Creating a culture, hiring an 'A' team

For any organisation, it’s imperative to work with people who hold a strong belief in your vision as their belief will help in accelerating the growth of the organisation

Updated: Oct 12, 2018 04:30:25 PM UTC
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Hiring the right talent is critical for a business to succeed. Companies must focus on both, the technical know-how of a candidate as well as his/ her belief in the company’s value systems. The latter eventually helps in setting the culture of the organisation. The culture of an organisation defines the ‘what’, ‘why’ and ‘how’, to achieve its objectives and is driven by employees.

There is no set-in-stone formula to build a perfect corporate culture. We have tried to focus on a set of actions/values as we built our business, here are some of the important ones:

Establishing a Shared Vision
For any organisation, it’s imperative to work with people who hold a strong belief in your vision. Their belief will help accelerate the growth of the organisation. Make sure that a clear vision is set right in the beginning, based on which the micro and macro level objectives should be defined. However, setting a vision is not enough. It's equally important to make sure the vision is communicated well and gets translated into action through the right policies and procedures. Set individual objectives clearly, which has linkages to the organisation’s growth and as a whole, motivates employees to perform better at work.

Ensuring that there is a balance in the teams when it comes to competencies – both technical and behavioral. Bringing people from diverse backgrounds together can do wonders if managed skilfully as it helps bring varied perspectives to the table. They will be able to apply different lenses to approach the same problem which will reflect in the final offering, 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. Organisations should focus on incentivising learning, which will drive individuals to upskill themselves and eventually implement those learnings into their work. The idea is to inculcate a culture of continuous learning and challenging oneself constantly to do better at their job.

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

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

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 organisation. They have the potential and competence to quickly grow into leadership roles in the organisation. 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 as an ‘A’ player.

Once ‘attracting’ an A player is done, define the short-term and long-term goals of the individual and accordingly create an assessment to test the skills based on the set criteria. This will help in hiring the right individual and charting out their growth path right at the outset. Define ways to capitalise on their strengths and simultaneously working towards their weaknesses.

You will always get 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 give more weightage to potential vs experience during the assessment because potential is something that cannot be taught as it’s intrinsic in nature.

Recognition is the Key
Senior management at companies often focus more on the mistakes, and forget about the achievements of their employees. That's because of the latent attitude, where employees 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 recognising them for the wins or achievements. A structured recognition process helps in setting 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 recognise an employee and appreciate their efforts, appreciating them right away is an obvious thing to do which most of us miss out doing. Employees who feel recognised are more likely to stick around for a longer period with the organisation.

Don’t promote the HiPPO Culture
HiPPO = highest paid person’s opinion. I learned this lesson from the book, ‘The Google Way’. At Google, they try and avoid the HiPPO culture.

There is a set hierarchical structure in every large organisation. Companies often give too much importance to the opinion of the senior most employee or manager, without considering the view of junior employees. In most cases, it’s the junior employees that are the most in sync with the day to day activities of the business. They usually have the 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 lose on important subjective information and unpublished data that can lead to more accurate decision making.

Hear everyone in your team out and then make your decision.

The author is a Co-Founder and Director of SILA.

The thoughts and opinions shared here are of the author.

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