In today’s dynamic business landscape, growth is often synonymous with success. As companies expand and evolve, maintaining a positive and cohesive company culture becomes a tough remit – and one in which HR professionals stand at the forefront of. So how can HR ensure it plays this pivotal role successfully to preserve and nurture the essence of an organisation's culture during periods of rapid growth?
What are the initial challenges?
Research indicates that preserving company culture is a significant concern for business leaders during expansion. According to a study conducted by Deloitte, 94% of executives and employees believe a strong workplace culture is crucial for business success. However, the same study reveals that only 19% of executives believe their organisations have the ‘right culture.’ This disparity underscores the urgency for HR teams to actively contribute to maintaining and enhancing the organisational culture amid growth.
Strategic hiring for cultural fit
One of the cornerstones of sustaining a positive company culture is strategic hiring. As businesses grow, the influx of new talent can either strengthen or dilute the existing culture. HR professionals must prioritise cultural fit in the recruitment process. A survey by Glassdoor found that 77% of employees consider company culture before applying for a job. Therefore, by aligning hiring practices with the company's values and mission, HR can ensure that new team members contribute positively to the existing culture.
According to a 2022 McKinsey report, skills-based practices are helping companies find and attract a broader pool of talent often providing better quality candidates as well as open opportunities to nontraditional candidates. This might include women and people of colour as well as neurodiverse or non-typical candidates such as those without traditional qualifications or credentials. Interestingly, the report found that workers without degrees tend to stay in their jobs 34 per cent longer than workers with degrees.
Canva, the online design tool, for example, has seen a soar in new hires, growing from 1,000 to 4,000 employees in three years. The company has supported its global expansion plans by adopting a skills-agnostic approach to hiring and growing a talent community that has over 20,000 members. This is a smart way to address the ongoing skills gap and provides the company with a ready-made cohort of employees when they need to fill roles.
Communication is key
Effective communication is the lifeblood of any organisation, and during periods of growth, it becomes even more critical. HR plays a central role in facilitating transparent communication channels. Workplace communication statistics reveal that 86% of employees and executives say that poor communication and collaboration are the reasons that an organisation’s culture fails. Conversely, teams who communicate effectively can see productivity increase by 25%. According to a Gallup study, companies with engaged employees outperform their counterparts by 147% in earnings per share. HR can leverage communication to foster engagement and alignment with the company's cultural ethos.
These comms need to be supported by collaboration tools, and this is certainly something that HR can facilitate. Microsoft interviewed 2,700 employees and 1,800 business leaders and found that 85% of employees cite collaboration tools as one of the most critical areas of focus, yet 59% of employees believe that the current systems were not aligned with their team preferred method of work.
Fostering transparent communication channels and effective collaboration tools will help to keep the workforce informed and engaged. Couple this with regular pulse surveys and open forums and HR will be able to accurately assess the culture of the organisation – which will help facilitate and support the rapid expansion.
Invest in training
Leadership development to help boost cultural advocacy is something that any HR director worth their salt should be putting in place particularly at times of rapid expansion. HR needs to actively invest in training and development programmes to ensure that the organisation's leaders embody and champion its culture. In fact, companies with a strong leadership pipeline are 13 times more likely to outperform their competitors. By nurturing leaders who understand and exemplify the company's values, HR contributes to the cultural resilience required for sustained growth.
The programmes that HR can put in place need to be scaled across the business quickly as the pace of changes escalates. Much like in the times of Covid, to minimise supply-chain disruption, things need to be managed at speed. This also means readying teams, and in particular, the company’s frontline managers, to lead effectively while inspiring and engaging their workers. This helps to build consistent messaging, keeps the business agile, deepens engagement, drives retention and advances inclusivity.
This training should also be part of the succession planning in the company, aligning with internal mobility programmes and then communicated across the organisation.
Policies and practices
As a company grows, the HR department must evolve policies and practices to accommodate the changing dynamics while safeguarding the core values. This calls for flexibility and an agile team that can respond to policy changes, update and amend as needed and communicate the changes across the organisation.
A responsive team will help to facilitate a culture of change for example, a remote-friendly culture may become imperative as teams expand geographically. HR professionals need to stay attuned to industry trends and employee feedback to make informed adjustments.
Adapting these policies strategically will ensure flexibility to accommodate growth-related changes.
From a practical perspective, appropriate HR records need to be maintained by the employer, especially when the company is expanding and may undergo changes that require adjustments to contracts, including working time and payroll records.
Safeguarding an evolving culture
The preservation of company culture during business growth requires a proactive and strategic approach from HRDs and people professionals. By aligning hiring practices, fostering effective communication, developing cultural leaders, and adapting policies, HR can navigate the challenges of growth while safeguarding the essence of the business’ brand identity. In doing so, they play a vital role in ensuring that success is not only measured in financial terms but also the strength and resilience of the company's cultural fabric.