When you have a small company you probably know all of your co-workers quite well. At work, you sit together in one small space and you know exactly what everybody’s doing. You can easily get all the information you need because you just know where to look for it. Possibly, after work, you also spend a lot of time together. It’s simple to trust your friends.
But what if your company is growing? What if every week you see new faces in your office? Faces you don’t have names for. You have no idea what these people are doing or what their skills are. After a while, you might realize you’re spending most of your time in the office still with the same people, the ones you know; coffee and lunch breaks too. You don’t integrate with your new colleagues because there are too many, arriving too fast.
It’s hard to build a community based on trust and teamwork in that kind of fast-growing environment. We know, because it was one of our biggest challenges: how to grow and not to lose the sense of who we are.
Based on our experience, we can offer you some tips and advice.
Space to work
We decided to work in an open concept space. Even though it has some disadvantages, we saw (and continue to see) value in meeting each other constantly. When you come to our office for the first time you might be surprised: if you want to go to the kitchen, you have to walk through the whole office; if you want to print something, you have to go upstairs. So you have to walk, walk and walk. Before you say, “It doesn’t make any sense!” let me tell you a secret: it was designed this way on purpose. While walking, you meet a lot of people, there’s no choice. Different people, not from your immediate team. You talk with them, you get to know them because this kind of space supports and encourages human interaction.
An unintuitive office design can encourage employees to move more and meet more people during a regular office day.
It’s common workplace wisdom: you achieve the best results when people work together on a common goal. But when your company isn’t small anymore that can seem impossible, with differing projects, different teams, different goals. So you need to help them find a way to exchange knowledge and experience. Meetings, workshops, and presentations focused on particular skills instead of projects can be a solution.
Time spent on knowledge exchange is never a time wasted.
You may wonder how this improves trust. Well, at these kinds of meetings you create the opportunity for discussion with different people. People from different teams can exchange experiences and insights and build new relationships. Team members trust each other’s competence when they know something about their practice. It’s a win-win situation for both the people and the company.
During the recruitment process, we check not only technical skills but also how a candidate will fit with us. We don’t want to hire someone who will carry out their responsibilities perfectly but is arrogant or rude with those around them. Our HR team selects candidates very carefully. That’s why every newbie at XSolve arrives with a big credit of trust.
Always consider the culture match soft skills when recruiting new employees.
Do you know how rumors start? Usually, rumors happen when you only know part of the story and have to guess the rest.
For example, when your promotion system is unclear, or the roles in your company are not well-defined, people feel uncomfortable and their imaginations start working.
The answer is information. Provide a single point where updated and trustworthy information is available to everyone. Encourage people to ask questions. Make them feel that making mistakes is a normal thing because it can always be a lesson learned. Try to use the working space to increase transparency: maybe post your metrics on the walls or place a screen with important data in a visible spot? Small things can have an impact and change your culture for the better.
It’s not always obvious, but when your community is growing transparency becomes even more important. In big companies, you can’t control everything. Making the results visible means you don’t need hundreds of managers. People simply need to feel responsible (and appreciated) for their work.
So, how do you build trust in a growing company? I truly believe there are many answers to this question. And I also know it’s not always easy to do. But if trust is one of your core values and you want to work in a company based on cooperation, not control, it’s a thing worth fighting for.
Follow this link if you want to find out more on how to create a better work space for agile teams.