Create Culture that isn’t Bullsh*t — Part Three: Growth

If you want your business to grow invest in the growth and development of your people. If you want your business to stagnate, ignore them.

Image credit: #WOCinTech

Here at long last part three of How to Create Corporate culture that isn’t just Bullsh*t (read parts one and two). This time we’re talking employee Growth and Retention.

Revisiting, for the last time, our shared definition of culture:

The culture of a company determines who joins, who succeeds, how people behave, how teams run, and how the company performs.

I’m going to talk about growth and retention in the following ways 1) Performance reviews, 2) Opportunities for failure 3) A clear path toward success.

1) Performance reviews

If you don’t have company-wide shared business goals that translate down to individual goals for each employee, you’re doing it wrong.

I’m not telling you how to run your business, except that I am, but I am type of person that needs to know where I’m going and how I get there. The same reason I can’t read a Murakami book (sorry Murakami fans I need a plot), is the same reason I can not thrive in an environment without clear goal posts that lay out how we’re going to get from point A to point B. And moreover, without measurable goals, there is no way for me to know whether or not I’m doing a good job. There’s no way for you to know I’m doing a good job either.

Contrary to what we would like to believe, there is no such thing as a structureless group. Any group of people of whatever nature that comes together for any length of time for any purpose will inevitably structure itself in some fashion. The structure may be flexible; it may vary over time; it may evenly or unevenly distribute tasks, power and resources over the members of the group. But it will be formed regardless of the abilities, personalities, or intentions of the people involved. — The Tyranny of Structurelessness, Jo Freeman

Even if you do not have a formalized method to reviewing performance, the truth is you have one. It is just that the one you have is most likely inequitable, based on perception rather than the value added by that employee, and most likely not in line with your business goals.

Performance reviews as a popular method of evaluation have declined over the years. I’ve had women write to asking about how to get ahead in their company without performance reviews, and both Fast Company and Harvard Business Reviews have covered the decline. While reviews can be a tooth-pulling experience they are necessary for the following reasons:

  1. They give you the opportunity to give meaningful feedback to employees. We all need to know what we’re doing well and where we can improve. While I like to think that I’m the best at my job and need zero points for improvement I know that’s just not true. Yo are denying me the opportunity to learn how to improve.
  2. They give the employee the opportunity to check the temperature of how they feel at their job. Are they happy? What do they need to be more successful.
  3. They give the employee the opportunity to have their voice heard. 360 feedback is important and necessary and gives them a say in making the work environment better for themselves and for you.
  4. It gives the employee a necessary platform to discuss their growth path along with the pay increases and promotions that accompany it.

Not all performance reviews need be arduous processes. If you are a small company you can use more low-touch review methods to help provide feedback to your employees. What’s more important is that you do it regularly. At least once a year if not more often. It’s a structure that provides security and information to employees and makes them feel safe within your organization and confident about their contributions.

Read: The 5 Word Performance Review

2) Opportunities for failure

Back in 2010 I was a Content Manager for Health and Fitness site. Up until that point my career had remained solely in the realm in content, but having worked in digital media and tech I’d developed an interest in product. I was looking for more exciting ways to grow my abilities when I heard that our company was considering developing a fashion and beauty website. I marched into my boss’ office and said, “I’m you’re girl. Let me run product for this site.” Nine months later I led a small team to launch the website.

That was how my career transitioned from Content Marketing to Product Management. It was a huge turning point for me. My boss and the company gave me the opportunity to stretch my skills, and more importantly, they gave me an opportunity to fail.

Put me in, Coach!

I didn’t do it on my own. I had a ton of support from my boss and the incredible team under me, but I was able to grow because the environment was built to support the growth and development of its employees. Creating a culture that encourages employees to challenge themselves while providing them the support they need to be successful is the best way to ensure not only that your employees grow, but that your business grows as well.

Also be equitable when awarding stretch assignments. Consider all of your employees when considering a leader for these stretch assignments.

Don’t assume that someone would not want this role based upon unverified perceptions of ambition levels, family responsibilities, and so on. 
Fair and Equitable Treatment: Progress Made and Challenges Remaining

Studies show that men overwhelmingly get more stretch assignment opportunities than women. Being passed over for these opportunities are just as bad if not akin to being passed over for a promotion.

Read: To Succeed in Tech, Women Need More Visibility

3) A clear path toward success

Take the guess work out of career progression within your company. In the same way salary transparency helps close equity and access gaps when bringing in new employees, transparency for career progression removes bias for current employees.

Unfairness or mistreatment within the work environment was the most frequently cited reason for leaving, with 37% of the sample indicating that unfair treatment was a major factor in their decision to leave their company. 30% of underrepresented women of color reported being passed over for promotion, a percentage significantly higher than White or Asian women, White and Asian men and underrepresented men of color 
— Tech Leavers Study, Kapor Capital.

Outline what it takes to be promoted into each new level of seniority. Make clear the salary ranges for those levels. Create goals with your employees to get to each new level and be honest if the business has constraints (financial or organizational) that restricts their potential growth.

People want to be treated fairly. And employee churn due to unfairness is estimated by Kapor Capital to cost the tech industry 16 billion dollars a year. 16 BILLION A YEAR.

Read: 2017 Tech Leavers Study

In conclusion
We as people are constantly changing. Growth is inevitable and as an employer you need to ask yourself — do you want your employees to grow within your company or grow out of it?

If you want your business to grow then you need to invest in the growth and development of your people. If you want your business to stagnate, ignore them. The choice is yours.

Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed the series. Want more articles like this? Visit