Hiring is the single most important thing you will do at your company. You must approach it carefully and thoughtfully. But how do you actually do that and still stay true to yourself?
1. EXPECT TO EVOLVE
If culture is the “who you are” of a company, then the first and most important thing to recognize is that who you are is going to change as you grow.
If it doesn’t, you’re doing something wrong.
You can’t be the same company with the exact same culture at five people that you are with 30. The culture can be close, but it will inevitably change. In many ways, adding people to a company is like adding years to a person. A person at three is different at , and very different at twenty-two.
2. TALK THE TALK
One of the best ways to preserve your company culture is to talk about it. You should get in front of your people often and remind them of who you are as a company. But also remind them that change will happen, the culture will evolve, and that’s OK, too.
And definitely don’t post “core values” on your wall. Those are silly and can just set you up for being the butt of your own joke. Live your values and talk about them, don’t posterize them.
3. & WALK THE WALK
In practical terms, this means being specific about the actions and activities that represent your culture as a company, and choosing to do them and keep them alive.
If your company founder participated in a company fantasy football league when you were at 10 people, then he needs to keep making the effort to do this when you’re at 100 people. The important thing is keeping it fun and to continue engaging with your team. If you had monthly taco nights, don’t stop those just because you grew. Maybe they morph, but keep up traditions. Those are what really define you. And add new ones, not too many, but a few as you grow.
One tool I have used to encourage our culture and team building is allowing employees to expense gatherings outside of the office where there are a set number of people from the company present. Of course, this number increases as you grow, but saying that, at 20 employees, the gathering requires at least three to qualify is a good start.
This incentivizes both building relationships and continuing your culture, plus it makes the company work more effectively as a whole.
HOW TO PRESERVE CULTURE IF YOU'RE...
1. ...A Super High-Growth Mega-Corporation
Make sure as many current employees as possible meet potential new hires: If you’re growing quickly, the best way to hold onto culture is to have as many current employees as possible meet your incoming hires.
That doesn’t mean everyone has to interview them, but meeting and getting a feel for new potential hires is important. This allows current employees to weigh in on whether this person fits beyond their skillset on paper. Getting it done is all about process, process, process - with an idea below that I’ve had work before.
Recruit mindfully: Ensuring that you maintain your company culture requires having a dedicated process in place and dedicated people owning it. You must treat recruiting as one of the most important parts of your company if you’re growing at 20 people a month and more. This will require a committed staff and set guidelines for handling the influx of new members.
Greek life gets it right: Similar to rushing a fraternity or sorority, at a previous company we set up monthly mixer nights for both current employees and potential incoming ones. We then gathered feedback from everyone right after the event.
Like Greek life, this was a negative confirmation exercise. We only looked for severely bad things that might change our mind on the people coming in. We didn’t try to analyze a litany of positives for each new hire. This approach can help smart, high-growth companies stay smart.
2. ...A Smaller, Growing Startup
Again, make sure as many current employees meet potential new hires: I continue to advocate having as many people at the company meet a new potential hire as possible. The worst thing you can do is spring someone new on a group who doesn’t fit, just because you liked them. While having everyone meet them is not always practical, it definitely helps to at least make a concerted effort.
Go with your gut: If there is a potential new hire that you need for the company, but they aren’t who the team is used to, you might have to do a little selling on why you need them. Maybe they’re a little odd or shy, so their hiring should be explained to the key influencers of your team. Approach these employees, explain your thinking and rationale, have them meet and spend time with the potential hire, and gather feedback as to whether this person’s quirks can be overcome.
But listen to feedback: In the above process, you’re looking less for in-depth feedback versus an unbiased eye. You want to make sure you aren’t blinded by your own personal views or ideas of what the company needs and miss some red flags.
When everyone feels they were a part of bringing somebody into the company, you have a better chance of everyone wanting that person to succeed and feeling vested in their success. This ensures the team as a whole work better and preserve the unique nature of your team as you grow.
Whether your company culture continues will always start with your hiring process. Make sure you continue to re-evaluate it and consistently evolve it as you grow. Use these tips and you’ll do well in preserving your company culture.