A Great Company Culture Starts With One Key Ingredient

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As the office manager for Go Fish Digital, I wear a lot of hats. I coordinate employee travel, order delicious snacks, and make sure we have plenty of excellent Spotify playlists for the office Sonos speaker. I am also a key player in the hiring process.

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In addition to putting a pair of human eyes on every resume that comes in, I am every candidate’s main point of contact. Naturally, this means I get asked a lot of questions. But there is one question in particular that I get asked pretty frequently:

“What does your company culture look like?”

Oh, boy – where to start?

The Key Ingredient to a Flourishing Culture

When a candidate inquires about culture in 2018, they are asking what it feels like to work for your organization. They want to know how much trust you will place in them, how they will relate to their coworkers, how casual or buttoned-up your atmosphere is, and what potential growth or promotion opportunities exist. And for some companies, it can seem like a loaded question.

But, here’s a secret. The way to create your organization’s desired culture will always be the same. It’s not branding or social media posts or office furniture – it’s the people.

Suppose that XYZ Company wants to create an office culture based on flexibility and creativity. Their mission statement touts their out-of-the-box thinking and innovation and expression of individual personality is encouraged. They even offer unlimited PTO and bring in ping-pong tables, nap pods, and maybe a bark park so employees can bring their dogs to work. However, having these cool things in place isn’t enough to build a culture. Regardless of how much a company invests in the trappings of creativity and unconventionality, it’s the people who occupy the office that determine the nature of the place.

Finding the Right People for the Job

A company must do more than simply look at past work experience when reviewing a candidate. They need to know whether the candidate is a great culture fit. How much direct supervision does this person need? Are they comfortable with asking questions and admitting what they don’t know? Does a competitive atmosphere bring out the best in them or the worst? Are they more likely to thrive when creating their own way of working, or in faithfully adhering to long-held practices? These are all questions that you need to make sure you answer before bringing a person on.

Hiring folks who feel most comfortable in a more cutthroat, every-man-for-himself environment can kill open collaboration. Someone who flourishes under strict direction from management may flounder in a flat work structure. An employee who is less intense about her work lowers the bar in a competitive environment where others thrive under pressure. And let’s be clear – it’s not that these employees have the wrong idea about how to work. They may be terrific assets in the right environment. But when an employee is placed into a culture that doesn’t match their work style, the results can be disastrous.

Our Culture at Go Fish Digital

We are fiercely protective of our office culture at Go Fish Digital. We want a workplace that buzzes with collaborative energy, allows employees to find their own best work style, and reduces the time and number of approvals needed to turn a good idea into reality. And because we are so protective of our culture, we are particularly choosy (some would say picky) when it comes to building our workforce. Our interview process is fairly lengthy and asks a lot of the candidates moving through it. In the end, we are rewarded with a staff that creates our ideal culture. Our employees are unafraid to ask questions. They are extremely generous with one another, not only with their efforts but also with their time and their personal expertise. Our employees seek professional growth, but never through competition.

We are very picky, but, honestly, all organizations should be. The people you have at your organization are not only shaping its culture, but they are also actively shaping its future. While it may be easy to dismiss culture as a fad or consider it as an issue that only concerns less serious organizations, potential employees legitimately care about this part of the job and its importance should not be overlooked.

Aside from the culture question I mentioned before, there is another one that lags only slightly behind in its frequency. I’ve come to expect it, and I can answer it right away.

“What do you like most about working at Go Fish Digital?”

That’s an easy one. It’s the people.

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