Startups pride themselves on innovation and driving industry standards higher by thinking outside the box. This wouldn’t be possible without the creative thinkers that make up the startup workforce. These companies also have an opportunity to subvert traditional workplace cultures and redesign how employees engage with their jobs.
But as your successful startup scales, there is the danger that the company culture will get diluted, impacting your product and company as a whole. How do you continue to maintain your culture while simultaneously growing beyond the initial group that invented it?
Understanding what creates culture is an important first step. Culture is a collective set of behaviors practiced by the people in your company. Therefore, inviting the people involved in your startup to understand and take part in implementing company culture is integral to its success.
Here are five tips for keeping your culture that drives growth as your startup scales.
1. Track Your Current Culture
You can only monitor data you’re actively tracking, so putting in place a system for evaluating company culture is important. Culture may seem ineffable and hard to quantify, but brushing it aside as an immeasurable quality can mean that defining it also slips through your fingers. Find a way to visually or verbally lay out your current company culture. By incorporating feedback from current employees, you can begin to construct a map of where you are. Only by understanding the current location can you begin to visualize where you are headed and what is the optimal way to get there.
2. Put Culture into Practice
Putting culture into practice takes many forms. Maybe that looks like setting aside time on the agenda at team meetings to hear from everyone at the table. Maybe it involves inviting new employees to not only read through shared norms but add their own. Maybe it is a story you tell during the on-boarding process.
However you choose to enact your core values, be sure that the method is put into practice consistently. Building methods to enact your values into the integral structure of your organization ensures the longevity of what you stand for. It is essential to make sure you are acting on your values rather than merely stating them.
3. Empower Your Employees
According to PGI, 88 percent of workforce employees prefer collaboration over competition with other team members. Creating a company culture that fosters collaboration can increase innovation, productivity, and overall morale. Fostering a judgement-free workplace where employees feel empowered to come forward with their ideas means that your company is more resilient and effective.
Collaboration software such as Ideadrop can help engage employees on a horizontal plane, fostering partnerships amongst members of different teams and loosening the intimidation of presenting new ideas to a superior. Considering how you can involve more of your employees in the conversation is putting into practice a culture that encourages people to work together for the success of the company as a whole.
4. Hire Employees Who Share Your Core Values
By valuing ingenuity and drive over experience and accolades, startups have often attracted a diverse workforce that strengthens their agility as organizations.
In hiring new employees to support your growth, think about how these individuals may align with your mission. But more importantly, how can these individuals take ownership over your company’s shared values? Approach hiring with an open mind. Rather than applying the script of your company culture as a litmus test, examine how new hires can breath new life into your company’s goals.
While it’s important to have clearly articulated values, it is equally important to allow those values to grow and evolve. Employees are much more likely to apply themselves fully in a work environment where they feel a sense of ownership over the company culture and direction.
5. Avoid Siloing
Building a company culture doesn’t happen in a vacuum.
We are all influenced by where we come from and the world that we interact with on a daily basis, within and outside of work. Understanding the broader cultural context that your company is operating in can go a long way towards making work a welcoming space for your employees.
Consider the context of each location where your offices are situated and how you can engage with the local community. Adjusting company practices and being cognizant of language to remain in tune with the broader cultural context can only lead to happier employees and increase brand loyalty.
We also live in a world where culture is not a clean slate; each individual interaction is informed by power structures related to race and gender. Reflect an understanding of this in your employee policies, and make sure you have transparent channels for employees to voice concerns related to these topics in a meaningful way.
One of the most important things to remember is that you want a company culture that drives growth and innovation. Nothing is etched in stone, including the culture itself. While developing and articulating a shared set of values and putting those into consistent practice is vital, view culture as an evolving entity with various stakeholders, much as you do any of your products.