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How Do You Grow A Company Without Losing A Positive Culture?

How has Envato confronted the challenge of scaling its culture to match its employee growth?

Portrait for Envato By Envato
Posted 29 Aug 2018
Growing a company without losing a positive culture

We’ve woken up this morning to some terrific news – for the fourth year in a row, Envato has been named one of Australia’s best places to work!

From our industry-leading approach to workplace flexibility and our diversity and inclusion commitments – not to mention the pastries for our birthday! – we think there’s certainly plenty to like about spending your workday pushing Envato to be the best it can be.

But we’re not kidding ourselves; there’s a lot of work that goes into building and maintaining a good workplace culture at our company, and it’s a job that’s only going to become more challenging as Envato continues to grow.

The Envato people team celebrate at the 2018 Great Place to Work awards night.
The Envato people team celebrate at the 2018 Great Place to Work awards night.

Growing And Growing

We’ve just hit a major milestone of 500 employees worldwide – hello to all the crew from Placeit who joined us this year – and we’re still growing; this coming financial year alone we’re looking to add another 100 people to our global staff community!

This goal comes with its own set of unique, intertwined challenges, but there are three that are specifically front of mind as we embark on this next stage of Envato’s growth.

What’s The Best Way to Handle Scale?

You can’t grow for ‘growth’s sake’, it’s something that needs to be done with sustainability and a sense of purpose. For Envato, that purpose is focussed on hiring for roles we believe will continue to grow and improve earnings for our creative community.

When you’re a younger company, you can often communicate more nimbly to a smaller group. There are fewer people and processes to keep track of so important culture tasks such as onboarding and offboarding are quite quickly carried out and actioned.

However, at scale, there are far more business and people activities to keep track of.  If you’re still operating as if you’re a 20 to 50 person business – and asking people to do the same job at 10-times the scale without any support, that’s a challenge. You need to be able to ‘scale within the scale’ by designing and implementing supporting structures that continue to contribute to an outstanding workplace culture.

Life at Envato

Is It Possible To Preserve And Improve Company Culture?

Our CEO Collis Ta’eed once remarked that company culture is like keeping a fish tank; that you can’t go changing all the water at once as that’s disruptive to the fish and their finely tuned ecosystem! In Envato’s case, this means we need to manage the growth in a considered matter as well as prioritise a thorough onboarding process to make sure our future employees feel comfortable in their new work environment, sooner.

As we grow, inevitably the talk turns to issues of productivity – can we make changes to the way our employees go about their day to day? Often, it’s not about people working harder but more about making sure the right environment exists for all people to be successful

We are great believers in the idea that a bad system will let a good person fail every time. We don’t want our staff to be ‘swimming in molasses’ – as one respondent put in a recent staff survey – so our priorities are about making things easier for our staff, even as we grow.

You don’t just want bums on seats, you want employees who are high-quality, people who will buy into our existing culture and elevate it while developing themselves and their careers in the process.

Life at Envato
Life at Envato

How Can We Maintain A Reliable Talent Pipeline?

It’s clear that there is a shortage of tech talent in Australia to meet up with the demand for available work. Part of the challenge is that it’s no longer ‘just’ tech companies who are hiring a tech-savvy workforce. Nearly every company is looking to put their own digital strategies in place and are resourcing these accordingly.

The reality now is that companies like Envato need to look internationally and bring people into the company from overseas. This is no easy task, given changes to immigration laws and the associated high costs of bringing people to Australia. While the long game is clearly more focussed on getting local people into the tech industry from school-age,  that doesn’t help us hire as many as 40 developers in FY19.

All this absolutely changes how we recruit and target possible workers. We know that developers and engineers like interesting and challenging work. Which brings the focus back on us as a company to make sure we can meet these expectations and provide a great workplace culture as well. This is why benchmarking activities such as the Great Place to Work survey are crucial, to help us differentiate ourselves in a crowded recruitment market.

This article was originally written by Michelle Ridsdale.

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