is, when you’re growing fast, there can be a point where nearly 50% of your organization has been with the company for less than a year. When this is the case, ensuring your workforce is highly skilled, believes in the core values, and well integrated into the culture is fundamental.
“Every time you think you’ve cut a corner, you’ll end up paying for it later — guaranteed. This is true in your technology investments, your leadership appointments, and your digital strategy.”
Letting go of people is even harderOn the other side of the coin, saying goodbye to the leaders and employees who won’t take you to the next level is just as important as hiring the right people. We realized over time that we made some wrong hires along the way. We introduced people who turned out not to be a good fit — because they didn’t cohere with the organizational culture, they didn’t promote the values we stand for, or they weren’t equipped to lead. Whatever the reason, those people created human capital debts that took us a long time to recover. We learned we need to make brave decisions when it comes to our leadership. Otherwise, you can end up with a toxic environment where an entire department is frustrated, unhappy, and stagnant. Remember this essential truth: When people quit, they quit their boss.
Employee enablement must be central to your digital strategyWhen thinking about how to scale up our human capital, develop our product, and boost internal digital capabilities, we knew we had to find a way to expedite employee onboarding. Fast time-to-competency and adoption of our internal processes are critical to boosting productivity as we continue to grow. None of that is possible without a solid infrastructure to promote enablement. This is something we work extremely hard on. Enablement encompasses two key areas. Communication is one of the most important. In the early days, everyone could chat by the coffee machine to learn what’s going — company news, projects within departments, solving problems.
But when you’re a global company dispersed across several time zones, this is no longer feasible. People communicate via email and Slack, often with people they’ve never met face-to-face. Unless your digital strategy addresses how to communicate and collaborate, it will be impossible to streamline work and achieve the necessary level of coordination to achieve core goals. The other main component of enablement involves having the technical infrastructure, systems, and processes in place to guide employees through onboarding and beyond. A growing workforce means new processes, demand for digital tools, and greater necessity for support. You have to be able to anticipate employee needs, and also react fast when unexpected challenges arise.
“Each time we didn’t go with the market leader for a given software platform, the tool failed us as soon as we tried to scale.”