By Kingsley Macey, Chief People Officer, Zego
Scaling any business at pace is a clear sign of success. It reflects a strong customer need for your product, a clear vision which investors want to get on board with and an exciting opportunity for employees keen to be part of the journey. Often though, rapid growth and fast-paced rounds of hiring can come at the expense of company culture, with core values potentially getting lost or becoming confused.
If there is one thing the Covid-19 pandemic has taught employers it’s the importance of a strong company culture. We saw many businesses in the UK and globally adopt and develop new priorities and ways of working to maintain a positive culture amid a number of challenges, such as remote working. Having a values centric, supportive and caring culture is what keeps workers engaged and motivated and as we return to a ‘new normal’ businesses will undoubtedly be approaching this with more vigour. For those companies who are scaling, doubling down on their values must be top priority.
According to Jobvite, 40% of workers believe culture is very important compared to 37% last year. A recent LinkedIn survey revealed that 75% of applicants consider an employer’s brand before applying for a job. For staff retention, 40% are less likely to leave in the first six months if benefits are in place. This means a company must continue to invest in its value propositions if it is to attract and retain the best people to help them grow at pace.
There are several ways a company can maintain a strong workplace culture whilst scaling. Below are five key actions that can help businesses hedge against the challenges presented by Covid-19, continue to grow and attract new talent, whilst generating trust and loyalty amongst existing staff.
1. Empower your employees: a successful and high-growth company must consist of a team that has a common goal, i.e., it must be synchronised and job-motivated. Two of the main ways employers can achieve these things is through empowerment and encouragement. Whether this be through praise, flexible working, stretch assignments, promotions, and trust in getting the job done. It also means providing development and knowing the limits of each employee, and their capabilities, so that they are not assigned a job they know they cannot perform. Current employers will have more reason to stay in a role if they are able to contribute to the growth of a company and future employees will want to be part of this brand. Some people still enjoy the comfort of working from home, whilst others will prefer to be back in a more formal office setting. Whatever works best for an employee, companies must be able to provide the right tools needed to do the job.
2. Reinforce company values and goals: often businesses who are scaling at pace will channel their focus and efforts into growth and expansion activity, with company culture potentially becoming lost in the midst of all that excitement. According to research from the workplace advice platform Rungway, 52% of employees don’t know their company’s vision. With over half
of UK workers left in the dark, this could significantly impact their ability to perform and deliver company goals, which is crucial to scaling a business. It is therefore important brands define your reason for being – the People Deal or value proposition [what employees will give and what they’ll get]. There must be a focus on values and underlying behaviours, and if at any point any of these behaviours/values need to change because a culture shift is needed.
3. Be transparent and communicate: as a company grows its headcount, it becomes increasingly difficult to maintain communication and keep the entire organisation in the loop on business updates. To ensure employees can continue to do their job to the highest standard, businesses should regularly communicate company news, developments and business goals, whilst encouraging two way communication so employees feel their voice is being heard. If a company is of a size where the whole team cannot come together, individual team leads must all deliver the same updates (ideally at the same time). If employees better understand the wins and losses, and the reasons behind decisions made by the leadership team, they will firstly know how they can contribute to improvements, and secondly will not feel excluded in a business they are keen to grow.
4. Create an open and honest environment: employers should implement tools and practices for recognition and healthy and helpful feedback, plus regular high-quality performance conversations. Organisations need to be set up where anyone can confidently share recognition and feedback with a colleague. Employers can promote recognition with internal tools like Slack, and introduce employee engagement and anonymous feedback with tools like Lattice, Peakon, Culture Amp and Slido. Businesses should also look to set up employee volunteer Tiger teams to contribute and help test and iterate initiatives on the organisation and cultural employee experience priorities.
The global pandemic has also opened up far more conversations around mental health and has seen far more employers adopt policies to support and protect their staff. Employers must continue to listen, and then build the correct tools and strategies to strengthen employee health and wellbeing if they are to be successful. This includes providing independent counselling services or access to health and wellbeing apps.
5. Encourage professional and personal development: giving future employees an opportunity to keep learning will not only allow them to acquire new skills and knowledge to support their career growth but will also equip a company with employees who are experts in their field so they can achieve fast-paced growth for that part of the business. Businesses should focus on development on the job and building future skills by offering long-term personal development schemes, including learning a new language, building social media skills or developing a company’s sustainability offering.