In times of rapid growth, every organization faces the same challenge: how do you scale culture?
Most advice on the subject comes down to platitudes like “communicate your values,” but are light on what this actually looks like in practice. So we’ve gathered some of our favorite tactics for encouraging behavioral change at scale within organizations.
- Onboard strong. It’s easy to introduce new ways of working when people first join the team: they’ll look to others for the “right” way to do things, and want to prove they’re committed the team. Within their first week, share handbooks that introduce the company’s values and culture—we’ve gathered well over two dozen examples. You can also assign them an “onboarding buddy” to serve as a cultural interpreter and friendly expert when they have questions about best practices in your organization.
Break down silos. Senior leaders often dream of one consistent, shared culture throughout the whole organization—and if they’re constantly hearing complaints from divisions struggling to work with each other, it’s no wonder! But you don’t have to have a monolithic culture—in fact, some variation is natural. (Warby Parker, for instance, has core company values, but local branches are encouraged to add their own.) Instead, train people to break out of their silos and bridge cultural gaps. Project retros are one simple tool to get teams discussing better ways to adopt new practices. You can also form project-based, cross-functional teams to encourage knowledge to spread.
Centralize information. Of course, while some variety is healthy, too much can be frustrating, especially when it comes to basic processes. Make it easy for people to learn the basics—how meetings are run, how decisions are made, how communication spreads—by putting information in one easy-to-access location. Looking for a place to save and share your ways of work? Check out WorkHub. (currently only works on desktop)
Train middle managers. Senior leaders are responsible for determining the vision and values, but middle managers actually implement the change. They’re the ones working with employees on a daily basis, establishing processes and following up on progress. For change to truly scale, they need a firm understanding of the new ways of working, as well as how to effectively introduce change to the team. We often use coaching cohorts to train managers: teaching new skills at the beginning of the week, and reflecting and coaching them through obstacles at the end of the week.
Align and monitor. All the communication and training in the world won’t help if your incentives don’t align with your new values. You should also make an effort to recognize people when they do adopt new behaviors. At Zappos, for instance, colleagues were given themed swag every time a co-worker saw them enacting a core value. In addition, establish milestones and track progress so the team knows it’s heading in the right direction, like Spotify does with its scaled post-mortems.