Rapid growth in business is something worth celebrating. It’s no walk in the park. It takes a combination of clear focus, a set of coherent actions, coordinating resources, and creating an advantage by anticipating the actions and reactions of customers, competitors, and resources.
To keep growth sustainable brings with it new challenges for leaders and managers, including finding and retaining employees, managing cash flow, scaling company learning and development, and preserving but also evolving the company culture.
When sudden growth happens, your simple org chart blows out with new functions and teams. The mood within the company also changes. The pioneer employees who were there from the start will see the headcount begin to swell. Their feelings of security will shift to vulnerability as they have to prove themselves all over again. Often these employees no longer have access to the founders or leaders within the company, and instead of working in small groups, they become part of a larger team. They may feel displaced, and the trust they built over time with the core team feels less stable.
With the influx of new leaders and teams, people become wary of each other. Often they just aren’t sure who is in their corner. Employees who previously had full authority over company decisions now have to watch as decisions get made in isolation from them.
This period of growth and transition for employees and leaders is a fragile time filled with uncertainty. Yet leaders and managers can use strategies to manage the risk and preserve the positivity of their company culture.
What challenges do rapidly growing companies face?
The biggest challenge that faces rapidly growing companies is finding talent. Other obstacles include retention, technology, business models, funding, and finance.
The need for talent also changes, depending on the stage of growth a company is undergoing. The five stages of growth include:
In a study by the World Economic Forum, they noted leaders in the start-up and scale stage are focused on attracting talent that is complementary to fostering and preserving the company culture that led them to their growth.
In contrast, companies in the transformation stage of growth will look to hire talent, which will help them to evolve the culture and performance of the company to reach their goals.
Regardless of what stage of growth a company is in, culture plays a significant component in how they will meet their targets or exceed them. Ultimately the essential tool that will help leaders get there is communication.
Want to get Rapid Growth right? Start here.
How do you get growth and culture right? How do you guide employees from a mindset of average growth to a workplace that requires speed, quality and agility to meet the demands of sudden growth?
Open up and share.
Then communicate, communicate, communicate, and when you think you’re done, repeat it.
Amid rapid growth, there is the need to get people up and running quickly, effectively, and productively. The only way to do this is to adopt healthy communication patterns that include posting messages, speaking, and lots of conversation. Sharing frequent messages about the changes, progress, and maintaining regular contact with employees is not a silver bullet, but it helps.
The best leaders build trust through a constant flow of communication. They share lessons learned, successes and their vision with employees and managers.
While researching this article, we came across insights that were published by FoodNavigator USA. They interviewed CEO Jane Miller of Lily’s Sweets. She shared her perspective on growth. Her take on it was that leaders are in a privileged position when there is rapid growth. They can see most of the moves on the chessboard and have a panoramic view of the near and impending changes that will happen across the business. However, employees and teams are only aware of what is happening within their small corner of the fishbowl. They have no visibility beyond their world or team, not unless someone explains to them what is happening today, tomorrow, next week, or next month. If this doesn’t happen they can begin to feel marginalized and resent the changes and growth around them.
So it’s a leader’s number one job to communicate what is happening and why, with great frequency.
If you’re still not convinced, a study by Mckinsey highlighted which actions led to greater success during a company’s transformation phase. You guessed right. Communication is the number one contributor. When senior managers communicate openly about the growth and changes, respondents report that a company is 8x more likely to have a successful transformation compared with those companies that don’t. And with enterprise-wide transformations, they say that changes are 12.4x more successful when senior managers communicate regularly.
Communication is a lot like the oxygen cylinders that climbers use to summit Mount Everest. If you’re going to get to the top, you’re going to have to get comfortable using it.
Transplanting company culture
How can you carry across that startup culture and transplant that across into a rapidly growing company with a new pool of talent?
This is how you do it. The best collaborative leaders and managers inspire their people through their vision. They mediate between the outside forces of business and the inner world of their company and teams. They share stories and relentlessly communicate their vision, decisions, and actions. They dare to speak of personal fears, stuff-ups, and model behaviors of transparency and trust.
I think Jane Millar CEO of Lily’s Sweets said in best - 'Don’t sugar coat things'
Inevitably, people may not be happy with the changes and shifting roles. But it’s best to address problems swiftly and be open, transparent, and empathetic during times of growth.
How to scale your communication fast?
There is an abundance of evidence that points to communication as the best tool to use if you want to attract, develop, and retain the right talent during growth stages.
Your first step is to introduce an internal communication strategy and start broadcasting your change story. As part of this strategy, you’ll want to introduce a collaborative Intranet tool which will let you schedule, post and share news that helps employees feel connected. So, let’s dive into six ways an Intranet can help a rapidly growing company.
Six ways a collaborative Intranet can help a rapidly growing company
1. Post and share news and promote company values
With an Intranet, you can keep everyone up to date with the latest news and announcements. You can make your employees feel like they are part of something special during the growth phase.
Sharing stories about new employees that have joined the team, all help to make people feel like they are part of the change process.
Video is probably one of the most powerful ways to communicate that leaders can harness. Posting short videos about the changes, progress and success that is happening every week helps to bring everyone along for the ride. A short informal video taken on the phone by one of the executive’s talking to camera helps to break down the boundaries between employees and leadership. It helps to make the executive and leadership team more accessible to everyone.
The best Intranets let you share stories freely so company-wide messages, video, and news can be updated in minutes. Great Intranets also encourage active participation from employees so they can leave comments and likes.
2. Open communication - Discussion Forums
As a company expands, new employees from geographic multidisciplinary backgrounds join the company. Using discussions, teams can participate and stay connected to the company which helps close the distance. Using discussion forums, you increase engagement by ‘Asking Questions’ on a particular topic or ‘Asking for feedback’ on a new company initiative or topic. Employees feel more connected and valued when they realize their voice matters, which leads to stronger bonds and reciprocity across teams, managers, and leaders.
3. Celebrate and Welcome People
Features in an Intranet like ‘welcome a new team member’ or ‘celebrate a team member’ really make it easy to recognize and unite people.
It’s so easy for employees to become disenfranchised when a company is pursuing massive growth. It’s imperative during a time of dramatic change that employees are recognized and thanked for their contributions.
When a new hire comes on board, it’s useful to have features in the Intranet that welcome new team members and also promote the value they bring to the team and company. It always helps to share some fun facts about people. We all need some brightness in our day.
When there is so much change people need to feel like they have some involvement and participation. Features like these help employees to recognize new faces, and it further adds to their understanding of how they fit in within the company.
4. Team Directory
It’s often very unsettling for existing employees and even new employees to understand how they fit seamlessly into the company. You want to create stability as quickly as possible within teams. With a team directory employees can quickly find others with similar interest or expertise and reach out. Or they can find out more detail behind who’s on their team. Or even discover what their team has posted to the Intranet. This helps them to familiarize themselves about all aspects of their teammates.
5. Document management - one central place
The best Intranets make it easy for teams to store and find files in one place. With these features in an Intranet, your employees won’t waste time sifting through folders to find a document or image.
Search and filter by date or type of file
Advanced search options
Tags - give you a big advantage, they let employees quickly classify and label all types of files with tags so they can find them faster.
Folders - find files within folders
Find recent files
Find the most popular files
A fast-growing company needs one single, trusted place where all files are stored and tagged so employees can stop wasting time. Security is equally essential, ensuring new employees or employees that may have changed roles can only access the files they need.
6. Training and Onboarding
Providing an opportunity to learn is a very effective way to achieve business goals. When employees have the chance to grow, they can add increased value to the business.
Talent retention is crucial when companies are undergoing fast-paced growth. With an intranet, you can post team learning, such as retrospectives. Reviewing what worked and didn’t work, how you will be improved.
You can also post videos with a set of health and safety practices and publish a quiz.
Alternatively, encouraging people to share what they have learned through the use of wikis and blogs leads to a culture that promotes development and learning.
“Growth is painful. Change is painful. But, nothing is as painful as staying stuck where you do not belong.” - N. R. Narayana Murthy
Rapid growth brings many challenges for leaders and employees. You can preserve your culture or reshape it. Yet, it takes consistent and frequent messaging to get there. When you communicate with employees about the progress, success, goals and changes, it makes employees feel like they are a fundamental part of that journey.
Adopting an Intranet will provide you with the tools to effectively broadcast messages direct to teams or company-wide so you can effectively scale the conversation out across your rapidly growing pool of talent.