Managing culture through growth
David Burke, Director
As employee numbers grow and roles and responsibilities are diluted or shared, retaining a company’s culture and values becomes a challenge. In the third article in our series on scale, we explore how to evolve company culture without losing what made you special in the first place?
We asked Caroline Hynes, Director of Product at Oneview Healthcare for her insight. Having worked in tech her entire career, in delivery and product roles, she’s found her niche delivering change in growing companies. Passionate about people and culture, she has rich insights to share into how to hold onto what’s true through growth.
Part of the conversation
If culture has a mecca it’s that people get a feel for it without having to think about it. And that what they feel is true to your intention as a business leader.
But how do you do that? How do you make culture a part of the conversation while holding on what’s true to you?
Caroline agrees: “It’s important that there is an understood culture from every level and there’s alignment on that,” says Caroline. “Alignment not only on what the culture does and how it feels but also to other things: values, how people are recognised for the work they’re doing, and how the work is done.”
“I’ve seen how cultures change over time, from a people, maturity and business point of view. It becomes a part of the conversation.”
The warning signs it’s not working
“Expect conflict and tension,“ says Caroline. “You might be hearing ‘I’m not sure why we’re doing this’ or ‘we’re not doing this the right way’. If people feel the work they’re doing is not valued and aren’t enjoying being a part of the company any more, it’s time to change the culture.”
“Don’t underestimate the potential and happiness of your staff. People spend upwards of eight hours a day with your organisation. If they’re happy, regardless how hard the work is, they will want to come back.”
Caroline shares five areas of focus for evolving your culture as you grow.
Crowdsource your culture
“This is not a top-down piece,” says Caroline. “Ask employees for feedback and when they talk, listen and understand.”
During her time at Paddy Power, Caroline saw this approach first-hand. “Paddy Power is a cutting edge organisation. It’s a growing tech business and very oriented around deadlines and business needs. As that started to mature, the culture became incredibly important.”
Paddy Power took feedback from staff at all levels. “We wanted to retain people, recognise and reward their work and make them proud to work there. We wanted to manage in a way that’s respectful and reflects the tongue-and-cheek part of the brand.”
During her time there Caroline noted that, “when employees gave feedback, it was taken up and understood.” This crowdsourced approach to culture lead to long tenure from staff.
Let Leadership In
Caroline also recommends asking leaders of functions to get actively involved in talking to their teams. “Make skip-level one-on-ones a regular occurrence. Help people have ongoing conversations about what’s working and what could be better.”
“Break down silos by collaborating across the organisation,” Caroline advises. “Set up working groups with people from a mix of levels, backgrounds and departments. Ask them to figure out ways of working around process, rewards and so on.”
Culture is a process and it’s never going to be perfect. “But businesses need to show up to it again and again and keep working at it,” reminds Caroline. “We all recite that ‘perfection is the enemy of done’ and the organic element of culture is important too. Allow time for a culture to embed itself.”
Listen to build trust
Trust is central to openness and accountability. How do you build that? “You need to have the hard conversations but not make them personal,” Caroline says. “Build a culture where you can be as straightforward as possible: the objective is getting the job done.”
Listening is key. “Assume people have good intent and no hidden agenda. Start every conversation from that point. Listen, let people finish what they’re saying. And don’t personalise it: make it about the project not the person.”
The biggest thing
A business needs alignment up and down the organisation about what culture people want to create. “It’s not a tagline. Culture is about people. It needs to resonate with the people working in your organisation everyday.”