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Growth · 6 January '20

How to attract and retain talent whilst preserving and developing culture

We hear it all the time with our partners, they are scaling, often having recently received investment. They want to retain the culture that is there, or even improve it. Should they get a barista and nap pods? What is ‘it’ and how do we make ’it’ awesome?

Those perks are nice, but they aren’t company culture – it might improve your Instagram, and add a little to day-to-day morale, but it will have very little effect on people’s view of the company or even the horrible Glassdoor reviews you will get when they inevitably leave.

Get your culture right and you have a winning team that will stay with you for time, get it wrong and your best assets, your people, will be out of the door. Only to be replaced by the next haul of short stay guests in your office space. According to The Culture Economy, a recent study showed that 34 percent of people leave their jobs due to ‘poor culture’. As someone that runs a talent consultancy focused on hiring the right people for the long haul, that stat sadly doesn’t surprise me. These sorts of numbers are kind of why we are here, strangely, if we do our job as well as we aim to do, you will have less need for our services in the future as your team will be happy and able to hire the best people to grow further, themselves.

What do people actually want?

Well, we started out with an aim of fighting the ‘corporate’ world of recruitment. We bought pool tables, gave out beers, encouraged a dress down mentality at all times, we did everything you read about being ‘cool bosses’. All of this before the WeWork world really took hold. It served us well for a bit, but it wasn’t real. People like these things, but they want a voice, freedom, and surprisingly or not, good leadership.

To know how to nurture culture then, you need to know what culture really is. It is the essence of a business. Culture encompasses the company’s mission, work environment, goals and values but is also added to and retracted from with every person that comes in or out. Culture starts at the top and works down, but also comes from the bottom up. It is all around – a poor hire can throw it off track and a lack of direction can hinder it. Get it right and you, and your team, will go far.

Cultural fit or cultural add?

A lot of places will hire the person that fits the culture that’s there, which is fine but what do you gain apart from another like-for-like member of staff with similar viewpoints and ways of doing things? Don’t hire someone that will instantly rub people up the wrong way, but keep in mind that someone a little more out there will bring new ways of thinking. You will soon start seeing a team that is diverse without setting targets for diversity, it will come organically and add to your overall culture.

The same, but different

There is a challenge in getting your team to think along the same lines when being a little different to one another, yes. Heading towards a shared goal is very different to being clones of each other though. Try to ensure you have a clear hiring process that interlinks your values from the start, everyone will stand true to those values too.

Define your values

Take some time with the leadership team and the rest of your current team to work out your values. See what people think is key to culture and work out how new candidates can add to culture not simply fit it.

Doing this when hiring internally at Few&Far has actually helped pivot the company and our offerings as a business. It became who we are as a talent consultancy.

Plan your hiring process, make it the same for different teams and hire for cultural add, allow different members of your team to meet candidates first. If a candidate has made the interview stage, you know they can do the job, so get the feel of the person. Then meet up as a team, openly discuss the candidate and go from there. What is a few extra hours across a team in the process when it will prevent you having to hire for the same roll again in six months.

Basically, work out who you are now and create a process that has consistency around who and what it is you are looking for, and you’ll see the benefits to your company culture. You will make mistakes, but the overall sustainability of your teams will improve and you will be an example of successful scaling, not another horror story for the ecosystem to share.