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How to Maintain Culture in a High Growth Environment

22/06/2017 By Claudia Cohen

Keeping your company culture alive in times of change is a challenge for businesses at all stages. And it’s a challenge that our team at La Fosse is all too familiar with. We’re a people-focused business, and one of the UK’s fastest growing companies. Treating people well has been at our heart from the beginning and it still remains our cultural focus. But it has taken commitment, resources and a few learning curves along the way.

This June, La Fosse hosted an interactive workshop on how to maintain culture in a high growth environment, led by consultant Dominic Monkouse. Bringing together talent professionals from across the industry spectrum, including fintech start-ups and coffee chains, the group shared their experiences, challenges and questions. 

Should culture be organic or communicated?
How can you change culture without losing heritage?
How do you know when to review your culture?
How can you drive culture when you are offshore?
How do you keep culture alive through management layers?
How do you template it at the beginning to prepare for scale?

Why is culture important? 

Culture is a key component of a company’s worth, along with talent, management systems and capabilities. Staff who are engaged tend to give more for less pay and are happy to do so, compared to employees doing the bare minimum. That’s why companies with Best Companies star ratings tend to outperform the FTSE. Creating a good culture means you can grow your business without hiring people and you won’t have high staff turnover.

With this in mind, Dominic shared his advice on evaluating, creating and maintaining successful cultures within organisations like Rackspace and Microsoft.  

Evaluation

Look for evidence
Give new employees a notebook on their first day and ask them to write down observations. It could be as simple as the boardroom marker not working. A broken marker is a sign that no one in the business cares. If an employee really cares about your business they’ll find a solution to any problem, even if it isn’t theirs to fix.

Get an outsider perspective
If you want to understand your company culture, use a fresh pair of eyes. Have a prospective employee come into the office for a day and observe how the team talks about the business. 

Get an insider perspective
Survey apps like Peakon, The Culture Amp, Officevibe and TINYpulse will help you find out what your staff really think and provide some external benchmarks. 

Creation

You have to create it
If you don’t dedicate time and resources into creating your culture, you’ll end up with a culture you don’t like that won’t work for your business or your people. Create three memorable doing words that set you apart when you create your company culture. And when you do this, ensure you keep your company purpose in mind. 

What is your business purpose?
What three values make you distinct? 

Look to your customers

Your profits will come from 10% or less of your customers. So it’s important to ensure you’re creating a culture they buy into as well. People tend to pick companies to buy from because they’d like to work there themselves.

Managers don’t motivate

You can't manage and motivate people, you can only create the environment. Managers need to create the context and empower employees to motivate themselves. 

Maintenance

Create a culture lead
Maintaining the culture shouldn’t sit with one particular team, but you do need an individual within the organization to drive it. Give this individual ownership, but make sure they don’t have to do all the work. It’s a team effort.  

Shout about it
Communicate it in your office space, and weave it into your everyday processes. If you put it on your office walls, anyone who walks into your building will know what the company is about immediately. 

Don’t let rules ruin it
Businesses often react to growth by creating rules and processes, which can make the culture spiral. If you really do need rules, explain why they are there, why they are important and how they benefit the team. 

Remember 150
According to the Dunbar number, the maximum number of people you can have a relationship with is 150. Organisations of 150 and more risk their people losing connections to other people in the business. Consider dividing the business into smaller units that operate together. 

Your office facilitates it
Your office is the biggest physical manifestation of your culture and there are some easy fixes to help maintain culture when it's expanding. 

Regular desk moves help build relationships with people outside your team
Strategically placed coffee machines force people to talk to each other
Unplanned collisions get people talking – make people bump into each other 

Hire cultural fits
People spend 2% of their time recruiting and 75% managing their recruiting mistakes. A great culture attracts great people so build this into your selection process along with skills and experience.  

Feedback:

'It was a thoroughly engaging and thought provoking session - lots and lots of actionable tips and tricks. 100% satisfaction.'

'Great to spend some time thinking and talking about company culture.'

'Excellent & thought provoking with useful takeaways.'

'A useful insight into the 'possible' without boundaries.'

 

Further reading material:

For further information on creating a culture that works for your business, Dom recommends the following reading material: 

- The Happy Manifesto, by Henry Stewart
- Organizational Culture and Leadership, by Edgar H. Schein
- The Value Profit Chain, by James L Heskett, Leonard A. Schlesinger, and W. Sasser
- The Human Side of Enterprise, by Douglas McGregor
- Messy, by Tim Harford
- Give and Take, by Adam Grant

About Dominic Monkhouse

Dom is a consultant, business coach, non-executive director and chairman helping businesses achieve growth in uncertain times. Having worked with clients ranging from Microsoft through t fast-growing SMEs, Dom has a strong record of net new revenue growth. He works with entrepreneurs, business owners and shareholders to achieve growth, while defining and maintaining a culture to attract the right people to drive their business forward.

 

For more information on attending our next event, contact claudia.cohen@lafosse.com

Tagged In: Culture, Events
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