Scaling Culture: Staying True to your Origins
First published April 23, 2019
Culture is imperative to the success of companies, no matter the size. For the past two years, the Accel People Summit has brought together the top minds in talent and HR to discuss the best ways to take care of our people. This year, we were thrilled to be joined by experts Jessica Neal, Chief Talent Officer at Netflix, and Hayagreeva (Huggy) Rao, Professor of Organizational Behavior and Human Resources at Stanford. Together, they shared thoughts on how to successfully evolve culture while staying true to your origins as your company scales.
Jessica and Huggy discussed the idea that culture is the shared meanings, doings, sayings and feelings in a company. For the sake of organization and efficiency, many companies implement rules that they often neglect to reassess as they grow. Here are a few guidelines to keep you on track as your company expands:
Set the tone
Culture is defined by the day to day values of the CEO. A leader with a strong vision and belief system sets the tone for the rest of the company. Communicating AND living those values and beliefs are key to creating a durable culture.
A successful leader is one that is comfortable with not having all the answers and knows when to ask questions. They surround themselves with the best colleagues, advisors, investors, and they leverage the strengths of others to fill the gaps in their own knowledge, skillset, and experiences.
Define what is taboo
Defining what your culture is can take time. Oftentimes, a faster pathway for companies to inspire unity is to outline what is not part of a company’s culture. Work among your teams to determine the types of behaviors and attitudes that are unanimously unacceptable; you can often back into the key components of your culture from there
Break the rules
Remaining stringent on outdated rules makes it difficult for employees to do their jobs. As a company grows, it is key to create an environment free of constraints to foster engagement.
Facilitate change behavior
Frequent feedback provides the opportunity for employees to change behavior and encourages honest communication. Create a culture where open and honest dialog is encouraged and where everyone feels empowered to speak up and have an impact.
More than just money
While compensation is important, sometimes companies overuse monetary incentives. Providing employees with a clear focus and eliminating confusion can foster productivity just as well—if not better. The reality is that you can never make everyone “happy” but you can create a company with a strong culture of community and a platform to do meaningful and impactful work.
About Huggy and Jessica:
Hayagreeva “Huggy” Rao
Huggy is the Atholl McBean Professor of Organizational Behavior and Human Resources at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business. His research has been published in Administrative Science Quarterly, American Journal of Sociology, American Sociological Review, Academy of Management Journal, Organization Science and Strategic Management Journal. His teaching focuses on organizational change, building customer-focused cultures, and organization design. Rao is co-author of the recent book Scaling Up Excellence: Getting to More Without Settling for Less.
Jessica started at Netflix in 2006 and was heavily involved in improving the culture as the company grew. In 2013 she left to become head of human resources at Coursera and later, Chief People Officer at Scopely, a leader in the gaming industry. She returned to Netflix in 2017 to oversee HR for the product engineering team responsible for the Netflix consumer experience, and not long after that, assumed the role of Chief Talent Officer.