Organizational growth comes hand in hand with change, and change must be managed properly to keep employees focused and engaged. Growing organizations encounter a range of challenges associated with keeping employees productive and committed to their work and the company. One study found that startups in high-growth mode typically experience a culture shift between years three and four of operation that leads to a concurrent drop in employee engagement and rise in turnover. Those who overcame challenges related to their rapid growth relied upon two-way communication and transparent management practices to improve employee morale and retention.
The reality is that all companies encounter a host of challenges associated with effectively managing employees through change. Changes in business structure, decision-making, and team accountabilities all impact employee morale and performance, and can make the difference between organizational advancement or stagnation. No matter the company size or stage of growth, organizational leaders need to create a work environment and culture where employees can thrive and perform at their best. Here are some of the specific employee management practices and factors that support company growth:
Growing organizations rely on employees that possess the necessary skills and knowledge to tackle competitive pressures and evolving customer demands. Managers can support employee learning and development by focusing on opportunities for continuous knowledge and skill-building. However, great employee management isn’t limited to identifying the right training programs for employees. It includes positioning employees for growth opportunities via stretch assignments, promotions, and projects that allow them to gain exposure to new processes and people.
As the organization grows, employee knowledge and capabilities need to expand in order to meet new challenges and adapt to new processes and ways of working. A focus on employee learning and development can help spur company growth in the following ways:
Higher efficiency: Employees that have a broader range of skills in relevant areas can work more efficiently and with less supervision.
More confident employees: Employees with a sufficient level of skill and training to perform their jobs may feel more reassured of their capabilities and will be more self-reliant.
Greater innovation: The more knowledge employees possess, the broader the scope of idea generation they may have. One study found that employee training stimulates new ideas and creativity, two critical elements for innovation.
Employees can only direct their attention to important company growth goals if they know what the goals are and how they’re expected to contribute to them. One of the cornerstones of employee management is open, clear communication that helps employees understand expected behaviors and how they can be successful at work. Clear communication delivers maximum value when it extends beyond top-down communication and incorporates two-way dialogue between employees and managers.
Research has found that inadequate communication in the workplace can prevent a company from growing and can even cause the company to experience financial loss. To prevent that from happening, managers can use strong communication to aid employee performance in the following ways:
Goal-setting: Setting clear performance expectations with employees involves them in the process and ensures a deeper understanding of expectations.
Feedback and coaching: Providing opportunities for two-way feedback helps employees stay on track and improve performance.
Collaboration: Encouraging information-sharing within and between teams supports innovation and problem-solving.
Organizations are more than a collection of individuals performing their jobs—they’re groups of interconnected teams that need to understand and rely on each other to accomplish their goals. Leaders who recognize the need for employees to build relationships and connections in the workplace can help employees feel more engaged and committed to their work. One study found that employees who have quality relationships with their coworkers and managers are more likely to be engaged and happy at work.
People don’t want to feel like “cogs in the wheel,” but rather that their managers and coworkers recognize them for their unique capabilities and contributions. Managers who develop strong relationships with their employees help them feel valued and also help to enhance trust and loyalty within the team. Managers can build connections with employees by creating opportunities to spend time together one-on-one, in meetings, and at off-site or team-building sessions. They can also recognize employee achievements—for example, when the team meets an important goal—and make note of important milestones like work anniversaries or birthdays. Lastly, managers can build strong relationships with their teams by showing that they understand and value each individual’s skills and capabilities, and what makes them unique.
Strong employee management is as much about helping individuals perform to their potential as it is about helping teams operate efficiently in support of company growth. A strong sense of teamwork can help the entire organization meet its business objectives. Research shows companies that promote teamwork and collaborative working achieve overall higher performance.
Teamwork doesn’t just help improve performance, but it can also drive deeper employee commitment to team goals. When individuals feel they are part of something and that others are relying on them to do their part, they may be more likely to follow through on their commitments because failing to do so doesn’t just impact themselves, but others as well. When individuals are working together effectively as a team, they share their resources, time, and ideas with one another, helping the entire organization achieve its goals. Effective employee management practices that can help build a sense of team include:
Establishing shared rewards for achieving team goals
Encouraging employees to cooperate on problem-solving
Building consensus rather than ruling by authority
Creating opportunities for individuals to talk through challenges or conflicts they’re experiencing with others
Organizational leaders set the tone for desired employee behavior through their example. When the organization is growing and encountering new challenges, leaders can help employees by demonstrating how to deliver consistent performance in times of change and uncertainty. In this way, leaders practice strong employee management simply by showing employees the behaviors that define exceptional performance.
It’s one thing to deliver performance expectations and talk to employees about what’s required to support company growth goals, but another to demonstrate it through observable behavior. When employees see managers and other leaders “walking the talk,” they can follow their lead and emulate that same behavior. Managers can lead by example in the following ways:
Setting the same high expectations for themselves as they do for their team
Delivering what’s promised and accepting responsibility when there’s a miss
Demonstrating empathy and working to understand others’ views and frustrations
Encouraging teamwork and collaboration within and between teams
Organizational growth implies change, and strong employee management is an invaluable driver of improved employee performance during times of change. Strong managers understand what it takes to enable the individuals on their team to perform at their best. By communicating clearly, building solid trust-based relationships, and supporting overall employee learning and development, managers can help position employees for optimal performance as the organization grows.