“For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” — Newton’s Third Law of Motion
For years, this was the mantra for Facebook’s developers. Then, they realized it wasn’t helping them achieve their goal. It wasn’t helping them move faster. It was doing the exact opposite.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg explained it in his 2014 keynote at F8, “We used to have this famous mantra, ‘Move fast and break things’ … and the idea here was that as developers, moving quickly is so important that we were even willing to tolerate a few bugs to do it. What we realized over time was that it wasn’t helping us to move faster because having to slow down and fix these bugs was slowing us down more than we were actually improving our speed.”
Seeing profits rise from month to month is a form of affirmation. It means you’re doing something right. Growth is a good thing.
Growing too quickly is something else. It can do the exact opposite of what you want.
Is your company a melting pot of cultures?
Old habits die hard
In Facebook’s example, it’s a concrete concept. When something breaks, developers hunt down the bugs and fix them.
When it comes to your people, the concept is a bit more abstract. You might not know what’s breaking until it’s too late — turnover, loss of profits or a toxic culture can be symptoms.
The problem manifests itself with hiring and onboarding. As your company grows, you’ll need to bring more people on to fill the demand. Each new hire brings previous experience with them.
For skills, that’s good. Not always the case when it comes to culture.
Paul might’ve come from a traditional corporate background where working from 9 to 5 meant being at your desk by 8:45. Clara, on the other hand, might’ve worked at a company with flexible hours where 9 to 5 meant she could roll in at 10:15. Given time to fester, Paul’s nagging Clara to get to work at 9 can quickly deteriorate into a rift that hurts productivity, quality of work and more.
In their minds, both Paul and Clara see themselves as correct… and they might’ve been — at their previous jobs.
Handling growth the right way
Long-term, the last thing you want for profitability is to have hiring be your bottleneck. Short-term, you might need to take a step back make some changes in how you’re onboarding people. There’s two ways you can approach the problem of fast growth without having a negative effect on your culture.
“Slow and steady wins the race.” — The Tortoise and the Hare, Aesop’s Fables
The simplest solution is to slow down your hiring process. As you start growing, it’s easy to assume hiring people is the only way to take on extra work. Instead, take a step back and ask yourself some tough questions.
What pain points will more people solve? Sometimes writing things down helps you see it from a different perspective. That might be all it takes to realize the solutions can be solved in an easier way.
Can you put systems in place to increase productivity for your existing teams? Hiring a single developer to automate something your teams are having to do manually now can free them up to take on new projects.
What projects move your company forward? It’s easy to do busy work. If there are active projects that aren’t impacting your company goals, maybe it’s time to stop them so your people can work on higher priorities.
I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard from entrepreneurs who’ve hired teams of people for what sounds like a great idea. Years later, they come to realize it wasn’t that great of an idea after all. Now they’re stuck with way too many salaries on the budget.
There’s two ways people leave your company: Either they choose not to work for you anymore, or you let them go.
When you hire too fast and are forced to start letting people to go that’s a clear sign to your people that you made a mistake. As their trust in your leadership erodes, you might end up paying a lot more than you wanted for that great idea you had.
“Move fast with a stable infra[structure].” — Facebook’s new mantra
Slowing down your hiring isn’t always the right option. As Facebook learned for their developers, you can move fast if you have a stable infrastructure in place.
What’s your infrastructure for onboarding people?
If you’re only focusing on job skills, you’re setting yourself up for a toxic culture. Maybe not today. You might not notice it tomorrow. Like trying to teach an old dog new tricks, with each passing day you’re ignoring your melting pot culture, it gets more difficult to change.
Avoid the problems this causes by making your culture a conscious effort. Be proactive. Help new hires adjust to your company’s culture instead of the other way around. To help with that, I like to use what I call the navigator program.
A navigator is a veteran employee who has volunteered to help show new hires the ropes. When a new hire comes on board, they get assigned a navigator outside of their team. Their navigator initiates invitations to lunch between the new hire and other coworkers. They’ll help put faces to names around the company and more.
Team leaders are there to answer job-related questions and help get new hires on their team understand the projects and tasks to do their job. The navigator handles questions outside of their day-to-day job skills that a new hire might have while they’re adjusting to the culture.
The more you can get your new hires used to interacting with people outside of the team they’re on, the bigger boost you’ll see in cross-team productivity and communication.
It’s easy to think adding more people is the only way to get more stuff done. While there’s a time and place for everything, hiring too fast can hurt productivity and profits.
It’s not a decision to take lightly. Done the right way — with a focus on culture — your hiring and onboarding experience can push your company to new heights. Need help taking the next step? Let’s chat.