What I Learned About Scaling Up Amid Digital Transformation
There are many things I wish I knew before we dove into scaling our business, exponentially increasing our headcount, and pursuing digital transformation all at the same time. That’s why I’m writing this article.
In the early days, when it was just myself and the first few employees, we worked in a room so small that the person sitting closest to the door had to stand up and move out of the way if someone wanted to go to the bathroom.
Fast forward a few years. WalkMe is a global company with three U.S. offices and locations in Israel, Australia, and France. We have over 750 employees and use more than 170 internal digital systems. We’ve pioneered a new breed of software now used by 30% of the Fortune 500 and just led the establishment of a new SaaS category, digital adoption solutions.
I can’t overstate how proud I am of the success WalkMe has achieved, but it wasn’t without growing pains. After some reflection, I’ve outlined the five most important pieces of advice I’d give other leaders who are scaling their companies in the digital era.
Hiring is not as easy as you think it will be
Finding top-tier talent fast is critical when you’re growing rapidly. At WalkMe, we’re expanding our human capital by 20%-25% per quarter. Identifying the people who are qualified to fulfill your needs and take your business to the next level is one challenging aspect. The other is successfully onboarding them.
“Every time you think you’ve cut a corner, you’ll end up paying for it later — guaranteed. This is true in your technology investments, your leadership appointments, and your digital strategy.”
Building out your management team the right way is the first essential consideration. It’s difficult to hire and sufficiently onboard more than two executives in a year, but sometimes it’s a necessity. If I could go back and do one thing differently, it would be to invest many more resources in human resources and appoint an HR executive much earlier.
With a solid management team and alignment with HR, you can be more confident that every subsequent level of management and employees are aligned with the core vision.
The reality is, when you’re growing fast, there can be a point where nearly 50% of your organization has been with the company for less than a year. When this is the case, ensuring your workforce is highly skilled, believes in the core values, and well integrated into the culture is fundamental.
Letting go of people is even harder
On the other side of the coin, saying goodbye to the leaders and employees who won’t take you to the next level is just as important as hiring the right people.
We realized over time that we made some wrong hires along the way. We introduced people who turned out not to be a good fit — because they didn’t cohere with the organizational culture, they didn’t promote the values we stand for, or they weren’t equipped to lead.
Whatever the reason, those people created human capital debts that took us a long time to recover. We learned we need to make brave decisions when it comes to our leadership. Otherwise, you can end up with a toxic environment where an entire department is frustrated, unhappy, and stagnant.
Remember this essential truth: When people quit, they quit their boss.
Employee enablement must be central to your digital strategy
When thinking about how to scale up our human capital, develop our product, and boost internal digital capabilities, we knew we had to find a way to expedite employee onboarding. Fast time-to-competency and adoption of our internal processes are critical to boosting productivity as we continue to grow.
None of that is possible without a solid infrastructure to promote enablement. This is something we work extremely hard on.
Enablement encompasses two key areas. Communication is one of the most important. In the early days, everyone could chat by the coffee machine to learn what’s going — company news, projects within departments, solving problems.
“Each time we didn’t go with the market leader for a given software platform, the tool failed us as soon as we tried to scale.”
But when you’re a global company dispersed across several time zones, this is no longer feasible. People communicate via email and Slack, often with people they’ve never met face-to-face.
Unless your digital strategy addresses how to communicate and collaborate, it will be impossible to streamline work and achieve the necessary level of coordination to achieve core goals.
The other main component of enablement involves having the technical infrastructure, systems, and processes in place to guide employees through onboarding and beyond. A growing workforce means new processes, demand for digital tools, and greater necessity for support. You have to be able to anticipate employee needs, and also react fast when unexpected challenges arise.
Trust in technology and always pick the leader
Digital transformation was our solution for providing the greatest degree of enablement to both new and veteran employees.
As our organization grew, we started to deploy lots of digital systems and tools to help employees complete processes, onboard employees, and operate the business. Scaling internal digital capabilities as we expanded our workforce was a strategic necessity. It’s what enabled us to increase our productivity by exponential leaps.
For example, we needed a way to make sure new employees could understand their workflow and access all of the necessary platforms and support as seamlessly as possible. That prompted us to create an online hub that houses every main digital system and resource, so employees can easily locate information and communicate with others throughout the organization.
From the hub, employees can instantly locate everything from our HCM to Salesforce to Zoom to Confluence to Google Drives. Every core app is only a click away.
Once we set this up, things started to move much faster. Now, within a few hours, a new hire knows exactly where to find all of the information they need.
Every shortcut you take will cost you
My final and perhaps most important piece of advice is to never be tempted by shortcuts. Every time you think you’ve cut a corner, you’ll end up paying for it later — guaranteed. This is true in your technology investments, your leadership appointments, and your digital strategy.
Everything must be scalable. Just as we mapped out how WalkMe’s Digital Adoption Platform should develop over time, we needed to take a long-term view of our internal digital strategy and talent needs.
Eventually, we had to confront the fact that we weren’t pursuing our internal digital transformation strategies with a long-term approach, and this was problematic. If you only look at the short term, you’ll need to start over every time new external factors arise or business goals shift.
Each time we didn’t go with the market leader for a given software platform, the tool failed us as soon as we tried to scale. Partnering with the right vendors is fundamental to sustainable growth. In your digital strategy, you must always think three to five years ahead and make sure you have the right platforms and processes in place so that you can scale.