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Expect Rapid Growth in 2019? Take These 7 Steps Now to Keep Your Employees Sane

DecRapid growth is fun and exciting for employees, but it’s also tough. Follow these tips from founders who’ve been there to help your team weather the changes.

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BY Dana Sitar - 02 Feb 2019

keeping employees

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

I was hire No. 10 at The Penny Hoarder in August 2015. By mid-2018, we'd hired our 100th employee and landed on the Inc. 5000 two years in a row as the fastest-growing private media company.

That growth -- especially in revenue -- is exciting. But adding that many employees so fast is also hard on your existing staff.

If your startup is poised for growth this year, here are some ways to prepare your team and set them up for success.

1. Organize training documents.

When you're small, it's easy to keep everything in your head. As you grow, you can either write it down or slowly crumble as you realize employees don't magically know how to do all the things you've been doing instinctually.

At The Penny Hoarder, training documentation is as simple as a Google doc. Each new hire gets an onboarding document with a training schedule: who they'll meet, what they should learn, which meetings to attend and links to all the documentation of our meticulous processes.

If you want more sophisticated organizing tools, Jackie Minchillo, co-founder of web development agency Pineapple Development recommends Trainual for storing training resources.

2. Use rolling transition documents.

I worked in a student organization in college, where annual turnover was inevitable. At the end of each school year, each staff member turned in a transition document for their position. It included:

  • Role description.

  • Accomplishments.

  • New or scrapped processes.

  • Standard operating procedures.

  • Pointers for success in the position.

  • Key relationships.

  • Where to find important documents and information.

Set quarterly, semi-annual or annual audits when employees -- not just managers -- can take time to jot a few notes about their position to benefit whoever shares that position when the team grows -- or replaces them when they move up.

3. Define your hierarchy.

At 10 employees, getting everyone's input on everything from the five-year strategy to the wallpaper in the bathroom made sense. At 100, that's impractical; we'd spend all our time running focus groups and employee surveys. Still, employees (especially your earliest hires) don't want to work for a dictator.

As you develop new roles and departments, name the decision-making roles, and define how they'll gather input from their reports. This lets everyone know how they'll contribute to the company's development and tells them how to get answers and share ideas.

4. Learn to project staffing needs.

Early on, Minchillo's agency waited to seek candidates until the team was "officially overwhelmed." Now they're able to project four to six months out by managing their sales pipeline in HubSpot, so they don't have to hire and train employees in panic mode.

5. Redistribute work from trainers.

When a manager has to train a new employee every couple of years, it's simple enough to balance with the existing workload. When their team is constantly growing? Either training or production is bound to suffer. To remedy, let some managers focus solely on training.

"It's very difficult to implement rigorous and effective training programs when you're continually hiring, building out paths to promotion programs and identifying the key skills that employees need to succeed," says Sascha Eder, COO and founder of the networking company NewtonX. It grew from six employees to 30 in 2018 and decided this year to redistribute work and give trainers a break.

6. Create a role guide.

A clear definition of job titles prevents two points of frustration in your staff: leaving existing employees in the dark about how they fit into a changing organization and throwing new employees into the job without clear goals or guidelines.

As we prepared to hit 100 employees in 2018, The Penny Hoarder addressed this by developing a role guide -- a list of role expectations and levels for every position in the company.

7. Standardize communication channels.

Early in 2018, I worked with a few employees dedicated to organizing our Slack. Our potpourri of channels and inside-joke channel names had sufficed when we were 10 or 20 employees, but now we need a logical way to tell everyone where to find information across our 159 channels, so we set naming conventions with prefixes similar to these Slack recommends.

Our other major project last year was moving the company from at least three project-management tools into one new one that met every department's needs.

The discovery and adoption of the new tool has been a months-long, resource-intensive project, but it's already paying off in increased visibility and cross-departmental communication. Both are vital as the company grows.

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