A secure company culture is the key to keeping employees satisfied and motivated, as well as attracting new talent. On the flip side, an unhealthy culture causes many people to switch jobs. But how can you maintain a positive culture when an organisation is growing fast? And when everything – from the people you’re working with to the systems and strategy – is constantly changing?
Even though it might not be something talked about a lot, company culture is something you encounter every day. It’s always there, whether you’re aware of it or not. And it evolves as the company evolves.. Psychologist Jan Helder explains how to maintain great organisational culturere when you’re experiencing fast growth.
The impact of company culture
Company culture is the human element of a company, according to Forbes.
It is a combination of the working environment, beliefs, and values within the company. And it’s influenced by the people who live it and embody it.
“If a company loses sight of the human element by focusing too heavily on productivity, as an example, this has an impact on the culture,” explains Jan.
“And this culture affects the feelings of solidarity, self-confidence and stress levels of employees, as well as mutual trust,” he adds. .
“A positive culture contributes to feelings of self-confidence and ease amongst employees in the workplace. But in an unsafe culture, many people feel less connected to the organisation, which causes them to switch jobs sooner.”
What contributes to great organisational culture?
Jan: “There are various things that contribute towards a positive culture. The following contributors often come up in conversations we have with our clients.” These are:
- Genuine interest and trust from your manager
- Being open to new ideas, innovation and creativity
- Expressing plenty of appreciation
- A feeling of psychological safety
- The American institution Great Place To Work adds the following two elements:
- Community spirit (“we’re all in this together” attitude)
- Fair compensation and enough recognition
These form the basis of a culture where people feel safe and secure: where people feel they can be themselves and that their mental health is a priority.
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The impact of growth and change
The culture within a company plays a major role in how we feel at work. But the changes and growth that an organisation experiences also have an impact here.
“Change affects us in many ways, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be negative,” says Jan. Because change involves challenges, personal growth and new opportunities.
“In order to experience change in a positive sense, it’s important to feel supported. And you create that feeling by ensuring open and transparent communication, building trust and empowering people.”
“A lack of these elements triggers feelings of anxiety and promotes stress,” continues Jan. Humans are creatures of habit. We get used to particular structures, routines and ways of working.
Jan: “Adjusting to new situations takes time and effort. That’s okay, but it takes its toll on us emotionally. It might make us tense or bring up feelings of failure and falling short.”
This means that for rapidly growing companies, it’s even more important to keep an eye on this and bring in the right support – the kind of support that helps people to move forward and become stronger in turbulent times.
How to manage your company culture during times of growth
In short: It’s important to focus on company culture during times of rapid growth. Because no matter how great that growth sounds and how good it is for the business, companies still often will lose sight of their values as they grow.
As a result, the company culture goes up in flames and that human factor fades into the background. How can organisations avoid that?
1. Focus on the people you work with
People make up the culture. This means that a positive company culture all starts with a strong emphasis on people. Both thosewho already work for you and those who might come to work for you in the future.
“People want to feel seen and heard. Especially in times when a lot is changing. This means you want to avoid making people feel like they’re “just a person doing a job”,” explains Jan.
People want to be treated as individuals. They want to be trusted, appreciated for what they do and shown genuine interest.
“As an employer, you need to express that trust in and appreciation of your people. That might take time to build, but what you get in return is genuine interest and trust,” concludes Jan.
2. Hire the right people
You only want to hire new people who fit the culture that currently exists and are happy to liveit in their daily work.
Obviously, it’s important for people to be good at what they do, but clicking with the organisation (and its values) is just as important. Hire people who will add to the existing culture.
You can do this by actively asking questions about this during the interview stage. For example, ask people how they’d behave in certain situations and see if this reflects your values.
3. Discuss the values and culture
Have conversations where you explain the company values and the current culture. This might be during meetings and company updates, but it could also be during interviews and the onboarding process.
This way, new employees will immediately be clear about what the culture is (and if they identify with it) and current employees won’t lose sight of your company values.
In addition, ask for feedback on the culture regularly. Both from your new hires who’ve just been through the onboarding process, and people who have been working with you for longer.
This way you’ll be able to keep an eye on what’s going on and can make adjustments if you notice that the culture is changing for the worse.
4. Cultivate and celebrate work traditions
Traditions are a fundamental part of any culture. They strengthen bonds and create a sense of solidarity.
But as a company grows, certain traditions might fade away. This is despite the fact that they can be very powerful.
“Culture thrives when teams have an emotional connection to the mission and to one another,” Sarah Sladek, CEO at XYZ University, tells Forbes.
Make plenty of time and create opportunities to develop team bonds. For example, during team outings, quarterly meetings and other events. Create a sense of solidarity by doing things together, celebrating successes and learning from mistakes.
5. Ensure open communication and transparency
Jan: “Everyone experiences growth and change differently. This means that it’s important to keep the conversation going and to be transparent about what’s going on in the organisation.” Both on a management level and on a team level.
A transparent culture is one where the management team is open about results and the path the organisation is taking, but also a culture where people can give each other feedback.
In a transparent organisation, there is mutual trust, people are less stressed and job satisfaction is higher, reports Glassdoor. As a result, people perform better.
They aren’t afraid to take risks and they’re open with one other, but they also know that it’s okay to set boundaries where necessary.
Growth, change and culture
Growth goes hand in hand with change. It’s all part of the process and it keeps us on our toes. It also gives us the opportunity to grow as people. But, at the same time, change can also bring discomfort. This can have an impact on the people within your organisation and the culture.
As an HR professional or manager, you’ll want to keep an eye on this. This is because a positive company culture contributes to the mental health and job satisfaction of the people within your organisation. And that’s always a top priority.
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