Culture, at large, doesn’t quite have a definition. Everybody is trying to define theirs. For instance, a country’s culture is defined by the youth as restricted, by foreigners as colourful, by some, corrupted and the list goes on. Nobody has a clear answer. They are all just perceptions.
The case in the corporate world is no different. We are all in a race to "define" our company culture even when everybody is equally lost. The only ones who are near to success are the ones who are not following the norm.
The thing is, when it comes to culture, the beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder.
As an HR/recruiter/talent branding person, your beauty are the employees (who define your culture) and the beholders are the candidates (your target audience).
Start by creating the beauty — keep your employees happy. Cracking that code is difficult but not impossible. Find the best for your company’s employees and have a structured implementation around it. Discover what they want, attempt in fulfilling them, review reactions, execute when you get it right. Once your employees are happily working, the catch lies in how well you brand it out to the world.
I actually learned something very interesting last week that lead me to find the fault in our talent branding strategies today. In a Huffington’s post by Karthik Rajan, I learned that Airbnb’s Co-founder, Joe Gebbia, delivered a TED talk, in which he experimented with the audience.
Joe asked the audience to swap their locked phones with the person beside and everyone followed suit, no shocking reactions. He asked them to repeat the exercise, but this time with their phones unlocked. Of course, there was a slight hesitation. Joe had just made the audience feel his business challenge. He then went ahead and talked about how Airbnb was changing it. While Karthik connected Joe’s engagement dots to content marketing (which I personally loved), I learned something that could help in portraying our culture.
-Joe shared his real problem, the genuine struggle.
-Keep employee behaviour real. No flowery testimonials.
-Joe made the audience feel his business challenge.
-Share the culture in a way that is relative to the candidates.
Our fault is, we never show it authentically nor relatively.
Do you as a company show empty foosball tables on your career page? Or do you flaunt your stocked pantry? I’m not sure who started this trend but the idea of showing off "stuff" is just irking me now. I’m neither against fancy furniture, nor against the workplaces who have it. I just can't seem to agree that the focus is shifting to the non-living things. Interior defines fun today. Engagement is defined by the number of times one employee meets the other at the coffee machine. That’s not what culture means. That’s not how it works.
Foosball, gym, pantries, fancy workplaces do make life at work easier but is that all? NO, it’s not. There's a lot more to it.
Let me take our office as an example. We don’t have a die-for furniture. We don’t own coffee machines. (But, we do make our coffee and green tea.) We don’t own a foosball table. We do own a small shelf that is filled with junk and Britannia Marie biscuits, drawers that are filled with books and of course, bean bags. We also have white boards that are always inked, mostly with tasks that have to be completed sooner than possible. Loads of posters, and sometimes, bad art like this.
(That's our Product Engineering Lead minus the abs drawn by my inner Picasso.)
So, what do you make of it? Does it mean we aren’t a cool company? Or that we have a bad culture? Does that make us a boring workplace? Not even close.
We are total badass. Honesty and sarcasm are one of our first languages in the office. We appreciate ideas coming from anywhere. We share, discuss, criticize, appreciate and refine them into something productive. Other than work related stuff, our conversations include documentaries, politics, food (a lot of food) and weird topics we land on sometimes.
My point is, what really matters and defines the culture is the type of conversations you have. The people you sit with. The ones that you work with. The way those people around you make you grow. That’s the real deal. That’s what you need to show off. Not the furniture, not the backgrounds, not the posters. We recently kick-started with a Twitter handle, @RippleHireJobs (RippleHire bloopers), to portray our culture. It’s filled with what we do at our office. Be it match day, a celebration, birthday surprises, our perspective towards being a startup, random wittiness, our launch tensions/excitements, trolls, our Friday/Monday stories or the owl that we see and hear everyday; we share it all. We share what we experience each day, keeping it as authentic as possible.
If you do own fancy furniture, put it to right use. A messed up pantry where people are fighting over their last pack of favourite snack is better than a clean, stocked pantry; a playful foosball match gone serious is better than capturing just a foosball table. Wouldn’t you relate better? Won’t it look more real and genuine? So, try capturing real moments instead of an empty office. Furniture is cool for initial attraction but what will matter to candidates in a long run is the people they’re going to be with.
The fancy furniture will lose its value soon, what will stay is the relationship they create with their co-workers. Concentrate on building those relationships.
Spread the right word, gain the right attention and attract the right people. Happy recruiting!
PS: I’m always listening. Send the hearts and howlers at firstname.lastname@example.org or simply comment below.