The relationship between communication & engagement and culture of an organization is closely related yet complex. Culture is an invisible determinant that is created through the powerful tools of communication & engagement. However, when organizations scale up very quickly, culture is the aspect that gets impacted the hardest.
Tech, e-Commerce & Digital marketing agencies are growing at an unprecedented pace. However, as they grow, most of these organizations fail to develop and maintain internal systems/channels for transparent information flow to the junior-most levels.
People (especially at junior and mid levels – which makes up almost 90% of an organization strength) sometimes are unaware of the company’s mission and growth plans at a given stage, resulting in a communication breakdown.
Lack of understanding of the mission & goals and lack of attachment to the organization evokes a feeling of apathy/disinterest amongst people, ultimately resulting in them choosing to leave the company.
The other challenge that comes with fast growth is related to people engagement. It is very common to see that as organizations scale quickly, the initial 25-30 employees of an organization remain far more engaged with the founders than the newer employees who come into the setup (barring senior level hires who have lot of engagement opportunities with the founders). This leads to a scenario where people work with the organization just for the brand name and/or money and not necessarily for a common purpose (which isn’t really a good scenario from a long-term perspective). With there being no dearth of good opportunities anymore, the average tenure of disengaged employees has gone down from 3-4 years earlier to 1-2 years now.
As it is, social media is making a significant impact on people’s behavior towards their organization. It has revolutionized the way people connect and share information. Experiences, impressions and expectations regarding jobs, organizations and management are constantly being shared on various social media platforms. Word of mouth becomes infinitely more powerful and amplified in the digital world. This has led to the growth of desires and ambitions of people to achieve success at a faster pace. People today have a tendency to switch jobs whenever they see an opportunity that promises a higher quality/purpose of life.
From a culture perspective, the problem for fast growing startups is how to sustain a ‘startup culture’ without falling into the trap that defines a lot (except for a select few) of big corporates. It is impossible to scale without operational processes, but engagement and communication are the keys to sustain a ‘startup culture’ (which offers significant advantages over a ‘corporate culture’). The best (and probably a radical) way to achieve that is to view engagement & communication as processes themselves. It ensures that they can easily be strategized, scheduled, tracked & improved. In good organizations, engagement & communication strategies have moved on beyond company off-sites and team lunches, and are implemented as a process (utilizing offline & online strategies) where CXOs take a keen interest.
Since the Indian startup ecosystem is still fairly young, a lot of founders are just about now beginning to realize the organization culture challenges that come with scale. However, founders who have seen & understood the cost of attrition & disengagement, have already started making financial investments in communication & engagement strategies since the ROI is very clear.
[About the author: Madhur Ramani is the Co-Founder and Managing Partner – Stratum Consulting. The firm designs and builds social business HR systems that create highly engaged workplaces focused on scale, innovation and customer delight.]