By Carson Conant, Mediafly
Forty-six percent of job seekers cite company culture as very important when choosing to apply to a company, according to a Jobvite study. However, when it comes to creating company culture many people immediately think of office perks. Does the office have a cool interior design? Do they host entertaining events? Contrary to popular belief, the foundation of building a company culture has zero to do with office perks. Instead, it all boils down to the people. When beginning my career, I quickly found that the key to growth is surrounding yourself with quality people. Rather than relying on a gut feeling, I look for three distinct characteristics during the interview process.
A good culture fit means people who fiercely defend their ideas, but not their ego. Dying on the sword because it was the right idea, not your idea is crucial. On the other hand, an ideal candidate is not a wallflower. Employees must be willing to challenge ideas and thoughts. A lack of ego allows team members to act harmoniously.
Patience is also a crucial aspect of the hiring process. A Chinese proverb states, “the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago; the second-best is today.” This proverb comes to my mind often when hiring. It is why, at Mediafly, we begin the hiring process 6-12 months before the position needs to be filled. As a result, we are constantly looking for new hires, even if we cannot bring them onboard immediately. This strategy is a key driver of our strong culture because our hiring process is very deliberate. Though the process is tedious, it provides time to identify if a candidate is a culture fit for the whole team. I believe it is better to miss out on a qualified candidate than hire someone who does not fit with your team’s talent or culture.
The skill of listening is a quality all too often overlooked. While most of us believe we are good listeners, we are not. Research shows only 10% of us listen effectively. There is a difference between physically hearing and listening. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines hearing as the “process, function, or power of perceiving sound.” Listening, however, means to “pay attention to sound; to hear something with thoughtful attention and to give consideration.”
We are constantly distracted by our phones, events in our personal lives, and the world around us. With such overwhelming lives, taking a moment to carefully pay attention is much easier said than done. Luckily, listening is a skill we can all continue to improve upon. For myself, listening is crucial because it builds trust and respect among employees. Thoughtful listening provides space for employees to freely share ideas, gain feedback, and grow as a professional.
Listening is also helpful during conflict. Healthy conflict can allow employees to collaborate, challenge thinking, and in turn, create a solution. However, this all requires active listening. Having a skilled listener allows for empathy and understanding in the workplace. This improves the workplace environment as well as customer relationships, thus improving the company overall.
Open To Change
Change, especially in the startup world, is constant. While there are many consistent processes in place, situations often arise that are the first of its kind within an organization. When faced with a new challenge, I look for people who feel comfortable with the unknown or uncharted territory. An example of this is a company going through their first acquisition. For many, not having a distinct plan for the process can seem both confusing and overwhelming. However, this also presents an opportunity to learn, grow, and understand best practices to leverage in future acquisitions. Being comfortable with the uncomfortable in these situations is crucial for success.
In addition to a candidate open to change, a self-starter mentality is also important. As everyone learns together, there is no right or wrong which opens the door for employees to take risks. This relates closely to the two previous characteristics. A lack of ego encourages employees to actively listen to each other’s opinions and ideas. In turn, employees are provided a space that is free of judgment, open to new ideas and innovation, and success driven.
Looking for the right mix of skills, expertise, experience, and personality is a timely process. It has been reported that former CEO and co-founder Larry page approved or rejected every single one of the company’s hires. Rather than relying on a gut feeling, take the time to understand what characteristics you want to see in each employee regarding a “culture fit”. By taking the time to assess and plan your hiring process, you will ensure you have the right candidates for your organization.
About The Author
Carson Conant is the CEO and Founder of Chicago-based sales enablement solution provider Mediafly. Having grown up in an entrepreneurial family, Carson is no stranger to the challenges and rewards of building a company from the ground up and assembling a brilliant team to successfully execute on his vision. Under Carson’s leadership, Mediafly has been recognized as an Inc. 5000 Fastest Growing Company for five consecutive years, one of Inc.’s Best Workplaces of 2018, and a Best Place to Work by Crain’s Chicago Business. Mediafly’s software is currently leveraged by top Fortune 500 companies including PepsiCo, MillerCoors, Disney, and Goldman Sachs.