“Whatever I do [within our culture], I need to be able to do it for 100 people,” says Srujal Sheth, President and CEO of Vana Solutions in this video featured on Forbes. It’s one of the lessons she’s learned in supporting her organization’s culture as it grows.
“The question is, ‘How do you stay small while you get big?’” adds Scott Becker, Chief Operating Officer of Alternate Solutions Health Network, when talking about how to successfully scale culture at a company that’s growing quickly.
“In the beginning, it was easy to manage culture, because, as leaders, we knew everyone,” explains Chad Creech, Chief Development Officer of Alternate Solutions Health Network. Chad has seen the company grow from about 40 employees to more than 1,000.
“We knew employees’ names. We knew their birthdays and all those different pieces. We knew what culture we wanted. It was easy for us to manage the culture personally, because we were touching every process,” Chad adds. “As we grew to more than 150 employees, we did have to put more structure into place that would allow us to start measuring success, not only in performance, but also through culture. We had to start creating committees of people to help us manage our culture.”
Chad says that involved creating groups of people, within the organization, who had maintaining culture as part of their role. “For example, in our clinical field staff, we created a clinical field council that was the voice of the clinicians in the field. We talked to all of them and they helped make the new guidelines and the new processes to help us maintain how we were performing, and our culture,” says Chad. “We really empower the people now to help us maintain the culture that we built years ago.”
Here are 3 other ways to approach scaling culture in a growing organization.
1. Re-assess How You Hire
Being able to evolve and scale the organization’s culture has influenced the way that Alternate Solutions Health Network hires and brings on talent. Now more than ever they are more forward-thinking in their approach to seeking and hiring employees.
“Now we are hiring that person for what we need in one, two, and three years out,” explains Chad. “It’s not just hiring for the position that we need today.”
These new hires, in the past, had attended a Beliefs Meetings, which was a quarterly in-person meeting where they would learn about the company history, vision, values, and culture from company owners and founders, Tessie and David Ganzsarto.
Alternate Solutions Health Network determined that more meetings would be needed on a more frequent basis because of how often people were coming on-board. “We felt the sooner a new employee gets introduced to our culture, understands our beliefs, understands our foundation, the better,” adds Scott. To scale the experience, they now have a video featuring Tessie and David sharing a version of what they would have in the traditional format of the meeting.
After the video is shown to new hires, the on-site manager can expand and add more detail about the company culture, in his/her own words. New employees still get a clear, consistent message (and still one that comes from the owners), and they learn these core concepts in a timely manner.
2. Challenge Your ‘Sacred Cows’
Don’t be afraid to make the hard decisions when it comes to your culture as you scale. “They were fun and they were neat to do when you were 10 or 25 people,” explains Scott., but he says you have to decide whether they still make sense with your present business.
At Alternate Solutions Health Network, they asked the question if birthday cakes for every employee still make sense with hundreds of employees. Was it still personal? Was it still adding to the employee experience in the way it was intended?
It turns out that having a celebration once per month for all employees with birthdays in that month is just as valued by employees.
Ask the question if it could be done better. “As you take things away or modify things, other things can blossom out of it—which improves the culture and adds to why people like to work here,” explains Scott. “People can tend to get in their own way and hold onto sacred cows much longer than their useful life.”
Scott encourages other business leaders to challenge assumptions about what employees like or dislike about the culture. (Alternate Solutions Health Network uses surveys to get feedback on what they are adding or evolving in their culture.) And don’t assume that top leadership or company owners are the ones who want things to stay the same as they’ve always been.
3. Be Flexible with Employee Goals
As your company continues to grow, make sure employees’ individual goals align with the company vision and mission. It is a concept that sounds simple, but can also require its own kind of discipline.
Chad says they’ve learned that lesson: that as strategies change for the organization, employee goals must be adapted to stay aligned with the overarching strategy. “We had employees that were meeting goals, but we as an organization, maybe weren’t meeting our overall, overarching strategic goals, so we had to realign those goals,” he explains.
“Those goals we have for employees—that balance growth, quality, compliance and profitability—when we put those together, these have truly allowed us to grow strategically. They have also allowed our staff to not only have a great place to thrive, but it’s also allowed our staff to stay focused on why we’re here and why we exist as an organization.”
Energize Your Employees
“Everyone in the organization, even at the lowest level, needed to understand the plan – the mission, the vision, the values, and the beliefs.” —Clay Mathile
Help drive and support the implementation of Aileron’s Professional Management System in your organization. At the Understanding Professional Management Workshop (formerly known as the 1-Day Professional Management workshop), your employees will learn the knowledge of professional management, including how it can be implemented within their team. Employees will leave the workshop with a greater understanding of the why behind what they are hearing and seeing in your organization.
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