'You can't rest on your laurels with the culture you had yesterday'
The pandemic has triggered rapid growth in industries that have kept pace with changing consumer demands. Ecommerce, healthcare technology, logistics and online entertainment are only a few of the sectors that have witnessed hypergrowth amid the COVID-19 crisis.
This period of scaling up can be a double-edged sword for some organisations. It can be an exciting time for companies when revenue streams become healthier and the team starts to grow. “But it can also negatively impact your culture, which can be one of the most dangerous growing pains,” said Shane Metcalf, chief culture officer of performance management platform 15Five.
“Culture is constantly evolving – you can’t rest on your laurels with the culture you had yesterday,” Metcalf told HRD.
Companies that are “deliberate about their process” tend to succeed at maximising their period of growth, but they must never take their attention off their team dynamics lest they pay the price, the culture chief said.
“That’s even more true in the current climate of rapid changes to society today. As culture creators, we are called on to pay even more attention to the mental and emotional well-being of our people than ever, all the while in a completely virtual format which is filled with challenges and opportunities,” Metcalf said. “As you scale, you need to be honest with yourself about your values and if they are up for the task of guiding your culture.”
If your corporate values tend to create friction between stakeholders, “reinvent them,” he said. It’s critical to make sure you stick to your “why.”
“When you’re thinking about your company culture, you must state the ‘why’ behind the company, and then build your values around it. When your company is being pressure-tested by high growth, use your ‘why’ as your North Star to decide if you should keep or adapt any cultural practices.
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“Transcend them and include the old values that remain true to your company. Then get back to the basics of what made your culture great in the first place, which is likely something along the lines of simply caring about your people and making sure they know you care,” Metcalf said.
Hypergrowth companies demand an enormous amount of time, energy and attention from their people. An example of this is the corporate culture at ecommerce giant Amazon.
The best cultures, therefore, prioritise employee development. “It’s about broadening our definition of profit to include the growth and expansion of employees alongside [the organisation’s] financial success,” Metcalf shared.
“The company that can tap into that vision and help people achieve their own potential and live an extraordinary life, and develop primary skills (EQ, communication, feedback), is the company that’s going to have raving fans for employees and who will go the extra mile to see the company succeed,” he said.