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How to retain company culture and values during fast growth

As businesses grow, expand their teams and receive funding, leaders can find it challenging to retain a culture that has served so well while scaling to meet the needs of a growing customer base.

Culture can get lost in translation or be susceptible to interpretation if not communicated effectively. Here’s my top tips to ensure it doesn’t.

Don’t look to replicate head office culture

Culture is a set of shared values that all employees can understand and embody, no matter where in the world they are.

It is not about team drinks on Fridays or even wanting to ‘hang out’ with colleagues after work. Instead, it is the ethos that underpins the working environment, keeps everyone motivated and on the same page and focuses them on working towards the same goal.

However, given our new world of working, with many operating remotely, this culture needs to be flexible and able to traverse regional differences. As part of this, people leaders should remember that what is not replicated is often incidental.

The football tables, contemporary sofas or regular ‘huddle groups’ that might be a permanent fixture in the head office are nice-to-haves but not essential.

Instead, what must be consistent is the core, founding values. These values underpin the company’s direction and can be the difference between further growth or stagnation.

Giving people a top-table seat

Today HR is breaking out of its hire and fire stereotype and has become a key advisor to leaders on purpose and strategy.

A critical part of building purpose is to communicate values clearly and effectively to the business and new talent prospects. The people team is well placed to drive this and ensure the company is an appealing place to work, no matter where employees are based.

It is people leaders that can advise on how values can be updated to meet evolving expectations of businesses. Given the ongoing spotlight on BAME leaders and gender diversity, teams can protect the business from bias and help to champion diversity and inclusion values.

They can also implement programmes that democratise career opportunities, no matter people’s creed or background. For example, they can take those values with them as they visit schools and colleges, raise awareness of the diversity of roles available and engage with prospective talent.

Further reading on company culture:

Why values should drive decision-making

The importance of a people-centred culture

Pushing for progress: the workplace's role in political and social movements

Communication is critical

Companies who retain their core DNA during periods of fast growth have one common trait: they are excellent communicators, not just with customers, but among the business.

The art of communication has evolved with new technologies so there’s no excuse for leaders to not engage with international employees on a regular basis.

Ultimately, company values are driven from the top down and maintained through living these in every action and communication.

With the support of the IT and people departments, business leaders can build accessible intranets that host regular company updates, newsletters and further information on the company and its DNA.

Leaders should also look to post regular blogs, describing industry challenges and updating on new customer wins or completed projects. Both blogs and emails can shed light on what a company truly values and can encourage employees in different offices to follow suit.

Ultimately, during periods of growth, leaders need to see values as more than just a tick-box exercise but a unique selling point to customers and employees new and old and in head office or satellite offices. Replicating the same culture across regions is seldom achievable.

Each office should be unique in its own right but carry the same DNA in their approach to customer service and employee engagement.

This DNA must be driven from the top down, with the support of people, through recruitment processes, clear and regular communication and appropriate business strategy.

Anna Roe is chief people officer at TransferGo