This is what could kill Slack’s growth
When we were first pitching Pomello to investors, one of the most frequent criticisms we heard was that a great company culture is nice to have, not need to have. Here was the parting line they would leave us with as they told us they weren’t going to invest.
“You guys are vitamins, not aspirin.”
What kept us going after investors kept telling us no is that companies were telling us yes. The leaders we knew and trusted, and whose track records were as impressive as their titles, told us that they struggled to manage their culture particularly as they grew. We knew there was a role for culture management software.
So I wasn’t surprised when Stewart Butterfield, CEO of Slack, cited his number one concern as scaling the company culture at Slack. This is not the first time that Stewart has talked about company culture. In fact, it’s one of the most frequent topics that he brings up when discussing the company’s stratospheric rise–see examples here, here, and here.
“You need to really have the volume up. Cultural problems need to be addressed as they arise,”
It’s very easy to talk about culture being important, but it is much more difficult to make it a priority day in and day out. The reason is because culture is strategic. It is almost never urgent (at which point you are probably dealing with an employee morale crisis). The way to keep culture top of mind is to make is quantifiable by measuring it regularly. But how do you measure something that’s so subjective and qualitative in nature?
For smaller companies a leadership team can handle culture on a 1:1 basis by having conversations with employees about their engagement and happiness at work, understanding what motivates them and how they perceive their mission. This approach is severely limited in terms of the scale of business that can utilize it. We generally see only companies with fewer than 50 employees keep this strategy up consistently.
For companies that are large already or planning to grow quickly, leadership teams must invest in some form of technology to replace the level of insight that they had as a small company. The most frequent type of technology chosen is a basic survey technology around employee engagement.
There are a lot of good survey tools that are DIY like Survey Monkey. While these are cost-efficient they do not provide employers with guidance on how to construct a good survey and best practices for ensuring that the information gathered is not biased. Furthermore, the analytics engines around many of these tools (even employee engagement specific ones) are lacking in terms of their predictive power and insight into what is driving the results.
This is where we come back to the importance of company culture and culture analytics. Culture management analytics is a new kind of HR technology. It combines culture strategy, employee coaching and communication, survey expertise, and predictive analytics. The goal of culture management analytics tools is threefold:
- Enable leadership teams to efficiently gather unbiased information from their employees about their perception of the workplace.
- To provide leadership teams with analytics that allow them to spot culture problems early before they become full blow performance and turnover issues.
- Give leadership teams a framework for taken consistent and timely actions to support a strong culture and coach employees towards success.