“When people learn new skills at the right time, in the right way, something amazing happens. They feel better, work harder, and their positive energy spreads.”—Grovo
Growing forms the core of companies like Grovo. Part of their mission is to help others evolve and improve rapidly. However, company growth is most beneficial when handled “in the right way” — in a deliberate way where you don’t lose what was so strong about the startup culture in the first place. There will always be some growing pains, but when you make culture a priority, something amazing happens.
While helping companies improve their productivity is central for Grovo, CEO Jeff Fernandez believes it’s just as important to care for their own employees. In a recent talk at their New York headquarters, he explained just how Grovo has maintained its vibrant culture—including winning Internet Week’s “Best Place to Work in NY Tech”—through a period of high growth:
Scaling Culture with Company
Grovo’s leadership learned to build culture at the same time that they built their company. Despite continual growth—from 35 to almost 200 employees in a year— Grovo’s culture and sense of identity has remained strong. So how did they do it?
Establish Traditions and Rituals
- “Camp Grovo,” now in its 7th year, is an all-company retreat for employees to refresh and connect with each other. It’s essentially a private adult summer camp (sign me up!) where coworkers can bond over water gun fights, ropes courses, and other shared, intimate (and equalizing) experiences.
- Bi-weekly “Kitchen Sink” meetings in the (you guessed it) office kitchen involve Grovo updates, a casual sharing circle, and even some story telling. New hires often get to hear the origin stories of certain Grovo “legends” and inside jokes (ask about “The Truck”).
- Impromptu dodge ball games also tend to break out and break tension (although there are designated game times and a tap out policy), making good use of the multitude of Grovo stress balls littering the floor.
- Among the many other perks are: Bagel days, office manicures, shoe-shines, and an in-office gym with showers, lunches, and more. Are you reaching for your resume yet?
Invest in Your People
One of the best culture tools in Grovo’s kit is their HR-but-not team: the Talent recruiters. This team screens for fit and values and welcomes new employees through an intensive—but mutually beneficial—on-boarding process.
Grovo designed this in-depth plan to introduce new people to the company, and the company to new people without compromising their culture or discomfiting new employees.
Pay Attention to On-Boarding
- Mentor program: New employees are assigned a buddy outside of their team to show them around and introduce them to all departments
- Periodic follow-up meetings: 30, 60, 90-day check-ins with new hires to make sure they understand their roles, are comfortable with their teams, and have the chance to raise concerns or leave if necessary
- 2 week training plan with each department: Every employee learns how the company functions, what everyone else does, and meets other workers
Bringing on new people can be a blessing and curse. As much as new hires add to the company, there’s always the possibility that they will change the culture in the process. Ironically, according to Grovo co-founder Jeff Fernandez, new people can “threaten” the culture simply by assuming that a place like Grovo already has the “perfect culture.” Even an office with the most fulfilled, bonded, driven, and fun-loving employees has tough times, dull times, and downsides—it’s can’t be all sunshine and rainbows every day!
Ultimately, reinvention and flexibility is necessary during a time of growth, for employees and the leadership team alike. Culture doesn’t—and shouldn’t—remain stagnant. It’s constantly evolving, just like the company itself.
Never Stop Improving
As difficult as these hurdles sound, new people are necessary for growth, and growth is a huge part of progress. Fernandez’s advice is to be specific about the outcomes you want, from planning your strategies to your hiring practices. Start with your core values and hire for them. Employees who possess the qualities that support your culture should add to it. Also, don’t be afraid to proactively remove those who detract from the culture and values—they don’t belong at your company.
Creating and sustaining a robust culture, especially through rapid growth, is challenging. It takes mutual trust and hard work. Culture can be seeded, but not forced. To make sure the company survives the scaling process, it’s important to be transparent with employees. Fernandez’s advice: tell them how, and especially why, the company and culture is changing. After all, the sustained ability to evolve while staying true to yourself is crucial to survival, growth, and ultimately, success.