Internal communication at scale-ups: the thin thread that holds everyone and everything together
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A company’s success is often linked to its growth. Entrepreneurs with brilliant ideas often experience their first growth spurt somewhere between their fifth and eighth year of existence. However, two thirds of the Dutch scale-ups are unable to continue growing in the upcoming years (Erasmus University Rotterdam, 2019. They experience a so-called organizational developments gap, which arises when the architectural structure of the organization does not keep up the pace with the business growth (Flamholtz, 2016). Among others, these scale-ups will have to redesign their internal communication processes in order to make the fundamental transformation of becoming a formally planned, organized and disciplined organization. One of these many Dutch scale-ups is an IT-consultant called Plat4mation. In three years’ time, the company has grown from 40 employees and a head office in Utrecht, the Netherlands, to almost 190 employees and four additional foreign entities. By means of a mixed method approach, conducting both interviews and sending out an online survey, this study aims to investigate what kind of challenges regarding internal communication a global and multicultural scale-up like Plat4mation currently encounters in the transitional phase of becoming a professional organization. The present study specifically focuses on the internal communication flows by means of the Four Flows approach (McPhee & Iverson, 2009; McPhee & Zaug, 2000). A total of 82 employees at Plat4mation completed an online satisfaction survey that measures the internal communication flows. In addition, two managing partners were asked to clarify the need for internal communication expertise. Ultimately, Plat4mation’s challenges turned out to correspond to Flamholtz’s (2016) growing pains: employees do not know what their colleagues are doing due to a lack of activity coordination; and there is a lack of vision among employees as to which direction the company is heading in the long term because of insufficiently developed self-structured internal communication flows.