5 Tips for Keeping Culture Intact as Your Company Grows

This article originally appeared on Virgin.com.

Most companies face a common challenge at one point or another: maintaining culture as their organization grows.startup meeting

When you think of today’s typical start-up, what comes to mind? Maybe it’s all-night hack-a-thons, or Friday happy hours and free beer on tap, or laid back offices where even dogs are welcome to come to work. Whatever you think of first, one thing’s clear: start-ups care a lot about culture. But, once a company’s crossed that start-up threshold, how can they preserve their culture and ensure it thrives as they scale?

The examples above are nice, but corporate culture goes well beyond benefits and perks. Real company culture comes from shared values and people working together to support an organization’s mission and the problems it’s trying to solve. Company culture is fostered when you support employees’ well-being and empower them to bring their best selves to work each day.

Creating a great culture isn’t easy. But here are a five ways you can work to keep your culture intact and your people thriving as your business grows:

1. Care about your staff

People want to work for companies that care about them and want them to be well. To create a great culture, it’s critical you support the well-being of your workforce – both on the job and off. Founder of the Virgin Group Richard Branson’s long said, “Take care of your employees and they’ll take care of your business.” That’s true for businesses of all sizes, and something to consider while working to create a great place to work.

2. Focus on your infrastructure

As your company grows, communication, training, and knowledge sharing becomes harder. When scaling, putting more investment into and emphasis on systems and processes is key. But it’s critical that you do so in a way that’s designed for simplicity, efficiency, and collaboration – rather than one that’s highly bureaucratic. Nobody wants another software system for the sake of software or a process for the sake of process, so be mindful of what you’re putting in place and why.

3. Support your managers

Empowering you staff is one of the most important things you can do. As your company grows, managers become even more important in helping to shape culture. Great companies promote from within whenever possible. When people prove themselves in their roles and within your culture, help them grow. Give them the training and support they need so they can help others grow, too.

When looking for new, talented people to join your team, hire for both skill and potential. Value capability and potential and you’ll shape career paths and help people feel like they have opportunities to flourish. Great cultures emerge when everyone rolls up their sleeves, helps the company achieve its goals, and helps each other be successful in the process.

4. Model companies you admire

So many companies have created great cultures… Google, Facebook, Yahoo to name a few. People clamor to work for these companies! So, how can you create a culture just as compelling? First, you’ve got to know what’s critical for your organization and the well-being of your people. Then, take a look at what other companies are doing well and figure out how to emulate those practices while making them unique to your own culture and organization.

You many may not have the money for the same great office features as Google, for example. But there are plenty of things you can do to create an environment that supports accessibility, fun, flexibility, collaboration, well-being, and more.

5. Walk the talk

There’s nothing more debilitating than the hypocrisy of a leader with a “do as I say, not as I do” mentality. It destroys culture fast. People want to feel respected, valued for their contributions, and they want to have a say. Now, that doesn’t mean everyone always gets their way. But you can’t create a great culture by dictating, micromanaging, and undermining your staff. Structure roles so people feel appreciated and set leaders up to coach instead of operating with a command and control mindset.

At the heart of it, your company is your people. They’re the ones who design, build, sell, and service your products and keep your customers happy. The second a company forgets that and looks at staff like numbers, assets, or liabilities, that’s when a company gets away from the core of what drives it.

Preserving a great culture gets harder as companies grow. But it’s critical for your business to make sure your culture thrives. Create a great culture where your employees can be their best and succeed, and your whole business succeeds.

Looking for more ways to avoid cultural growing pains? Download our ebook to learn the roles employers and employees play when it comes to company culture.

Derek Ransom is Virgin Pulse’s CFO and a seasoned finance exec with deep experience in driving growth in start-up technology businesses. He oversees the company’s finance, legal, and HR activities. Derek applies Virgin’s “screw business as usual” philosophy to grow the company, drive value, and create a great place to work. Follow him on Twitter: @dtransom3.

What Work & School Have in Common

When it comes to daily work environments, little has changed since our days in school.classroom

Think about it. Assigned desks – whether you’re a student in History class or an employee in an office – are still an idea. Lockers in the hallways have been swapped out for water coolers in the cafeterias, and teachers are now called managers.

But most importantly, what hasn’t changed for employees of all ages is a voracious appetite for learning. In fact, 53 percent of employees say the top reason they love their company is because of interesting and challenging work.

By supporting employees in developing habits around learning new things, you’ll help them meet these challenges head on and drive their professional and personal growth too.

Your Company is a Classroom

You already understand that knowledge-savvy employees are your competitive advantage. And 71 percent of CEOs agree – citing their people over products, customer relationships, and brand as the primary driver of sustained economic value.

Employees are 30 times more likely to leave their company if they feel their goals are not achievable. – IBM Corporation

Developing new habits around learning is just as important to well-being as physical activity and sleep. From better cognitive function to healthy aging, the endless thirst for knowledge keeps employees’ minds thriving.

Retaining and attracting top talent also stems from your organization valuing and encouraging of skill building. Employees are 30 times more likely to leave their company if they feel their goals are not achievable.

Offer plenty of opportunities for employees to get a bit more hands on with meaningful projects. And for more direct learning experiences, add professional development trainings and seminars into the mix too.

Education is Everywhere

Engaging employees’ habits in the workplace will begin to extend to their personal habits outside the workplace too. And there are plenty of areas of learning that may not be given their due diligence by simply being referred to as hobbies.

Learning a new language, for instance, offers employees a unique way to develop skills they might never have imagined would translate to the workplace. Aside from opening up new communication channels, learning a language develops skills like stronger decision-making, more agile switching between tasks, better control over focusing attention to limit distractions, and more aware financial spending.

“There’s magic in language” – Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group

Personal growth doesn’t have to be limited to solitary endeavors, either. Employees who choose to learn a new sport by joining a local club team will find new approaches to physical activity and broaden their social networks at the same time. With 41 percent of employees motivated by friends to get healthier, according to a Virgin Pulse survey, employees who meet more people grow more themselves too.

As with any habit, success leads to more success. By providing employees with skill-building and learning opportunities inside the workplace, you’ll be helping them grow in something they already want to do. And it’s here that your support will start employees on the path towards building even more healthier, lifelong habits.

Looking for more ways to support employees challenging themselves in the workplace? Our Pulse Paper shows you how to drive employee productivity by limiting distractions.

M. R. Brown writes content for the marketing team at Virgin Pulse. He looks to dispense his know-how on well-being to help get employees and employers alike engaged in healthy workplaces. You can find him running trails on weekends, endlessly motivated by the thought of being chased by a wolf. Follow him on Twitter @writermrbrown.

3 Habits to Help Replenish Employees

office employeeIn this fast-paced world, taking time to focus on forming healthy habits seems nearly impossible. Work is a top priority, consuming more than 40 hours a week for 59 percent of full-time employees. Schedules are packed and people are burned out – and it’s causing everyone’s energy and productivity levels to drop. Modern life is depleting employees, causing them to develop unhealthy habits.

But there’s good news: it doesn’t take much to get your employees on the right track. Encouraging them to make healthier choices at work can help give them the push to practice healthy habits that matter across all areas of life.

When your people employees focus on their well-being, they become more engaged and able to bring their best selves to work every day. Change your employees’ lives, help increase their energy and productivity levels, and strengthen your workforce by starting with these three healthy habits.

Sleep Soundly

It may feel invasive approaching your employees about their sleeping habits, but it’s a topic that needs addressing. Forty percent of employees admit they doze off at least once a month during the workday, costing employers $18 billion annually in lost productivity, according to the National Sleep Foundation.

Educate your people about what happens when they aren’t getting enough sleep. Encourage them to figure out what’s depriving their sleep, and work with them to help make getting enough shuteye a priority. When employees are well rested, their memories are better, they make smarter financial decisions, and are less likely to make mistakes.

Mindful Focus

Employees are constantly thrown off track by texts, emails, and noisy conversations at work. These disruptions cause a 40 percent productivity loss, and when employees try to make up for the lost time by multitasking, it only makes matters worse. But thankfully, there are simple solutions to help decrease the distractions – keeping your employees on task and saving your company money.

Offer your employees productivity programs that’ll teach them ways to manage their workload, so they don’t become overwhelmed or agitated. Help them pick one item from their to-do list, and make sure they complete that task before starting another one. And when it comes to chatty colleagues, encourage employees to use headphones so they can stay focused.

Learn New Things

Did you know that exercising the brain is just as important as it is the body? Learning new things opens the mind and improves cognitive function with aging. According to one of our survey reports, 53 percent of employees say the top reason they love their job is because of the interesting and challenging work, highlighting just how important it is you give your people engaging, stimulating work.

Give employees meaningful projects that’ll help sharpen their skill set you hired them for. Offer training and development programs in different areas that’ll help drive their careers. It’s important that they not only grow in the workplace, but in their personal lives as well. Encourage them to explore new hobbies, like hiking or learning a new instrument.

Offering your employees the resources they need to improve their overall well-being is the best thing you can do for them and your company. Influence your people to make healthy choices, and these choices will become long-lasting habits they’ll carry with them at work and beyond. By developing and maintaining healthy habits, your employees are able to reach their full potential while you create a thriving, successful workforce.

Want to learn more ways to help employees develop healthy habits? Check out our ebook for all nine habits to create a thriving workforce.

Kelly O’Donnell is a marketing intern at Virgin Pulse, where she hopes to broaden her knowledge in the area of holistic well-being and strengthen her marketing and writing skills. In her free time, you can find her exploring trails with her dog or relaxing on the beach with a good book and friends.

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