There is no one “right” company culture. Different cultures work for different organizations, but one thing is consistent: As an organization grows and evolves, so should its culture.
It’s like your relationship with a friend you’ve had since childhood. The things you enjoy doing together today are probably different from the activities you enjoyed when you were seven. You’ve had new experiences, grown up and matured. Likewise, it’s nearly impossible to keep every aspect of a company’s culture intact as the organization grows. And quite frankly, you shouldn’t want to do that. The saying “What got you here won’t get you there” is true.
Here’s a look at five ways to help your company’s culture evolve.
Consider Your Business Goals
Leaders should periodically assess the organizational culture in light of the company’s changing business goals. They should consider whether the current culture continues to support evolving goals and whether it will be a help or a hindrance as they try to take the business where they want it to go.
If it looks as though the culture will prevent the business from advancing, then it needs to change, because the goal of any company is to grow. If it doesn’t change, you won’t have an opportunity to work on the culture in the future because the company will cease to exist.
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Allow for Subcultures to Form and Grow
As an organization grows larger, it’s natural for subcultures to start forming. While the company will have an overarching culture, each team will create its own version of that culture, and each subculture will have its own traditions. For instance, celebrating work anniversaries could be a part of a company’s culture, but one team may celebrate by going out to lunch while another may pass around a rotating trophy.
Leaders should recognize that every team has a different subculture, and that each subculture needs attention. It’s important for team managers to help develop their teams’ subcultures, and to embrace those subcultures as part of the larger company culture.
Tap Into Other Leaders
If a company’s culture lives and dies with the CEO, it’s not scalable. The CEO can’t be everywhere, so the people in the next layer of leadership should be empowered to drive the culture — and be sure they know it’s their responsibility to do so.
The culture will change and evolve over time, and that will happen in part because of the guidance of the leadership team. Leaders can help the company evolve — or fall flat. It’s up to them to carry on the traditions, values and rituals.
Pass Down Values
When a company has no more than, say, 40 employees, it’s relatively easy for the CEO to meet people individually, get to know what’s going on in their personal lives and use that connection to pass down values and traditions and communicate goals and objectives. However, that gets harder as the organization grows, which is why it’s important to create a structure where that type of communication and connection can still exist.
For instance, at my company, LaSalle Network, we created a program we call “corporate grandparenting” to ensure that company norms and values can be passed down from senior people to less tenured employees. The program involves leaders meeting with employees two layers below them, and it was inspired by the way many families work, with parents and grandparents playing different roles in raising children. Parents teach you how to ride a bike and tie your shoes, and they make sure you get your homework done. But grandparents often provide a different perspective. It’s the same in the workplace. Managers make sure employees do their jobs correctly, hit metrics and understand their roles, but a corporate “grandparent” helps people see how they fit into the company’s bigger picture and how they’re impacting the overall organization.
It’s important for companies remove the people who aren’t right for the culture anymore. And in some cases that may mean getting rid of a top producer or someone who was around when the company started. These people may not be the right fit anymore. They could resist cultural changes and undermine your efforts to take the organization in new directions. Or they could do things that go against what the company stands for.
The culture you need and the people who work for you as a $1 million organization may not be the people or the culture that will help you become a $20 million organization. Think of culture as an ever-changing recipe — over the years, you need to continually tweak it with a little more of this and maybe a little less of that.