You can’t dictate the culture of a company, but you can help design it.
The “right” company culture – one which inspires people to join (and stay) – can only manifest itself organically, through the skills, values, and even quirks of its employees – especially those first few.
When I walked into Acorio almost four years ago, there were just 13 desks with 13 brilliant people sitting behind them, a mix of mild mannered, open, flexible, caring people – a few who even had a little bit of swagger. They were – and still are – the perfect combination of big-dreamers (and do-ers), witty one-liners, and supportive team players, all of which are just a few of the core traits that would be the backbone of my hiring strategy for the next four years.
It’s been within these past four years that our culture has come to life. And just a few months ago, we meticulously curated a set of beliefs Acorio truly lives by. We call it our Culture Code. But before we get to that, its instrumental you understand the trail we blazed to get there.
It takes time (and trial and error) to near your “cultural utopia,” a destination which challenges your team to greater potentials. When you do get close to it, define it (and keep defining it as you move forward).
This is our story of nearing that horizon.
Let Culture Manifest Itself, Then Design your Initiatives Around it
Hire the Right People
In order to grow the Acorio team without changing the core of who we are, the skills and values that make us different and excellent in the ServiceNow ecosystem, we established a distinct hiring strategy.
First, we established a challenging multi-step interviewing process. Second, we only hired leaders and champions in the industry who eventually, down the Acorio road, shared their extensive ServiceNow knowledge to guide our Academy students, a group of entry-level technologists new to the SN environment.
The combination of the two make for a rigorous selection process.
In the first two interviews, the candidate needs to pass through a standard interview with a potential manager and myself or my talent acquisition partner, Patrick. During this time, we are not only looking at a candidate’s excellence in their field, but we are critically evaluating their soft skills.
- A team player
- Goal oriented
These are just a few of the soft skills in an established set of traits we consider when hiring. They are essential to figuring out if a candidate is the “right fit” for Acorio, whether or not they will either add to our culture or threaten it. I can assure you, the latter doesn’t make it past the first interview.
The last step of our selection process is a culture interview: a member of our team – it could be someone who has worked with us for just a few months or our CEO – simply just talks with the candidate. And they’re asking themselves, is this someone I would hang out with outside the office? Or message on Slack, for a non-work-related purpose?
If you’re going to spend so much time at work, it should be with people who you enjoy spending time with. If an employee answers “yes” to those internal questions when interviewing, then those are the candidates worth hiring.
Start your Strategy
You need to be thoughtful and inventive when launching new programs or initiatives. My biggest recommendation? Test, test, and test some more. And always take advantage of the many helping hands waving around you. Seek ideas, involve people, and create a safe environment for everyone to share.
This past year, we’ve done just that, assembling a team of innovative, invested Acorians to help create new culture programs, focused on wellness, giving back, diversity & inclusion, and engagement & innovation.
You’ll find what works for your team and, trust me, your coworkers will let you know what doesn’t! Four years in (but still innovating), Acorio’s found a few culture catalysts, which keep our team connected and excited. From Onboarding to V-Team, to Culture Club (queue Boy George), to Summit, and even impromptu Slack memes, we are deliberate in amplifying and curating our culture.
As a company who embraces remote, it’s important to us that our new hires get to visit HQ for their first few days on the job. Since our founding, we have always flown our newbies into Boston and in three days, our whole leadership team gets the chance to meet them and go over the “in’s and out’s” of Acorio. By the end of the excursion, employees leave HQ energized and ready to get started! (Maybe with a minor headache from the happy hour the night before…)
Since we focus on hiring the best in the industry, our team spans across the US (and even Australia). Since we aren’t all physically in HQ every day, we commit to a company-wide virtual meet-up at 4:00 on one Friday of the month (beer suggested, but not required). It can consist of casual conversation, Acorio trivia, or Vacation show-and-tells, you name it – but it defines a time for the team to gather, de-stress, and genuinely enjoy each other’s company, virtually or not.
Another virtual meet-up of ours, Culture Club is our time for culture crowdsourcing. We could be meeting up about a current event (like Uber’s sexual harassment issues or a – now unemployed – Google employee’s patriarchal manifesto) or an internal hot-topic. Seeking opinions and input, we aim to create assignments or initiatives to help steer the direction of future culture offerings.
We had our first “Summit” in 2014 – which we held after the ServiceNow Knowledge14 conference at our “Power Pad” hangout in San Francisco.
From that humble beginning, Acorio has transformed our annual Summit into an epic 3-day forum. With a commitment to investing in our team and their career goals, this time is filled with team bonding, seminars, roleplays, and strategy brainstorming sessions. It’s also a time for the leadership team to spread their appreciation to all our employees.
The combination of all these internal programs and gatherings remind us to step back from our work, and appreciate our team (and ourselves), and what motivates us to be the best in the industry. As a services company, customers rely on us to deliver the best work, and we can only guarantee that commitment by having a strong company culture, which amplifies everyone’s abilities and inspires them to go above-and-beyond.
This year, listening to the acceptance speeches of some superlative winners, I realized how grateful I am for the team we’ve built and the impact each person has on the success of our growing company.
Why Culture Matters
Establishing a great culture means your company gets to choose from the “crème de la crème” of your industry – people who find purpose in their work, and pride in it too.
And when you have a company filled with people just like that, ambitious ideas, unparalleled work ethic, and limitless talent spread like wildfire. To create a successful (and happy) company, that permutation is invaluable.
The pride and care each employee internalizes at Acorio directly translate into the work they produce every day. As a growing company, everyone has a stake in the outcome, we all feel an ownership and responsibility to our successes (and sometimes even defeats, which is why we work tediously not just to learn from our mistakes, but also establish guidelines to prevent them from repeating).
How do you Measure a Company’s Culture?
Between our semi-annual Employee Satisfaction questionnaire and Net Promoter score, we seek to find what’s working (and what’s not) in the company internally. And we work frivolously address and improve culture, based on employee feedback. My goal is to make sure each Acorian feels valued and that they love coming to work. These were just some of the comments from our last evaluation:
- I understand how my work impacts our mission
- I trust my co-workers
- I’m grateful for the opportunity to learn and grow
- I feel valued as an employee
With a 97% Net Promoter score and high retention rate, we feel confident that Acorio employee’s take pride in practicing our company’s values.
It’s our healthy culture that gives us a competitive advantage over other leaders in our industry. We are inspired to go above-and-beyond for our customers and each other. And because we have such a great performance culture, we are able to work autonomously, and gift employees with rich benefits and perks.
Acorio’s Culture Code
It’s probably obvious by now that Acorio is passionate about our culture, so maintaining and memorializing it was a no-brainer.
While it was frightening at first to write down the beginning words, especially considering how organic our company’s culture feels, it was important to me, and everyone on the team, that we made it tangible, something we could pass down to all of our new generations of future Acorians, reminding them, this is why I’m meant to be here.
With the help of many brains (and hearts), from all corners of this company, we created our Culture Code. This is what it’s like to work at Acorio.
To my Acorio team (and possibly future Acorians reading), you are all building something unique, and making lasting relationships while doing it! Seize this moment.
For those just reading to learn, never underestimate the impact of a company’s culture, being great starts from within. When you near your idea of utopia, capture it, memorialize it, amplify it, and continue to support it as your team grows.