Growth is great. You don’t need us to tell you that. It’s proof that your business efforts are going successfully, and it opens you up to a whole new world of opportunities and people.
But new people come with new personalities. New locations create new boundaries. And it can be hard to maintain the company culture that you’ve been nurturing all along.
Why is your company culture so important? It’s the one thing that makes your business unique. It’s your personality; the energy that’s helped your business get this far. And it’s something your competitors will never be able to replicate.
So, what can you do to maintain your company culture during rapid growth? Fresh off the back of expanding into central London and Bristol, we’ve counted down our 6 top tips.
Hire the right people
Your people are your most important asset, and their experience and qualifications mean zilch if they’re not the right cultural fit. But how do you know when someone is ticking the cultural boxes?
We love Chris Hill’s approach. He’s successfully engaged 1500 people across 26 locations as CEO of The New World Trading Company; making it into the Top 10 of The Sunday Times’ Best Companies to Work For list for three years running.
If your business was a person, what would their personality be like? Once you’ve established that, only hire people who share those traits and your values. Sure, it might take longer to find the perfect fit, but you’ll reap the rewards in the long term.
Tom & Tina Warner, the couple behind Fast Track 100 featured Warner’s Distillery, also emphasised the importance of hiring slow and firing fast when they joined us at our HUB CP event in October.
Tina said: “When you know it’s wrong, end it. Having the wrong people in the wrong roles can be damaging. Have the difficult conversation, don’t put it off.”
Keep your values centre stage
Clearly defining your purpose and your values was the first step in our How To Improve Employee Engagement guide, and here it is again. Why? Because we can’t stress how important and beneficial it is.
As you grow, every interviewee that arrives at your office should already know the values you stand for and the purpose that drives your business. So, start by defining values that you’re proud of, and then shout about them on your website and your social media channels.
Make them the spine of your business and keep reinforcing them as you expand into new locations. A placard on the wall in every office is a start, as is emphasis on your values during your induction process. But for true longevity and impact, you’ve got to live them and lead by example.
Look at each of your values and ask yourself what you’re doing to bring those words to life. Champion them. And unite your people in a common purpose. Here at Cooper Parry, we measure our people’s performance against our values as well as their results. It’s proved to be a great way of continually showing everyone how important our values are to us as a business, and it makes the vision they’re engaging to crystal-clear.
From humble beginnings in a cosy, close-knit office, to cross-border conversations in exotic tongues – growth at any scale puts business’s communication to the test.
Luckily, as our workplaces become a melting pot of five generations, we’ve got technology on our side. Let’s make sure we use it to its full potential, because creating an inspiring digital culture is the most effective way of keeping everyone in the loop, wherever they may be.
Cloud-based collaboration tools like Microsoft Teams work wonders. It’s got an in-built instant messaging feature and you can create group pages that are great for collaborating on projects. Conversations and shared documents exist in Teams, instead of multiple inboxes, meaning you’re always working on the latest version together, and you can do so from any location. All you need is an internet connection.
As we’ve expanded into central London and Bristol, we’ve used Microsoft Teams as our hub for news posts and business updates. It’s replaced all-user emails (yuck) with an interactive noticeboard that lets our people “like” content and share their thoughts and questions in the comments section. Communications are more two-way, everyone has a voice, and it’s less “Kind regards” and more cat GIFs (we know which one we prefer).
The integrated high-quality audio and video calls mean working together in real time has never been easier. And we even use Teams to live stream and record our monthly update get-togethers, so nobody misses out.
Without feedback, improvements can’t be made. It was one of the key features in our article on What Really Motivates Employees, and it’s the key to learning, adapting and maintaining your company culture as you scale up.
Keeping regular feedback loops open connects you with your people. And it lets them know their thoughts and opinions matter, even when there are borders between you.
Your people in Location A will have different expectations, opinions and issues to those in Location B. And to make sure every success is celebrated, and every problem is dealt with swiftly, you need to be hearing from them regularly.
That’s why annual engagement surveys don’t work as a standalone feedback solution; there’s no continuity, and issues are left unaddressed and festering for months. The key lies in consistent engagement. We’ve opted for our weekly “How’s It Going?” happiness survey. It asks our people to rate their week from 1-10 and leave a comment about anything they’d like – anonymously if they please. It’s given us a platform to share successes and iron out any issues, pronto.
Designing your new culture canvas
Or your new environment, in plainer terms.
Whether you’re expanding into an office, a warehouse, a shop or otherwise, you’ve got a clean slate to give your people and your visitors a taste of what your business is all about. And whether you opt for quirky and playful, or classy and sophisticated, the design should reflect your culture, communicate your values and be optimised for the way your people work.
Whenever people walk through any of your doors, they should have the same first impression. They should feel the same aura. That’s when you’ve got your brand identity spot on, and that’s when your culture will carry across your locations.
Then, there’s the office design elements that can have a big impact on productivity, and we’ve covered them here.
Celebrating your people’s achievements is an important part of maintaining your connection with them and your culture as you scale up. Build and spread a culture of recognition, where no success – big or small – goes unnoticed. Your people’s motivation and drive will skyrocket, because they know their hard work isn’t going unnoticed.
Again, as with feedback, you need these celebrations to be much more frequent than some end of year awards. This is something you need to plant inside your business from day one. Make it part of day-to-day life.
We’re not telling you to throw a party every week; shout-outs and other small, non-monetary awards have a telling effect. And they’re super easy to maintain and repeat in the long term.
This is another area The New World Trading Company are leading the way on. Their “Message in a Bottle” scheme gives their people the chance to send messages of appreciation and congratulations to each other. And because they’re delivered in tiny glass bottles, it ties in perfectly with their brand image and culture of exploration.
At Cooper Parry, we have Cheers for Peers, where our people can shout-out each other in digital or written form. And then there’s our monthly Flamin’ Awesome award, which sees our people publicly nominate those who have delivered a red-hot customer experience (CX). The winner is presented with their prizes at our monthly company-wide get-togethers, and their name is put up on posters and screens around the office.
Your culture won’t grow by itself
Only a handful of large, multi-national companies are renowned for their company culture. And that’s because scaling up has the potential to strip your business of its close-knit, personal feel. But you don’t have to reminisce fondly over the good old days, when things were smaller and simpler. The fantastic culture you have now can grow, expand and evolve with you on your journey. You just need to put some thought into it.