Scaling Culture and Collaboration as You Grow (Webinar Recap)

There’s a certain alchemy that happens on small teams: friendships are forged, trust is shored up, and communication feels incredibly organic. But as teams and organizations grow rapidly, that small-team culture and collaboration can easily fade. 

To address this issue, we partnered with Culture Amp to assemble a panel from a broad spectrum of company sizes and growth trajectories. Dan Manian, CEO and Co-founder at Donut leads a small team of 12 that’s helped thousands of companies scale rapidly while placing a premium on culture and connectivity, while Wendy Robison, Head of Learning and Global Development at Etsy, develops and implements cultural programs for a company of 1,000 employees. Sam Celli, an HR Business Partner at Managed By Q manages feedback and engagement initiatives for a team that’s nearly doubled in size over the last two years. Below are some of their top take-aways for maintaining small-team magic. You can also listen to the full recording of our webinar here:

#1: Articulate the core principles of your culture early on, and be clear and transparent in discussing them as your team grows.

  • Identify skills and attributes gaps, and focus hiring around filling those in keeping with your principles. Managed by Q runs “culture add” interviews, which have been great for D&I.
  • Incorporate values discussions into new hire onboarding, and consider having tenured employees run those orientation sessions.
  • Host intentional conversations around your core culture, and invest in systems and processes that embody your values. Talk about values and guiding principles often in different forums from all-hands meetings to performance evaluations, and link employee recognition programs to said values and principles.
  • Prepare managers to help transfer and perpetuate these values. It’s a guiding ethos at Culture Amp that you can’t touch every employee, but you can touch every manager.
  • Encourage employees to bring their full selves to work.

#2 Develop a comprehensive onboarding program and stick with it

  • Run buddy, mentorship, and lunch lottery programs in Donut to connect new hires socially with the rest of the team.
  • Create an onboarding success team, and use it to help spot gaps in cultural adjustment.
  • In a hyper-growth environment, resist the urge to construe last month’s hires as veteran employees just because 100 people came in behind them. A comprehensive ramp-up process becomes even more important as you grow.
  • Involve tenured employees in the hiring and onboarding processes. They’re your best ambassadors for cultural norms and values.

#3 Develop systems you can scale

  • Leverage tools to help automate when possible. They’ll keep processes humming in the background so you can focus on change management.
  • Take stock of systems and processes at regular intervals: what works for teams of 4 and 4 won’t work for teams of 400 and 4,000.

#4 Collect feedback, and act on it

  • Conduct regular engagement surveys through Culture Amp.
  • Hold office hours for executive level teams, as well as people ops and D&I, like Etsy.
  • Run regular retrospectives, and put in place frameworks like start/stop/change.
  • Set up a system of accountability for acting on feedback.

#5 Acknowledge change

  • Acknowledge different stages on the change curve, and give employees a safe space to talk about how they feel.
  • Get longtime employees involved in hiring and onboarding new hires. Managed by Q finds that investment equals buy-in.
  • Be explicit about what’s changing and the implications of it. Setting expectations is half the battle.