This article was updated on July 30, 2018.
Corporate growing pains are a natural part of the life cycle of any successful business. Growing pains are moments of transition, times when change is needed. Moving from four employees to 40 to 400, for example, will have an obvious impact on how your organization does business. Managing those growing pains is a big part of business life, and HR leaders are on the front lines driving these transitions.
Here are a few common corporate growing pains and how HR leaders might go about accommodating them:
Bad Hiring Criteria
A normal growing pain for organizations is knowing exactly when and who to hire. So having a consistently effective hiring process should be a priority. While ad hoc hiring decisions might work for an organization in its infancy, they won't work as an organization looks to bring in more people to staff its growth. Processes, policies and hiring criteria, based on the mission and goals of the business, should be established and implemented to scale up staffing.
Every new hire needs to add revenue to the organization above the cost of that new hire. So knowing when to hire is largely determined by business/financial data and projections about future growth. HR, and the organization's leadership, should develop a clear business case (based on needs, costs and value added) for each new hire. According to Entrepreneur, after "determining that adding new employees is financially wise, employers need to pay close attention to the hiring process. Making a bad hire can cost companies as much as 30 percent of the individual's first-year earnings."
HR leaders play a key role in establishing a standardized hiring process that determines not only whether a candidate has the skills needed for the job, but also the all-important cultural fit. Seeking employee referrals and/or promoting from within may be good choices to find culturally appropriate candidates. As Nick Worswick, VP of Corporate Accounts for GrubHub, explains in Fast Company, "I cannot stress enough how important it is to have a very specific and rigorous hiring process. Once you've designed a hiring method that works for your organization, its use needs to be constant and consistent."
Staff Roles Lack Definition
In a smaller business, employee roles can be more fluid. As problems arise, the organization comes together (often as one) to overcome them, doing whatever is necessary. This fluidity is often at the core of the excitement many start-up cultures experience. As organizations grow, however, roles need to be more clearly defined. If everybody tries to do everything, you have a recipe for chaos and conflict. But at the same time, organizations want to maintain the creativity of their original culture, so scaling up can be a highly delicate balancing act.
HR leaders will assume a central role in making sure roles and accountability are clearly laid out. As Forbes explains it, organizations should "create and write down roles, responsibilities, and goals and then review these goals. Do it over and over again ... Goals and documented responsibilities will hold everyone accountable. Without accountability, there will be complacency and complacency will lead to a slow death."
Losing Your "Original" Culture
It's usually much easier to define and maintain a workplace culture among the first few employees who might have shared the same "unspoken" values, mission and goals. Preserving your "original" culture becomes a challenge as you bring in more people who come from the outside and may bring in new ways of doing things (and different sets of values). The ensuing cultural growing pains can result in disappointment, burnout and attrition of your key talent.
As online food delivery business GrubHub shows, it's critical to document and share your culture right from the start, and use that cultural foundation as a jumping off point for continuous business growth. Worswick warns that organizations should "clearly define your company mission, goals, and values and ensure they align with the current culture. Next, post the mission, goals, and values on the office walls for every employee to see. It's important that employees be continuously reminded of what is most important to the company."
Your culture is a living, breathing thing, so you have to invest in developing it every single day with every single employee.
Although growing pains are normal in every organization, the specific problems and solutions will be unique to each organization. No matter the growing pains, HR leaders will be instrumental in recognizing the causes of those pains and then formulating a remedy to keep the organization along its successful growth track.
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