Fast Growth Means You Need to Pay Extra Attention to Culture

Article main image
Jun 19, 2018

Congratulations! Whether it is a cross-border merger, explosive market growth or a new technology that is working better than you had ever hoped, you have the best problem a business can have: managing rapid growth.

As you encounter all the joys and pains your new scale brings, make sure you work to preserve the strategic advantages that played a big part in your company’s exponential growth: your workforce and culture.

Culture is the most critical part of your talent strategy when guiding your employees through the stages of rapid company growth. Keeping your people connected to your company’s core values is essential before, after, and – importantly – during the growth period, which itself challenges your company’s beliefs and behavior.

Culture cannot be dictated from the top; it must be integrated into all levels of your management team and down through the rank and file.

To be sure, executive leadership is as critical as it has ever been, but effective leaders can no longer get away with creating a mandate at the top and expecting a workforce to snap into line. The best leaders must get comfortable delegating and using technology, group tools and coaching to translate company-level priorities into individual actions and ownership through every echelon of the organization. This change in mindset is not optional for companies and leaders who want to successfully manage through dramatic organizational change.

Leveraging technology

Using the right technology will become increasingly important in making workers feel invested in and connected to your organization’s culture. In your day-to-day life, as in the lives of your employees, you have come to expect your phone and parts of your home to respond to you in an instant and personal way – Alexa and Siri have long since learned your musical tastes, and it might be a grocery-shopping app, rather than your spouse, to remind you to buy milk.

Employees increasingly are expecting the same type of engagement at work.

Says Steve Boese, co-chair of the HR Technology Conference, “I have no reason to doubt that, just as with smartphones and tablets before them, more and more employees and company leaders are going to press for similar digital-assistant capability from HR, workplace and workforce-productivity solutions. Companies and leaders that successfully marshal these technologies as part of their HR strategy will be the ones to create and grow business value with their culture.

No matter what sectors or markets your company targets for expansion, you will still rely on your people to execute your strategy. The right culture combined with that strategy will put you levels ahead of competitors who expect mandates alone to inspire workers to be their best. When all your people drive your culture, you are positioned to make the most of their innovative, collaborative thinking – a resource that executives working in isolation just don’t unlock in the same way.

Preserving culture

Mergers pose unique challenges to a company’s culture: Leaders must retain the uniqueness and value of each organization, while at the same time giving all employees good reasons to embrace and participate in the new culture of the combined organization.

Few companies truly succeed at this. Historically, strategy mainly existed on paper: spreadsheets, redundancy calculation, analysis of new markets and evaluation of costs to cut. Moving it off the page and into the workplace means a heightened awareness of and attention to people, and how they fit and interact with each other.

The shift to a people focus must happen quickly. While it won’t be effortless, it is worthwhile to ramp up communication efforts discussing the reasons for the combination. Put yourself in the shoes of different groups of employees and how they will be affected. Get granular and look at different constituencies of your workforce. To realize all of the value you intend to create with your growth, you want your people to be as invested in the change as you are and happy about making it happen.