The inescapable truth about scaling company culture is this: once your startup gets off the ground, the culture you’ve worked hard to instill becomes harder to manage. More bodies in the office, more policies to enforce, more clients to serve and each expansion metric guarantees a faster evolving culture.
Here you are, the founder of this culture and it seems be slowly escaping. You want the company culture—like your love of the work and commitment to an innovative corporate culture—to stay the same.
Preserving Company Culture
Company culture, in particular, can be hard to preserve because it relies so much on personalities and interpreting values. That’s why it’s easy to preserve your culture when it’s just you. Even with your first handful of hires and partners, you find it’s relatively easy to preserve culture. But when your business grows to 10 or more employees, then the culture is simply out of your hands.
Below are five tips on maintaining company culture by proactively communicating and reinforcing your core values:
1. Write it down.
This may seem obvious, but many business owners don’t take the time to write down and share their values. This is a mistake. Making your values concrete in the form of a mission statement or motto makes it “real” for new hires and reminds employees about what matters.
The declaration doesn’t have to be overly formal, in fact, making it too rigid and concrete may have adverse effects. Treat it like a living document and encourage employees to take ownership.
2. Maintain front line connections.
As your company grows, you’ll lose touch with your entry-level employees and rarely interact with new hires. This can’t be helped, but you still need new employees to see you as a leader of the company’s culture.
Try having lunch with new hires occasionally, or writing a weekly blog post to let your broader team know what you’re working on. At the very least, make sure you walk around the office and say, “Hi”. There are loads of employee appreciation ideas out there, but the best ones are never forced.
3. Nurture connections across departments.
You need a community before you can create a culture. Tear down silos and make sure different departments and functions aren’t isolated. Make it a point to trumpet the successes of different departments to help everyone feel like they are part of something greater.
People in Department X should know what happens in Department Y, and why it matters to the success of the company. Don’t only focus on customer-facing or revenue-generating departments. Everyone should get the spotlight. For example, payroll services may not be as attractive as the social media team, but everyone in the company depends on the HR and accounting for their paycheck.
Another way to nurture interdepartmental relations is to try and make every department a customer-facing department. As you grow, the more outward facing employees you have the more rapport and respect they will earn from each other.
4. Take your culture out of the office.
Find an activity or location that aligns with your culture. Maybe it’s an art museum or volunteering at a homeless shelter. Maybe it’s the beach. It doesn’t matter as long as it feels like a natural place to be.
Organize an offsite retreat and give employees an opportunity to reconnect with your company culture through activities or conversations. A change of scenery lets your team break from daily routine and think beyond workplace pressures. It’s a chance to reexamine the culture that drives the work and how you can all make it better.
5. Don’t give up.
Company growth requires adaptation, but stay positive. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, or to test different approaches. An honest examination of your corporate culture takes courage, but can yield powerful results. Stay committed and you’ll find a way.
When you keep company culture central during growth periods, good work and better employee engagement follows.
This article has been edited and condensed.
Named 2015’s Young Search Professional of the Year by the US Search Awards, super nerd turned digital marketer, P.J. Howland is passionate about cutting-edge digital marketing tactics. Within his menagerie of skills; SEO, content marketing and digital analytics stand out. PJ currently lives in Salt Lake City with his beautiful wife, working at a digital marketing agency. Connect with @askPJHowland on Twitter.