How To Scale A Team: Vision, Values, Culture
It’s one thing to recognize that your organization needs to do more. It’s another thing to organize and hire the teams that make it possible to achieve company goals. It takes a concerted effort from everyone in the leadership team to decide on the team’s direction and hash out the details. Without this advanced preparation, your team expansion can become a serious long-term liability.
Hiring isn’t like flipping a switch and starting full-scale production. SHRM estimates the average cost per hire to be an average of $4,129 per employee, not counting the working hours current employees spend training new employees. To circumvent turnover and hire smart the first time, take the time to determine how your organization’s vision, values, and culture will operate on a new team.
VISION—SCALING TEAMS WITH PURPOSE
Scaling a team isn’t a one-size-fits-all process. Before you can succeed at scaling up a team, you need to identify the reason you need additional people on that team. Do you have a fully functioning department with excellent leadership and need more people to increase the capacity? Are you expanding into unfamiliar territory, and you need someone with skills and insights that your organization doesn’t have? In many cases, it’s a little of both.
You need to define the nature of your team’s growth well before you start crafting job descriptions for new team members. Rushing the job description is a common mistake when organizations are hiring under pressure, but nailing down the details can lead to important savings in the long term.
One example of this situation comes with tasks that can be automated. If the single HR person in your organization can’t keep up with the time-off requests now that you have too many people to track on a single Google calendar, it may be more efficient to find software to streamline the process than it would be to hire additional HR assistants and train them in a tedious and complicated spreadsheet process.
VALUES—SCALING TEAMS WITH INTRINSIC MOTIVATION
If your organization’s vision is what you want to accomplish, then your organization’s values describe how you want to accomplish your vision. Long-term success in scaling a team requires an alignment between what employees value and what the organization values. Without this alignment, you’ll have a hard time finding and keeping employees on your new or expanding teams.
You don’t need to put your values into words on a poster for employees to understand what they are. Their experience at your organization will prove what you value more clearly than any list or mantra. If your organization values profit above all else, that will show in how it treats employees and customers. If your organization values the employee experience from the hiring phase onward and acts accordingly, it will reflect in the reviews that current and former employees leave on Glassdoor and other review sites.
While employer values and employee values are two sides of the same coin, they still have important differences in how they’re expressed. This is where trouble may arise. For example, a small organization may come to value employee autonomy, a culture in which employees work together, speak their minds, and come up with great solutions without waiting for someone else to go first. As this organization begins to scale their team, they plan on keeping a flat structure, where everyone works autonomously without layers of bureaucracy to slow things down. As they put this plan into practice, they may discover that it’s harder to provide oversight for such a large group, making it difficult for everyone to understand the vision and for leadership to make corrections. They discover the difference between autonomy and independence—just because employees can keep working without being monitored doesn’t mean they can make any choice they want without affecting the trajectory of the group.
Autonomy, communication, and many other individual values require different strategies to fully express themselves in a group setting. As you scale your teams, it’s important to recognize the limits of these individual values and support them with effective management structures. While optimal team size will vary from position to position, try to keep management to a series of small- to moderate-sized teams. Every employee should have a team where their efforts can be recognized, and every team should have a clear connection to the organization’s leadership and values.
CULTURE—SCALING TEAMS FOR FUTURE GROWTH
Articulating your vision and living your values helps create the final ingredient of successfully scaling a team: an effective culture. While there are many definitions of culture, we prefer this one:
Organizational culture is the summation of how people within an organization interact with each other and work together. Like vision and values, the most effective cultures have a purpose and a direction. Ask yourself this: what kind of workplace do you want to create for your new team? How will this new team impact how current employees communicate and collaborate?
Some organizations try to create a culture by basing job descriptions on successful team members. A more successful method of recruiting is searching for complements to your team members, not clones of your team members. Whether you’re hiring a software engineer or a support hero, the position will have a wide variety of qualifications that make for a successful candidate. Instead of basing a job description on a person, take a careful look at the skills and attributes that make the person successful. How do the new hire’s attributes compare and contrast with the other members of the team? Do they shore up their teammates’ weaknesses, or do they magnify them?
As you grow, it’s important to be careful with your referrals program. While asking employees for referrals is one of the quickest ways to hire, people tend to be friends with people who have similar backgrounds, attitudes, and characteristics. Overemphasizing referrals can lead to multiplying weaknesses instead of mitigating them and can reduce diversity in your organization. Every new hire will have strengths and weaknesses. It’s important to recognize that, as your organization grows, you need a plan for how your employees can grow with it. This doesn’t mean that every employee needs to be on the management track to be worth hiring; employees should have opportunities to develop their professional and institutional knowledge. Then as your team continues to grow, they can help develop their new coworkers’ capacity in the same way as your team grows from good to great.
Clear vision, lived values, and authentic culture. Whether you’re considering how to scale a startup or how to expand a single team, these essential principles make all the difference. Building a team takes more than making deals to get people to sign up. It takes planning out how that team will grow together, not just from HR’s perspective, but in your organization’s larger financial and strategic narrative. To succeed in scaling your team, you need to understand these principles well enough to make them clear to everyone involved, including leadership and management.
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Editorial Note: This article originally appeared in ABR Employment Services e-newsletter,HR Insights. It was originally written by Brian Anderson, a brand journalist for BambooHR and edited by Kinsa Group.