Skip to main content

4 Steps to Scale Your Culture

By March 19, 2019August 11th, 2019Culture
4 steps to scale your culture

One of two things happens to culture when companies that start small, suddenly expand: It fuels organisational growth – or it gets forgotten, putting future growth at risk. Here’s how to scale your culture for success.

We were approached by a client, recently, with a rather unique request. Having started life as an online home decor store, the client’s company had grown to a point where demand for a brick-and-mortar outlet could no longer be ignored.

The founder – a dynamic, former advertising executive – was concerned that the culture, which she considered to be the company’s ‘secret sauce’, would change. Ultimately, she feared that a culture shift would forestall the company’s trajectory of success.

In this article, we share some of the advice we gave to our client, as well as some of the learnings we gained during the change management process.

1. Prioritise your culture

It’s vital to think of organisational culture in evolutionary terms, as a naturally dynamic and perpetually changing system. If we understand culture to be an organisation’s underlying attitudes, assumptions, values and beliefs that, together, influence the ways employees interact, we realise that culture is powerful.

What really matters, as your business starts to scale, is that you make culture a top priority; what Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella calls, “a first-class conversation”. In a McKinsey Podcast, Nadella expresses the primacy of culture, eloquently:

“The only thing that’s going to enable you to keep building new capabilities and trying out new concepts, is culture. I would argue that for a successful company, you will have to overemphasize creating the right culture, so that you can continue to cultivate new capabilities and new concepts.”

When your company begins to scale, be sure you keep culture an overt and explicit part of both your strategy and operations. Also, look for ways to actively involve employees in cultivating your culture. You’ll attract and retain people who invest in your company, emotionally, and who become willing contributors to your business success.

2. Keep your purpose alive

Our client started her homeware company with a unique purpose: To help her customers to cherish home.

We advised our client during the company’s transition from a click to brick store, that she give employees – old and new – the opportunity to connect their own life experiences with this uniquely compelling purpose.

As part of the communication strategy we developed for our client, employees were encouraged to upload images and videos of their current and childhood homes (Throwback Thursday-style) onto a group communication platform. This content generated an upsurge of likes, shares and positive commentary among employees. It brought together old and new employees in a shared experience of what it means to cherish home. More than this, it forged a strong group identification with the company’s purpose.

3. Articulate your values creatively

For many companies, values are clichés – overstated yet, sadly, underpractised. Every year, we see the same, uninspired values appearing in the integrated reports of companies from vastly disparate industries. You know them: Integrity, Trust, Excellence, Efficiency. Ho hum.

As your company starts to grow, take the time to consider your values carefully. Values contribute to the unique social and psychological environment of your company. They help foster innovation, collaboration and creativity. So, rather than just selecting values that vaguely resonate with your company’s ethos and philosophy, consider articulating your company’s values, originally.

We assisted a client recently in this regard. Working in the business of human performance solution design, Achievement Awards Group has a vision to create human experiences that unlock full potential. Together with the group’s executive team, we developed a set of values that support this vision, and that continually call for the active involvement and participation of employees. Here they are: Learn to create; create together; create better; create meaning; and create value.

Each of these values can be unpacked to reveal the practices they uphold, and the behaviours they help bring about. On our recommendation, all internal communications link back to one or more of these values, reinforcing the organisation’s culture, and shaping individual and group performance.

4. Find your culturalists, and enable them

Every company has them: People equipped with the skills to set your culture in the right direction, and to advance it. Typically, these are people with great social skills, high empathy, open minds and a positive outlook. Seek them out, enlist their support and empower them with access to human and financial resources, so that they can initiate culture-cultivating experiences quickly and easily.

Ironically, as your business begins to scale, there’s a lot that will pull your attention away from your company, and your culture. Just remember that as long as you have set the mandate to care for, and to cultivate, your culture, your business is bound to take off. Destination: Success.

Felicity Hinton

Felicity Hinton

Felicity Hinton is the founder and chief strategist at Humanist, a culture-change agency that helps transform people for business success. Previously, she worked in human performance solution design, and advertising. She is a certified change manager (UCT), has a Bachelor’s degree in English (Wits), and has won several awards for her business writing, including a Silver Quill.

innovative culture change for the new world of work
Featured Resource

Free Guide: Get the Culture Change Advantage

Realise the benefits of effective culture change in six, simple steps.


Receive our latest news and insights

Leave a Reply