Scaling Company Culture
Ahhh culture: the mystical creature that’s so incredibly important but equally difficult to define.
Although it might feel like it, culture doesn’t just organically happen. Like grass, culture must be prepped, planted, fertilized and watered consistently because, without intentional design and fostering, it can dwindle and be even harder to restart. But, just like upsizing from a 1/2-acre urban home to a 1,000-acre farm, the approach to fostering a growing company’s culture must shift as it scales in the same way that a homeowner must shift the way in which they care for their lawn.
So, as the “one size fit all” model doesn’t apply to culture, how can a company scale culture?
Redesigning Team Meetings
As our team grows at a fast rate, we’ve adopted many principles outlined in ReWork (a gift to all new team members), and we have a chosen to move away from weekly, full-team status update meetings. Previously, these weekly gatherings were a great opportunity for the team to connect, celebrate wins, process losses and figure out ways to improve output, but we realized that the investment of almost 15 hours per week (10 team members * 1.5-hour meeting) could be better spent elsewhere.
So, based on the team’s feedback, we shifted our model and implemented a monthly 1-hour team meeting, thus saving 50 hours per month. From a productivity perspective, the change was smart. Our team had less “interruptions” and more time to focus on their work, but, from a cultural standpoint, the shift cut down on full-team face time by almost 70%.
So, rather than trying to move forward with our previous meeting model, we realized that we needed to adapt the structure to be smarter with our time to maximize cultural output. One of, if not the most important, changes? Adding team member presentations to the roster.
The “Why” Behind “I”
When we hire a new team member, regardless of department, they go through the same process: application, 2-week project, onboarding. Although this process is time-consuming for both prospective applicant and hiring team, it’s helped us maintain a culture conducive to collaboration, production, and satisfaction.
When we extend an offer and hire a candidate, we hire them for…them. Their experiences, passions, personality, and quirks bring value to our team and culture, but we’ve found it difficult for these unique qualities to surface, especially when someone new joins the team. Juggling new role-related responsibilities with social assimilation can be overwhelming, and before you know it, you’re three months into a new job without a strong social and cultural footing.
To help, we created a platform for new and existing team members to share their story and give others insight into the “why” behind the “I.” Every day, we share our thoughts phrased in the first person, but rarely do we understand everything that’s gone into the letter “I.”
Free Form With a Hint of Structure
Every month, we set aside 20 minutes for a team member but provide minimal guidance in the form of a brief prompt: tell us about yourself. How they’d like to utilize the time is completely up to them, and trust me, we’ve seen/heard it all. From romantic European adventures to childhood karate dreams, the storytime has broken down boundaries and opened up conversations that would never have taken place without it.
Luckily, everyone takes it seriously and plans ahead to make use of their time to shine, which is a reflection of our hiring process. We hire people who want to be here, genuinely give a shit and want to invest themselves into others, and the best way to invest culturally is to open up personally, which is precisely what the presentation encourages people to do.
So, whether you’re building out a new team or looking to shake things up culturally, consider creating a platform that promotes participation and fosters individual & collective growth because remember: culture won’t happen by itself.