How to Make Culture Your Scaling Superpower

Elle Whitehead | 30th June 2021

At our recent webinar, “Is Culture a Scaling Superpower?”, we were lucky enough to talk to a panel of experts about their experiences of scaling culture. Our Head of Global Happiness, Matt Phelan was joined by Jemma Rawlins, Director and Co-Founder of HRLife, David Barker, Chief People Officer at Paddle, and Darren Bates-Hirst, Head of People & Culture at Bleach London. 

We’ve seen recently that in certain high-profile businesses rapid scaling has been at the expense of culture. It seems that in some cases a toxic work-place developed as growth was prioritised over people. Our panel’s conversation touched on some practical steps you could take to make your culture a scaling super power.  Here are some tips we gained from the webinar. 

Start early 

There really isn’t any such thing as “too early” when it comes to thinking about your culture. Our panelists recommended that when you can no longer all sit around a table together to align your vision, ways of working and so forth, that’s a good time to start thinking about how you can scale your culture. This means that even when you’re not able to physically discuss your values together, you will have a clear understanding of what they are. This will help with communicating your culture with your growing team. 

Start with measurement

One of the best places to start is with a benchmark of where your people think your culture is at. You should think of this as a weather report. Don’t get too hung up on whether it’s good or bad, but just as an indication of where the wind is blowing. From here you can make an action plan about areas you want to maintain and areas which might need improvement. It’s also possible that you have one vision of your culture and your people have a different idea. If you have a plan to listen to your people you can ensure you’re all on the same page. 

Codify your culture

Writing down your guiding principles, or your north star, when it comes to your culture can help you gain a clear idea of your culture. This will be particularly helpful in order to communicate your culture concisely to your growing team. In order to gain some consistency, it may be worth thinking about business vs. social culture. For example, business culture could include processes, how teams work collaboratively, training and growth plans. Social culture would include frequency of team away days, how team meetings are conducted, as well as what your Christmas or summer parties look like. Ensuring your culture combines both, will help support employee happiness and engagement. 

Embrace differences

Your culture isn’t going to be the same in every location. This is particularly true if you have locations that stretch across cultural borders, but is equally going to be different if you have locations based on function. There are many instances where it may be better to embrace some level of difference in culture.  Instead of creating unnatural homogeneity, align to a broader vision, with specifics left to individual teams. This will allow your people to bring their whole selves to work. You don’t want people to feel like they need to conform in order to be accepted.

Hire for culture add

As your organisation grows and matures, you will want to start thinking about hiring for culture add not just culture fit. This means bringing in team members who will add to your cultural values and direction, as well as your organisation’s skill sets. A diverse team is a strong team. Not only this, but sometimes similarities may only be skin deep, and you may be papering over differences, which could lead to retention issues. As you grow you will naturally become more diverse, and allowing this to happen will help create a thriving culture. 

Live your culture

Lastly, as a business leader, it’s really critical that you lead from the front. As ever, leaders should try to walk the walk, not just talk the talk. The panel stressed the importance of leaders in modeling behaviours they wish to see. Put simply, culture should be lived by leaders.

Want to learn more from our experts? Watch the whole webinar on demand.

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