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What's your company culture

August 12, 2016

The other day I had an interview with a Head of Marketing applicant who asked, “What’s your company culture?” I was like, “Wow, I’m glad you asked.” But reason for being glad was because we’ve spent so much time focusing on “company culture”. This is absolutely new because years ago we didn’t exhaust days and weeks answering internal cultural surveys, having open discussions, even debates, and eventually pasting them on our walls and having training sessions and finally weed out questions for new applicants based on our cultural values. But this is a good thing.

Company culture, What is it? Why is it important to you?

First, I’ll give you the traditional line of thinking on company culture, then we’ll detail some of the famous, brave new company cultures, finally I’ll speak about what “company culture” means to deverus.

Traditionally Speaking

According to a Google search, “Corporate culture refers to the beliefs and behaviors that determine how a company's employees and management interact and handle outside business transactions. Often, corporate culture is implied, not expressly defined, and develops organically over time from the cumulative traits of the people the company hires.”

Company culture is according to Forbes, “The vision, values, norms, systems, symbols, language, assumptions, beliefs, and habits, that make up a company's behaviors and values.”

Brave New Cultures

There are multiple genres of company culture. Take Apple for example. Because Apple must be so secretive about upcoming products, one of their top values is security. The measures it takes to protect its creative and intellectual environment is unparalleled. But they also foster a culture where there’s an idea that you are part of something much bigger than yourself, that you are making a real difference in the world. So from this you get this almost religious level of commitment to make great things. And they ultimately do!

Google is a very team-oriented company that exists solely as a team unit. Each individual unit is important to the grand missions of Google. The office café and encouragement to befriend your coworkers really speaks to the company “culture”. They also say they hire really smart people based on analytics so there’s a sense of superiority and exclusion. They also hire a ton of people from many countries so they als need to have a culture of diversity and openness.

Microsoft’s culture has made a dramatic shift from the days of Bill and Steve where it was defined by an extreme autocracy and a fixed mindset, where a few superstars ran the show and recently moved to a growth mindset based on openness, collaboration, and creating a dialogue with employees to foster bottom up ideas and execution. That’s a very different world from the past, but one that is absolutely necessary to win the talent war by creating a place where top talent believes they can belong and thrive.

Then there’s Amazon’s culture where according to a New York Times article, Amazon demands that employees conform to their vision of productivity through “a unique system of management, extreme data focus, and leadership reinforcement where there are a group of “like-minded people” who drive the business and culture.

What about Zappos? This is an interesting one because they are actually involved in kind of social experiment around Holacracy, which replaces the traditional management hierarchy with a new peer-to-peer “operating system” that increases transparency, accountability, and organizational agility. So they say. Just read their Glass Door Reviews to see how it’s working out. But the point is they believe in culture and their people so much they are willing to try a brave new management style that gives true control and autonomy to their employees while still maintaining Zappos’ cultural values they feel serve their employees and clients best.

What does company culture mean to deverus?

For deverus, culture is everything about our company. It’s a state of mind, it’s how we approach the marketplace, our customers and ourselves. It’s a smile on our face, jumping out of bed because we can’t wait to get to work, it’s going above and beyond because you love it. And on another level, it’s putting a stake in the ground about what are values are and then doing our best to walk the walk. For us Belonging, Accountability, Leaning, Empowerment, Empathy and Passion drive deverus to succeed on our mission to create a hiring experience that doesn't suck. We constantly use these values to check ourselves daily, weekly and quarterly to make sure we are creating the culture we all agreed we wanted to be a part of.

Whatever values you come up with, make sure they are your own personal values because authenticity is key in a functional company culture. Employees look to leadership to demonstrate those values and if you’ve dedicated your culture to something you really don’t believe in, it will come right through and not only render your cultural values meaningless but serve to show you as a hypocrite and create an unsafe workplace.

Once you have your core company culture establish, realize your culture is not for everyone. Be selective and make sure the people you hire understand your cultural values up-front. Through the right line of questioning you can ask them to demonstrate through past behavior that they also believe in the values that make up your culture. Get that right and you will maintain the culture you’ve worked hard to create and maintain.

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