Starting out in a new venture, everyone is excited and anxious to do more than his or her part in advancing the mission of a new company. How soon the excitement of a new commercial venture wears off and business becomes routine! Add to that the influx of new people necessitating new and larger, and/or separated, workspaces, and we have the recipe for quickly dulling the camaraderie and enthusiasm that accompanied the early days of the enterprise, when everyone worked close together and in constant communication. In those early days, everyone knew by osmosis pretty much what was happening and how it affected the company, and them personally.
Maintaining Enthusiasm in an Expanding Workforce
Mark Roberge, a lecturer at Harvard Business School and author of The Sales Acceleration Formula, has some suggestions, reported here by Kate Rockwood, for preserving this sense of excitement, camaraderie, and individual value among the growing numbers of associates in an expanding enterprise. Among the factors Roberge cites are communication of what's happening, and regular recognition of mission-supportive behavior. These efforts go a long way toward giving the people in an organization a sense of being part of something larger than themselves - something IMPORTANT! The other factors mentioned in Rockwood's article, careful hiring and meticulous definition of individual roles and objectives, are tremendously valuable as well.
In my experience related here, communication and recognition were the dominant tools we used.
Some Results from my Own Experience
Some years ago, I was asked to take on the leadership, as Chief Pilot, of a group of pilots who were seriously demoralized. They felt they had no voice and were mere cogs in the wheel of a machine, and their unenthusiastic performance reflected that. My boss and I began a program of personally visiting them (logistically challenging, since they were widely scattered geographically, and flew widely varying schedules), listening to their concerns, updating their information on the company's progress, and following up with individual positive comments whenever we could find an excuse. Within a few months they began to understand that each of them was important to the performance of the company. With that mindset, they began to take their performance much more seriously - productivity, safety, and on-time delivery improved markedly, as did camaraderie and morale.
A union-organizing effort simply disappeared. Who needs a union when you, as an individual, have direct access to your leaders?
Another factor in helping these people feel more "loved" was my rigor in timely returning phone calls, emails, etc. When someone leaves a message, it's hard to overemphasize the importance of recognizing it, or the folly in ignoring it. This is hugely important in helping people recognize that they matter as individuals!
If you're the leader of a group of employees, especially a rapidly-expanding group, I suggest you follow the advice outlined in Kate's article, and make sure everyone is included, and feels importantly included, in the work of the team.