Maintaining company values and culture while growing
Entering into a phase of growth and expansion is an exciting yet critical time for an organisation. The larger your organisation is, the harder it can be to ensure that the growth is happens in line with your team dynamic and organisational culture. Consider adding a Talent Manager — a team member who is committed to ensuring that growth is healthy and sustainable — to your HR team.
In the beginning of any business, it's the founders who set the foundations of the culture, build the initial team, and set expectations for business growth. After a certain point, that's no longer possible and a HR or People & Culture function is built out.
In all of that growth and structuring, the original culture of the business may get lost.
This isn't always a bad thing, not all cultures are positive, and often the first culture of a business is not the best version of it. As long as culture is a topic that is repeatedly visited and thought about during the growth process, you can ensure it evolves towards a strong, healthy asset of the business.
A Cloud Guru
When looking for examples of Australian organisations that have taken the right approach towards exponential growth, A Cloud Guru, an e-learning startup that currently teaches over one million students around the world about cloud computing, stands out as a true role model.
After generating significant traction in its first year of operation – reaching tens of thousands of students, A Cloud Guru’s founders recognised that their platform had the potential to facilitate the education of many more thousands, if not millions of students around the world.
But, in order to hit those numbers, they needed to significantly expand their (then small) team.
So, they brought on their first Head of Talent – Sara Ramirez Morales, who we reached out to for her thoughts around how to go about talent management. Unsurprisingly, Ramirez Morales had a wealth of valuable insight to share.
The importance of candidate experience
Culture and employee experience go hand-in-hand, and they both start from before an individual even joins your team. The candidate experience of applying for a role and going through the interview process sets expectations for what the culture of the business is, and what it will be like to work with you.
For this reason, Ramirez Morales strongly vouched for hiring an in-house Head of Talent or recruiter rather than outsourcing this to a recruitment agency.
“Hiring an internal Head of Talent allows the organisation to create a high-quality candidate experience culture – something which agencies don’t normally put any focus on.” Ramirez Morales explained.
Given that agencies are typically incentivised to simply fill roles, they tend to work through endless amounts of applications, narrowing it down to the candidates that are most likely to get over the line. On the other hand, an internal recruiter can prioritise how a candidate will fit in or add to a culture, and whether or not they are right for the team, not just the role.
According to Ramirez Morales, internal talent managers can get the new employees to “buy in” to company values, a feat that an external party simply cannot achieve. “Healthy expansion requires for new employees to be company builders – an approach that can only be achieved if they take the company’s core values seriously. Bringing on new employees without instilling the organisation’s core values within them creates a workforce that isn’t fully bought in and may end up settling for the bare minimum.”
Out with transactional mindsets and in with genuine motives
As important as it is to focus on candidate experience and to keep your company’s core values front of mind, Ramirez Morales pointed out that finding the right person to execute those principles is key to achieving optimal results.
Based on her extensive experience in recruitment, Ramirez Morales couldn’t stress how much of a red flag “transactional”, “mercenary” and “disingenuous” mindsets are.
“Candidates who use terms like ‘the chase’, ‘closing’, ‘money’ and ‘commissions’ to describe their ambition, are sending a very clear message that their heart isn’t in the right place to achieve quality driven results. Conversely, you know you’re talking to the right type of candidate when they show enthusiasm about things like bringing out the best in people, unique experiences and diversity.”
As we said earlier, culture changes over time. It's a journey, not a destination. As more people join your organisation, they may point out where your culture is lacking, where an aspect is being under-appreciated and should be brought to the forefront, and they may bring a personal belief or passion to the table that you just hadn't thought of before.
Whatever happens, you need to be open to the feedback on your culture and organisational structure so that you can allow evolution and improvement to happen. The best way to get buy-in on your culture is to involve your employees.
Consider setting up a culture committee, having dedicated spaces for culture feedback, and an agenda item specifically for culture in any company-wide or top-level management meetings.