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How to scale company culture: 5 tips for IT leaders
Maintaining a positive work culture is one of the most important things leaders can do as their organizations grow. Here’s how to keep employees engaged
A positive work culture is one of the most valuable assets a company can offer its employees, and it can be a significant factor in driving business success. However, culture remains a pain point for many IT leaders – especially during times of growth, when values and organizational behaviors need to be scaled to a wider audience. Sometimes these characteristics are intrinsic and not something that can be explicitly communicated, but with rapid growth and hiring, they become more important than ever.
Growth can be exciting, whether it means expanding globally or hiring new team members in one location. Either way, it is important to put culture front and center.
Here are five ways to ensure that your company’s values don’t get lost and that your team remains unified around a set of common beliefs and behaviors.
1. Align leadership
First and foremost, leadership should drive culture. As an IT leader, you must actively work to maintain a strong sense of community. It’s easy for culture to take a backseat in the midst of IT initiatives, but prioritizing culture will keep your employees unified and ensure that your company’s values remain steadfast.
Making big changes requires transparency and constant communication. People constantly need to understand the “Why?” A small change, for example, is easier to accept if your employees understand that it is part of a bigger arc.
Align managers on expectations and goals to put culture first so that your company’s transition to the next phase of growth will be smooth and exciting for new and current employees. Establishing consistency in messaging is not hard to do, but it takes time. Instead of rushing to execute, invest a few hours to bring leaders together and get everyone is on the same page.
[ Want to spur a more innovative mindset? Read: Culture hacking: 5 examples you can borrow. ]
To formalize your company’s commitment from the top down, provide incentives for leaders to make culture a priority, and measure their progress through actionable steps. Consider setting culture-oriented goals into your list of top priorities for the year, appointing “culture ambassadors” within the organization and providing bonuses for those who take these roles. These influencers can come from any role within the organization, and they can have a big impact by encouraging their community members and others to adopt company values.
Recognizing these individuals at company-wide meetings or through internal communications can also reinforce the notion that leadership takes culture seriously, and that you appreciate people for how they do their work as well as what they do.
2. Develop personal connections
Face-to-face interactions are the best way to connect with others. If your IT team members are based in different locations, travel to the various offices to meet with existing and incoming employees. If this isn’t a practical option, establish a “meet and greet” roadmap during the new hire onboarding process to help connect new employees with people they should know.
At LogMeIn, one of our HR team members found a tool called Donut that sits on top of the Slack platform and randomly assigns employees to “meet” for a virtual coffee. At first, we weren’t sure if employees would participate, but people have been committing to these quick virtual meetings and sharing screenshots with each other across our Slack channels. Through Donut, new relationships have been formed, and employees have built out their internal networks across different teams and other parts of the world.
[ Culture change is the hardest part of digital transformation. Get the digital transformation eBook: Teaching an elephant to dance. ]
If travel isn’t an option, make video a requirement during meetings to help establish deeper connections by adding tone and body language to verbal communications. Putting in quality one-on-one time demonstrates your commitment and helps communicate company values directly.
With growth comes opportunity, but also change and uncertainty. Take advantage of these important moments to answer questions, ease any concerns, and share visions for the future of the company and IT department. After the dust settles, establish regular all-hands meetings, skip-level meetings, manager meetings, or even coffee talks for employees who are celebrating a work anniversary to help develop a regular cadence of interaction and a line of communication. This provides an opportunity to engage in two-way communications and to hear real-time feedback from your team. It will also help you get a true pulse on what is working and where resistance or roadblocks may exist.
3. Translate traditions
Traditions are the foundation for establishing a vibrant, fun culture. Whether these happen through team outings or something as simple as Bagel Fridays, these are the moments employees look forward to and often associate with their best memories.
During times of growth, it’s critical to share traditions with all new employees to unite everyone and maintain a consistent atmosphere. As organizations become more geographically spread, establishing company-wide events that cross over the different offices provides a common experience and builds corporate culture through a shared platform of traditions and connections.
At LogMeIn, we offer all employees volunteer time off (VTO) days. Teams can self-organize or volunteer their time at an arranged event. During VTO, employees often end up spending time with colleagues they wouldn’t typically interact with on a day-to-day basis.
Rituals and traditions form the bedrock of a team’s culture, and when something personal is involved – whether this means giving back to the community, bowling, or beer tasting – individuals in the team form stronger bonds with each other. This translates into more effective teamwork and higher engagement at work.
Success in scaling culture ties back to your level of investment in new and existing employees. From tuition reimbursement to licenses for online e-learning programs, offering resources for professional growth demonstrates a commitment to your employees’ career growth. A learning culture recognizes the importance of professional development programs for employees to strengthen their skills and develop their careers.
Learning also encourages exploration, fun, and creativity among employees, while building a community where they feel valued and are encouraged to pursue their passions and interests. When you hire new team members, offer them a customized learning path, or ask a current team member to mentor someone in a different location. Enabling such connections while the team grows together will speed up the onboarding time and allow for more learning and growth.
5. Always improve
Above all, remember that culture is not a destination – it’s a continuous project that requires constant care. Leaders should continue to learn, improve, and never be satisfied.
Workplace culture has the power to not only motivate your employees but to elevate your company’s reputation as an employer. With today’s shortage of talent for technical skills, it’s more important than ever to build, maintain, and scale a positive, dynamic workplace culture as your organization grows.
[ Want advice from top CIOs on solving talent challenges? Get the Harvard Business Review Analytic Services report: IT talent strategy: New tactics for a new era. ]