With Rapid Growth, Maintain Culture

Andrea Haan Headshot
Photo Courtesy of Andrea Haan
For fast-growing companies, it’s important to have your people, and culture, keep pace with the changes, says Andrea Haan, CHRO of World Insurance. Here's how.

Rapid change is par for the course with a growing company, whether it be internal infrastructure, processes or leadership and talent. But making sure the heartbeat of the organization, the culture, remains a focus can prove challenging.

Andrea Haan, CHRO of World Insurance, shares how she and her team are handling the challenges that can come with major growth, maintaining a robust culture and other best practices for HR leaders.

How do you strategically build and maintain a change management program when your company is growing fast and experiencing transformations in leadership, general workforce and geographic reach?

Fast-growing companies must be agile in order to achieve accelerated growth. There are typically three areas of focus to ensure strong agility and successful transition and change.

Having the right processes and infrastructure to prioritize change initiatives and garner the right attention and resources from leadership is critical. Most organizations I’ve worked with have some type of project management office and/or an integration management office to ensure effective resourcing and monitoring of progress and success on the most important initiatives.

Secondly, selecting and developing people strong in change management leadership is critical. We are currently evaluating our screening practices and assessment tools to create the right emphasis on change leadership. We also have built leadership toolkits to provide our existing leaders the opportunity to brush up on best practices in change leadership. 

Transparency of information and the speed of sharing that information to impacted audiences can be immensely helpful in ensuring alignment of the organization to your growth and change goals. A strong internal communication practice that is disciplined in how information is shared with impacted audiences around the globe is so important.

Building trust in executive level decisions can be gained through honest information flow through the right structured approach and ensuring that information is cascaded timely, through the right levels of leadership at the right time.

How can technology help, and how can you successfully work with IT leadership to reach that goal?

Leveraging collaboration tools to keep your organization digitally connected across the globe is key to create a virtual office and virtual workforce. There are many technological assets to manage and lead the workforce more effectively and efficiently through change.

My key focus in creating speed to change through technology is to create scalable digital assets that support the goals of prioritization/organization, learning and growth and information transfer. I work very closely with IT leadership to understand the capabilities being offered in the market and how we can best deploy them to meet our goals in the organization. There is so much opportunity in products, software and services that it’s super important that HR is working closely with IT leadership to vet the products and ensure they will meet our goals and needs. 

How do HR leaders create and maintain culture in a growing company that’s geographically diverse? Why is that important for continued success?

Mission-driven organizations that are clear about strategy and purpose, and how all decisions align with the goal of the organization, can create a great foundational culture that will be pervasive across diverse geographies and demographics. The key is being crystal clear about the mission, strategy and purpose, as well as corresponding values and how each change, initiative and decision aligns to those overall goals.

As organizations grow, decision authority needs to expand and systems and processes that govern those decisions need to align to company purpose, strategy and values.

Where companies fail is in a few areas: not having a clear strategy and corresponding values; not ensuring alignment of decisions, governing structures and processes to those corresponding strategies and values; and not marketing or communicating to employees the intentional alignment of decisions/initiatives to company strategy and values.

Being principle-based in decisions and aligning them back to strategy and values, and then communicating and role modeling to the wider organization is key and will ensure that no matter where your employees are—and who you employees are—the intended culture is being led by leadership.

What role does DEI play in creating a positive culture?

In any company it is important that the diversity in your workforce reflects the diversity of your customers. Research is clear about how diverse teams lead to better decisions and outcomes. As we think about rapid growth companies and the pace of change, what is most important is inclusion of that diversity in creation of products, ideas and solutions.

Inclusion is a key lever to create a sense of belonging. For any company to extract “value” from diversity and having a diverse workforce, they need to ensure that diverse voices and perspectives are heard, and that they have an impact and influence on decision-making—where that exists, belonging will follow.

The modern worker does not just want their voice heard, but wants their voice to create an impact and create value. An inclusive culture of belonging across your workforce will create power of productivity and engagement through a strong, motivated culture.

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