Retaining company culture through growth

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[[{"fid":"8637","view_mode":"content_full_width","fields":{"format":"content_full_width","field_image_accreditation[und][0][value]":"© Depositphotos.com/AndreyPopov","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":"© Depositphotos.com/AndreyPopov","field_file_image_title_text[und][0][value]":"© Depositphotos.com/AndreyPopov","field_folder[und]":"1"},"type":"media","attributes":{"alt":"© Depositphotos.com/AndreyPopov","title":"© Depositphotos.com/AndreyPopov","height":"467","width":"700","class":"media-element file-content-full-width"}}]]Company culture is a fundamental element of a business’s success. A strong sense of purpose and a clear set of shared values steer the organisation and bear an integral influence on employee attitudes, working practices, relationships and ultimately client satisfaction. As companies grow they can risk losing sight of these fundamental values - but growth, much like culture, is vital for continued and long-lasting success. So how can a business ensure they retain the values that allowed them to thrive in the first place through times of growth and change?

A recent report from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development has found that most employees recognise the significance of company values with 73% stating that it is ‘important for organisations to have defined values that govern employee behaviour.’ The ‘Keeping culture, purpose and values at the heart of your SME’ report highlights the importance of understanding how your culture effects your business performance. It notes that if employees identify with a set of shared values, fit in with the culture and are passionate about achieving a purpose they are more likely to be engaged and motivated – which will improve business performance and ultimately the bottom line.

The report also highlights the existence of a ‘tipping point’, the point at which company culture needs to be proactively reinforced as opposed to ‘just ticking along’. For many companies this tipping point will coincide with rapid growth or change. It is at this stage that company values are at the highest risk of being diluted or shifting, so it is crucial that business leaders are not only clear about the values of the organisation but also how they will communicate this to all new employees. It’s important that the HR department are involved in these conversations, as ultimately this responsibility will fall to them.

As businesses grow more levels of management are introduced, which can put distance between employees and the original source of company culture - its leaders. While these individuals may no longer be able to champion organisational culture themselves, they retain the responsibility of articulating and instilling in in their workforce. It’s crucial that at the tipping point leaders establish a way to communicate their message through the HR and communications functions. Writing these down is often a first step, but they also need to understand what sort of working behaviours and attitudes embody these key values in practice, and subsequently work with HR to establish a pragmatic plan of action.

A great deal of planning goes into any business growth and arranging how to manage culture during this time of change should be a key part of this preparation. Reinforcing company values after the tipping point should be an ongoing effort. If leaders and management continually support these activities then the company’s ethos is more likely to underpin daily operations. This theory applies to any significant organisational change, for example APSCo has recently undergone a global restructure and maintaining company culture was a key consideration.

Whether leaders decide to implement formal learning structures, or opt for a more organic approach and champion culture representatives, they need to ensure that a plan is in place before growth occurs. This will guarantee that employees’ attitudes and behaviours do not end up at a tangent to the business purpose in times of change, and the company continues to thrive.

About Nick Bowles

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