How we created a work culture surrounded by an 'A' team

All, Human Resource

Hiring the right talent is critical for any business to succeed. Companies must focus on both the technical know-how of a candidate as well as their belief in the company’s value systems, which eventually helps in setting the culture of the organization. The culture of an organization defines the ‘what’, ‘why’ and ‘how’ to achieve the objectives and is driven by the employees. 

 

Although there is no set formula to build a perfect corporate culture, we have tried to focus on a set of actions and values as we built our business. A few of these are:

 

Establishing a Shared Vision

For any organization, it’s imperative to work with people who hold a strong belief in your vision as their belief will contribute to the overall growth of the company. Make sure that a clear vision is set at the very beginning, and define micro and macro level objectives based on that vision. Once the vision is set, make sure it’s communicated well and is getting translated into action through the right policies and procedures. Also set clear individual objectives, which directly affect the organization’s growth and as a whole motivate employees to perform better towards their goals.

 

Diversity

It’s important to ensure that there is a balance in teams when it comes to competencies – both technical and behavioral. Bringing people from diverse backgrounds together can do wonders if managed skillfully as it helps bring varied perspectives to the table to create a holistic work culture. They will be able to apply different lenses to approach the same issue which will reflect in the final solution, making the approach more creative and innovative.

 

Promote Learning and Development

In today’s dynamic world, the only way for an individual to survive and grow is to constantly upgrade their skill-set. Organizations should focus on incentivizing learning which will drive individuals to upskill themselves and eventually implement new knowledge to their tasks. The idea is to encourage a culture of continuous learning and challenge oneself constantly to get more and more proficient and efficient at their job.

 

The Japanese giant, Rakuten, is one great example of how a company can drive learning and development for its employees. In 2010, Hiroshi Mikitani, the CEO of Rakuten, implemented his ‘Englishization’ drive across the company’s offices, which were mostly in Japan. Mikitani believed that if Rakuten was to achieve scale outside of Japan and benefit from the ongoing globalization trend, it was imperative for all his employees to learn English. Rakuten paid for English lessons for every employee and made it mandatory for every employee to speak a certain level of English while they worked at Rakuten.

 

Create a Culture of Dialogue

To build empowered teams, one needs to focus on the communication strategy of the organization. From day one, the focus should be on building the culture of dialogue. Communicate effectively and ensure transparency which will help strengthen employees’ trust in the organization. Listening is pivotal here; if the employees see that their voice is being heard in the company, they will feel empowered. Lastly, walk the talk, implement what you communicate, and drive a culture of feedback – top-down and vice versa. This process should become a part of the organization’s DNA and should resonate through the culture, norms, and processes of each team in the company.

 

Attracting, Hiring and Retaining ’A’ Players

‘A’ players are self-driven. They need minimal supervision in their work and show high commitment levels to their work and the organization. They have the potential and competence to quickly grow into leadership roles in the company. Focused development, clearly defined roles (current and growth path) and clear purpose helps in attracting such talent and keeping them motivated. Google calls their best employees ‘Smart Creatives’. Smart Creatives are the ones that drive innovation and create sustainable processes – the thinkers and the implementers. 

 

The definition of an ‘A’ player may vary depending on the size and the nature of a business. In a tech firm, an ‘A’ player can be an employee with strong testing and developing abilities, whereas in a service industry, an individual with good people skills and strong business acumen might be deemed an ‘A’ player. 

 

Once that ‘attracting’ is done, define the short-term and long-term goals of the individual and accordingly create an assessment to test their skills based on the set criteria. This will help in hiring the right individual and charting out their growth path in the beginning. Define ways to capitalize on their strengths and simultaneously address and rectify their weaknesses. 

 

You will always have an option of choosing candidates with potential or candidates with relevant experience. However, the combination of the two is almost always the best bet. In our experience, we value applicant potential over experience during the assessment stage because the former is intrinsic in nature and cannot be taught.

 

Recognition is Key

Senior management teams at most companies often focus more on the mistakes and fail to address the achievements of their employees because they are ‘expected to do what they are supposed to do’. However, it’s essential to maintain a balance between pulling someone up for their mistakes and recognizing them for their wins or achievements. A structured recognition process helps set the direction; however, it needs to be more frequent than a monthly/quarterly/annual recognition program. One should not wait for the formal award ceremony to recognize an employee and appreciate their efforts; appreciating them right away is an obvious thing to do which most of us overlook. Employees who feel recognized are more likely to stick around for a longer period and grow with the organization.   

 

Don’t Promote the HiPPO Culture

HiPPO = highest paid person’s opinion. This is a lesson we learned after reading a book called ‘The Google Way’. At Google, they try and avoid the HiPPO culture. 

 

There is a set hierarchical structure in every large organization. Companies often give too much importance to the opinion of the most senior employee or manager, without considering the view of junior employees. In most cases, junior employees are the ones who are the most in-sync with the day-to-day activities of the business. They usually have a pulse on important activities and metrics - such as customer satisfaction, product and service information, and so on. Companies that uphold a HiPPO culture do not promote collective decision-making. As a result, they miss out on important subjective information and unpublished data that can lead to more accurate problem-solving.

 

An organization, at the end of the day, is nothing without its people. Start within, and nurture every talent to create an A team across the board!