The Most Important Investment You Can Make is Free

There couldn’t be a more important topic in our industry right now than growth: how important it is (or isn’t), how to achieve it, what to do when its rate changes. Here at Asana, we’re experiencing fast-growth mode first-hand: doubling revenue each year; increasing headcount 50% year over year; tripling our global office locations (and floors at SF HQ).

But what’s missing to the growth discussion is its flipside: mindful business. Growth and mindfulness should be part of the same industry conversations, but oftentimes the latter Culture_3is an afterthought. We invest in our businesses, but we rarely invest with the same rigor in our companies.

The biggest investment you can make in your company is its culture. Why is culture so important? It comes down to your people. They are the foundation of your company, and culture is the glue that holds them together, both in good times and bad. Being mindful of culture will pay off regardless of market conditions. In times of rapid growth, your team will stay focused and balanced. In the face of downturns, it’ll help your team survive friction in the marketplace. Especially in today’s economic climate of layoffs and fluctuating markets, being mindful of how you build and sustain culture is essential to your company’s success.

Staying mindful of culture while managing a fast-growing business takes time and effort, but luckily, it doesn’t require money (no, perks don’t equal culture). Here are some ways to build mindfulness into your business by investing in your culture.

Make Culture the Foundation of Your Company
The common attitude is that 95% of work is product and finances and that nothing else matters. This might be true if your company is doing so well that you can constantly replace people and not have to worry about the long run. But most companies aren’t like that. You have to be able to survive the downturns, some turnover, and that’s when investing in your culture and building a solid foundation will really pay off. In fact, research shows that “culture does matter – employee commitment and retention is related to the perceived organizational values.”

Invest Time in Your People
Time invested in your employees will reap rewards for your business. At Asana, we have a robust onboarding program which includes not only information specific to the role, but also workshops that help with identifying internal states and talking in a more mindful way. These programs,coupled with regular one-on-ones and feedback cycles, give everyone a common language and set them up for success.

Embrace Problems
We’ve all been tempted to ignore a problem because of other priorities—like growing revenue or shipping a feature—but doing so is more costly in the long run (if not sooner). We’ve found that things like focused planning (during Roadmap Week) allow us to address problems in their early stages and get out ahead of them. We can make minor corrections to get to the next stage of growth without needing huge adjustments. When things don’t work out, we lean into our mistakes by doing a 5 Whys to try to learn from them.

Talk About it
Culture is everyone’s to build. Each employee brings their own individuality to your company, so talking about it is a great way to encourage everyone to contribute. Having open channels of communication, like feedback boards, employee surveys, or maybe even an “Opportunities” project in Asana encourages everyone to take part in the conversation. We keep an “Asana Opportunities” project open for everyone to add ideas to, and regularly make culture—or some subset of it—a topic of discussion for leadership and planning meetings. Longtime employee Jack Stahl recently moved from the engineering team to become our “heart of culture.” In his new role, he works to make sure culture is kept top of mind as our business scales.

Find Balance
An important part of culture is balance. In the short and long term, grounding your team in progress and achievements while looking at the overall strategy and plan can help people understand their impact on the bigger picture and company success. In downturns, having a long tail view will keep people motivated and on board with your mission.

Day-to-day balance is also a great way to build culture, especially given the sweeping trend across high-performing tech companies that shows employees working extremely hard—to an extent that is unsustainable for most people. For a team to stay happy, healthy, and dedicated to their work in the long run—whether things are looking up or down—encouraging work-life balance is essential. Balance can be achieved through simple adjustments, like flexible working hours, encouraging breaks throughout the day, or providing space to find calm and quiet. Setting an example is also impactful: taking time off, staying home when you’re sick, and keeping active are all ways that leaders can set examples for their teams.

The best part about all of this is that while growing a business might not be, culture is free. You don’t have to spend a single dollar to bring your people together over shared values and be thoughtful about how you’re growing your company. It takes time, but that investment will be repaid over and over if a solid foundation is built for your team.

Asana is a top workplace on Glassdoor. The company recently announced its first Head of People Ops joining the company to grow and scale its award-winning culture.


About gabulmer

Christian apologist, husband, father, runner, blogger, leader with LIFE Leadership.
This entry was posted in Leadership, Notes from the Frontline, Resources. Bookmark the permalink.

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