Work perks like pool tables and standing desks at the office are great but they don’t guarantee a good work culture that employees can thrive in.
We’re lucky to have a funky, converted ex-factory office in Cremorne with a games machine and colourful walls. Sure, they make for a fun work environment, but our culture was born three years ago in a cramped space, above a shop on a busy street, a few postcodes outside of Melbourne.
It has become almost cliché for startups (or any organisations, for that matter) to pile on the latest employee perks and think, “that’s culture sorted”. Conversely, it’s all too easy (and common) for businesses to codify words like respect, teamwork and flexibility, and to believe that those values are somehow magically—and instantly—ingrained in their employees.
Don’t get me wrong, formalised values and a fun working environment can certainly contribute to good working culture. However, without everyone from founders to the newest hire walking the talk of your culture, perks can quickly be seen as nothing more than gimmicks, and the company’s values simply words on a page.
Authentically living the company’s key values is what creates a genuinely productive culture. Staff won’t need to actively think about how they’re working with their colleagues as the people you’ve hired naturally share the same values—they’re ingrained already.
Sounds challenging, right?
I actually think it’s easier than most startup founders think, if you’re honest with yourself about what’s important to you and your team. If your company’s values reflect your own, then you’ll always embody the culture you want in your team. And, as the team grows and you hire like-minded people, that culture will spread organically.
At SalesPreso, we knew we wanted to tackle a complex problem that had never been addressed but exists in almost every large sales organisation. We wanted to build a platform that delivered beautiful, automated, data-driven storytelling into the hands of every salesperson in the world. We knew this would be a long and sometimes arduous endeavour, but it would allow us to experiment, to learn and to apply our entrepreneurial spirit.
We often say that we’re happy to admit it when we’re not good at something; we believe this is a strength rather than a weakness. The 10 employees we’ve hired since 2013 all individually know why we need them and the value they deliver to the company. And we look for people whose personal values align with our own—and those of the business.
We have a history of giving motivated people a go, even if they don’t have proven skills or experience. Attitude—that desire to find the solutions to the big problems we’re tackling—and team ‘fit’ are paramount; skills can be taught by the team; experience is gained within the team.
Earlier this year, one of our team recommended her friend for a developer role. Described as ‘smart and dedicated’, she was nonetheless a grad student with no commercial experience or working knowledge of the technologies we used. The usual rules for interviewing a dev didn’t apply. But half an hour sharing lunch with the team was enough to know she was going to make a difference. Three months later we were already handing her projects to own.
Most importantly, she’s not seen by the team as a junior; she’s a talented contributor who commands—and receives—mutual respect.
She embodies the same values with authenticity because her personal goals are aligned with the company’s. And the end result is a one-of-a-kind culture at our company that is inherently rewarding and productive, and that is something no pool table or standing desks can ever deliver.