Fast-Growth Corp. was a fast growing wholesale national market leader of real estate products in Los Angeles, Calif. The 400-employee family business purchased part of Nosedive Corp., a failed competitor, and planned to hire about 100 of its employees.
“Bill,” the owner of Fast-Growth Corp., realized adding a significant number of new employees from a different corporate culture heightened the risk of a significant change in his organization’s existing culture. Introducing new employees into a culture may be likened to adding yeast to dough. Handled badly, your bread ruins. Handled well, the added ingredient can help the entire mass rise and create an even better result.
The leadership at Fast-Growth Corp. wanted to bake warm, delicious corporate bread. They had a vested interest in maintaining a culture employees categorized as relaxed, fun, politics-free, and a family atmosphere with smart management, good communication and the freedom allowing individuals to make decisions directly affecting their work.
Bill reached out to me to head up a project to help maintain its successful, people-oriented culture. As the lead project manager, I worked with a few other consultants to interview key Fast-Growth Corp. executives in California, Mid-West and East Coast. We interviewed these site and front-line managers and sales reps, mostly face-to-face, and compiled the information gathered.
We identified four big ideas to help integrate Nosedive Corp.’s employees into Fast-Growth Corp.’s stable culture. The “Big 4” ideas presented to Bill and his executive team involved:
- Strategic hiring
- Standardized training
- An Employee Suggestion System
By following these Big 4 ideas, Fast-Growth Corp effectively managed the leaven provided by its new employees. It maintained a healthy culture and continued to grow rapidly.
I. Strategic Hiring
My consultant group’s research showed, in certain Fast-Growth Corp. departments, employees were starting to cut corners in their jobs and felt burdened with oppressive workloads. This pointed to the need to hire additional people for specific functions.
So, using interview data and additional assessment tools to study employees’ needs, personalities and behaviors, Fast-Growth Corp. effectually compared each applicant’s performance to the company’s value and belief system. This method helped screen out unsuitable applicants for consistently good hiring decisions. New employees closely matched the existing corporate culture and assimilated more easily and quickly into the existing culture without changing it much.
Since Fast-Growth Corp. wanted new employees to quickly fit into the existing culture, mentoring was important. Employees with seniority introduced newcomers to the corporate culture, taught them the rules, and supported them on a daily basis. This helped the new workers adapt and feel comfortable in the organization, nudging them into rapid acceptance of the company’s norms and values, and helping maintain a stable organizational atmosphere.
It also helped management to quickly identify anyone who didn’t fit in or who was unlikely to contribute to the organization’s bright future.
III. Standardized Training
The Fast-Growth Corp.’s headquarters was a good place for training, with the corporate culture easily recognizable there. Bringing employees together at the headquarters also connected individual employees from different branches and helped form a more cohesive group.
Standardized training is an important management tool, especially when handled by long-time employees who know a great deal about the company and its procedures. Such people managed Fast-Growth Corp.’s transition. They implemented a program in which every new floor person trained with an establish department manager for a week. He or she rotated through all the departments a week at a time to learning every area’s function, even though this meant the employee didn’t actually start work for two weeks to a month after joining the company.
IV. Employee Suggestion System
While American employees contribute an average of less than five new ideas per year for improving work, Japanese employees suggest well above 40. This is partly because of the Employee Suggestion System developed in Japan. In this model, each employee receives little cards on which to write work problems. They post them on a board for everyone to see, consider, and contribute potential solutions. Any changes are recorded on the board as well. Each idea is awarded a small amount of cash equal to about USD $5. This process strengthens a group’s cohesiveness, and increases motivation and job satisfaction through recognition.
One additional note: To make any employee integration work well, the project owner or sponsor must communicate the importance of the project and everyone’s involvement in it. High engagement and commitment to a successful project benefits all employees.
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