How to maintain a positive culture while your business grows

Andrew Heath · November 26, 2018

Many companies have an impressive reputation as being a great place to work, but culture, values and the personal touch can easily become lost as a business forges ahead with a big growth transition.

The fact is, while business leaders are enthusiastic about growth, employees don’t always feel the same way. Keeping a workforce engaged and motivated through a business growth phase isn’t easy.

SMEs find it easy to create a family vibe at the start because business leaders are able to interact with employees every day. But when growth kicks in, small-business personality can easily ebb away.

Disruption, uncertainty, changes in working processes, the onboarding of new people and a widening gap between management and employees can all have a negative impact on motivation and employee engagement. While business leaders and managers are focusing on the bigger picture it’s easy for employees to feel unnoticed and unappreciated.

Without attention, the positive culture embedded at the beginning can quickly dissipate.

In this blog I’ll be looking at how businesses can keep the personal touch and a family flavour as they grow. Let’s start with what a positive company culture looks like.

What is a positive company culture?

There isn’t an exact definition for company culture. Culture encompasses many aspects of a business. Company culture is akin to an ecosystem. It’s a living breathing thing born from a core identity and a set of values.

Positive culture is all about behaviours and feelings and is generated from the top down. Just like any other eco system, company culture needs to be nurtured. Culture is not things. It’s the glue that inspires and motivates employees and keeps everyone working together on the same page.

How to maintain positive culture during growth

Expanding your business is a good thing. It signifies success and offers greater opportunities for your team. However, rapid growth can make you feel like your family-style values and spirit are no longer relevant. This is a mistake many make when growing a business. For continuing success, the culture that led to your growth spurt needs to be maintained. Here’s how.

Define your culture and keep it alive

Be clear about your business values and keep communicating them as you grow. Just as your employees felt connected to and part of your company values as you established the business, you need to constantly remind them of your core values as you grow. If you want employees to be a part of your business, they need to understand your values to feel included and motivated to uphold them.

Make sure you recruit people that are a good fit for your culture and set clear expectations when onboarding. Keep talking about your values so that you and your employees are working with the same sense of purpose.

Maintain an open-door policy

The open-door policy so typical of smaller businesses is often the first change employees notice as a company expands. Leaders can easily shut themselves off from the day-today when they have an increasing number of staff and a bigger picture to contend with.

However, an open-door policy is essential for innovation. It is also imperative for staff morale. It fosters an environment of collaboration, teamwork and trust, which are all important features of a positive business culture.

Invest in happiness

Keeping the positive mindset you instilled into your business from the outset requires a deft touch when transitioning through growth. Employee happiness is the key to productivity and success. Happy staff are more creative, energised and successful at work.

How do you maintain employee happiness? Listen. Offer opportunity for personal growth. Invest in a well-being at work programme. Encourage autonomy. Encourage collaboration. Recognise achievement and reward employees for their effort. Treat your employees with respect.

All of these things will have a positive impact on the happiness of your employees.

Foster employee engagement

It’s common for employees to feel more disconnected from leadership as a business grows, especially if a leadership hierarchy is more formally introduced. Employees need to know their opinions matter and this is much easier to achieve in a flatter structure and with the open-door policy commonly adopted in smaller businesses.

In a business with a positive culture it is much easier for employees to feel connected to the company’s purpose. As a business grows, its values, if not reiterated and embraced, can become lost.

For employees to feel engaged, leadership teams should include employee representatives and not just consist of managers. The hierarchical leadership structure can only work if all managers are exceptionally good at recognising the needs of employees and have the skills to support employee engagement initiatives. Otherwise, employee engagement suffers as employees become further removed from the decision-making process.

Establishing value leaders throughout the organisation and setting up a culture committee is one way to ensure employees are given a platform to offer ideas.

At We Thrive we support business of all sizes in making their people a priority. See our resources for more inspiration on improving employee engagement.