The topic company culture and hiring as a company scales is heavily discussed. Many things have been said about developing a great company culture, but I’ve been thinking about how it can differ from a European perspective.
1) Find your EVPs
Talent is scarce and European companies can’t, or don’t believe in, competing financially with Valley companies for employees. Instead, your better off finding your own employee value proposition (EVP) and use it to attract the right people who are a great culture add-on.
2) Adopt a manager SLA
When you grow larger than the size where the founders can have direct contact with all staff, the senior managers become the key culture bearers. And it only takes one bad hire for this to fail. A Manager Service Level Agreement (SLA) which starts with the employees determining the success factors of being a manager, can help. Recruit, train/dress, evaluate and deploy on these criteria. Success is measured by how often everyone in the organisation sees the behaviour or the skillset in action. Easy to say, hard to do.
3) Avoid sugar rushes
The key question is: does it help your core business? Focus on the things that motivate people: come to grow and learn with us. People are too smart to have their loyalties bought with free soda. It’s easy to cave in and be impulse driven, but what is a perk today will be a commodity faster then you can say spoiled!
4) Cherry pick strengths
Internationalising has a positive impact on culture, and you can cherry-pick strengths across your markets. For example, Americans can teach Swedes about processes, efficiencies and audaciousness. Swedes can teach value-driven leadership, autonomy, competence, belonging & benevolence, and #LeadOnLeave.
5) Culture isn’t a one-way street
As you grow, find ways to engage your remote offices – it’s just as important that discourse emanates from them as from the HQ. Culture should, and will, change over time. Be open about it. A strong brand needs a strong and healthy culture. The image, profile and identify will be a huge part of forming the culture.
6) Choose communications tools carefully
Every company with more than two employees has an internal communications problem. Hangouts and Slack are great, so is an Intranet, meetings and Town Halls, but pressure test what channels works best for you. Streamline and stress less.
7) Building a start-up is like being married
It’s fun at first, but it’s vital to give employees purpose and to care about their professional development, because the easy fun will stop. No company founded hasn’t had a crises that teaches a valuable lesson. You have to remind yourself, you are in for the long haul. There will be times when you look to your spouse and evaluate: “Is this for me, didn’t we use to have more fun and wasn’t life much easier?”
When moving to the next phase, consider – the next phase gives a more complex environment, and it’s not for all. That doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with the people wanting to work in a small start-up where everybody is invited to all decisions, but it doesn’t mean that organisation is heading the wrong direction, when adjusting to the growing pains and maturing. No one said that the teenage stage was just puppy love – it was also very confusing. Moving from adolescence to young adulthood for any organisation comes with a lot of discomfort. Still, it’s very needed. And remember – constraints can be good, they breed innovation, and bloating is never good for anything.
8) Passion may be purpose but culture is contextual
Find the value and metrics that matter to your company and your industry. There’s always something to be passionate about. In our case, our passion is our purpose. But vision without execution is hallucination. So try to put your passion in a context. Nietzsche was right; people don’t have to like your decision. But they have to understand it. Again, so hard. Especially if you are changing the pacemaker during a 400 meter hurdle race.
9) Diversity for the right reasons
Do it because you know it’s what will keep you in the top spot, not to tick boxes. Work on your awareness with bias-busting tools. We are using apps like Textio, and Sqore for recruiting. Bring in people that are impressive and reflect your diversity goal. Push Inclusion! And be consistent and committed to it. Inclusion is a way of thinking, a way of being, and a way of making decisions about helping everyone to belong and be the best version of themselves.
10) Value your People
Attrition is normal, like a marriage, you re-evaluate. Be clear on who you are as an organisation, where you’re going and leave it up to the individual to make the ultimate decision. Have a view on boomerang recruitment and alumni. Not necessarily from day one, but have your game philosophy in place to make it easier to be clear, consistent and compelling.