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How do you build and maintain culture in a rapidly scaling business?

As a company grows – regardless of the industry, size, or demographic makeup – the people who make up that company will largely determine its success. And building and maintaining a company culture that directs employees during times of incredible growth is challenging but critical to the success of your business. Of course, doing so in a remote or hybrid environment can add a layer of complexity, particularly if your only experience with this kind of work is post-COVID. But even if you’re in the office daily, ensuring your company culture leads to the right behaviors to drive your business forward is crucial.

Here are some things you can do to keep culture front and center as your company is rapidly growing.

Take time to understand and document what’s great about your culture. Culture has been described in many ways, but I like this simple definition: Culture is a set of meaningful, repetitive behaviors within a group. So start with the meaningful behaviors that make your company a great place to work. These behaviors must be authentic, unique, and true to your business. Just saying “be truthful” or “act with integrity” isn’t enough. Document those behaviors in clear and straightforward language. Identifying anti-behaviors can also be helpful. While “taking risks” might be a cultural value, “taking uninformed risks” might not be.

Figure out whether there are parts of your culture that need to evolve as you grow. While many companies can tell you what they love about their culture (and wish they could change), they aren’t always clear about what might need to change as they grow. For example, part of your current culture might be daily all-team standups. With 12 people, this is manageable. However, with 120 people, it’s unwieldy and inefficient. Take the time to identify and move away from the wrong behaviors before they become problematic for your business.

Invest in a strong onboarding program. As you bring new people into your company, ensuring they understand your company’s culture is one of the most important activities you can undertake. In a fast-growing environment, supporting new people in intensely appreciating what makes your company unique will pay dividends. Do this by discussing your company values, their meaning, and how they are demonstrated. You’ll also want to ensure they understand that they will be held accountable for living those values during their tenure with your company. 

Build your cultural behaviors into performance, rewards, and recognition programs. Onboarding is a critical period, but it’s not enough. Once employees have joined your organization and learned about its culture, you must regularly reinforce the behaviors you want to encourage. This means building your desired cultural behaviors into your performance and promotion rubrics. Recognize and reward employees for demonstrating positive cultural behaviors. Finally, encourage managers and colleagues to celebrate one another for what they do and how they do it. Culture lives throughout your entire organization.

About Anitra St. Hilaire

Anitra is the VP of People at ThreeFlow. She has more than 15 years of experience in growing companies with best-in-class people practices. In her free time, she’s an avid reader and loves playing board games with her family.