When It Comes to Engaging Your Team, Do Things That Don’t Scale

When It Comes to Engaging Your Team, Do Things That Don’t Scale

Going Above and Beyond for Your Employees

Atlassian's growing its headcount at an astonishingly fast pace. In fact, the Sydney, Australia-based software company is growing about as fast as any company of its size can grow.

When most companies experience that level of growth, there's a tendency and pressure to make everything scalable, including all parts of an organization's people function. Everything from total rewards packages to onboarding to recognition programs often become victim to "streamlining," with the goal being to crank out those functions as quickly, inexpensively, and efficiently as possible—kind of like they're being mass-produced by a well-oiled machine in a factory.

Atlassian, which is the Great Place To Work® #2 Best Medium Workplace this year, is a successful software company, so it completely understands the concept of scale and does a great job of ramping up its technology to handle the incredible amount of load on its servers (it has tens of thousands of teams using the software!). You'd think the company would be quick to apply that mindset to all of the various processes in its people function, like other organizations do.

But, as I found out during Chief People Officer Jeff Diana's keynote at the 2015 Great Place To Work® Small and Medium Business Conference, scaling culture requires a different mindset than scaling technology.

Atlassian knows that every person is different, so mass production of all people processes just won't work. When it comes to its people, the company deliberately does things that don't scale.

For Atlassians who have reached a service milestone, managers customize the gift basket to be given to the recipient and write a handwritten congratulatory note. Atlassian tailors total rewards packages to fit the needs of individuals and sends personalized gift boxes to candidates who accept an offer, with all of these communications tying back to the company's core values.

Does it take a painstakingly long time to do this for everyone? Yes. Does it sound scalable? Nope. It doesn't matter. To Atlassian, the long-term engagement and reinforcement of core values that the company creates from these personal touches far outweigh the time, effort, and general un-scalability that goes into them.

As you can imagine, given Atlassian's growth, the company's people function is already stretched incredibly thin. If Atlassian can do things that don't scale for their people, your organization can, too. In fact, scaling your culture might very well depend on it.

Scott Thompson is a cofounder and partner at Stories Incorporated. As a result of working with growing, people-centric companies of all sizes, Scott has a unique perspective on preserving and scaling culture through storytelling. Scott has a Master of Business Administration and a Bachelor of Arts in History from Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana.