Use Your Company Culture To Scale Your Business

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Sam Seo

November 01, 2021

Hiring and employee retention are two of the biggest challenges small businesses face. But getting it right is critical if you plan to scale your business. And it all starts with your company culture.

At Playbook 2021, the year’s best virtual small business event, we sat down with leaders from Animalz, Zenefits, and Boba Guys to talk about their company cultures’ role in scaling big. Here’s what they had to say.

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Make your hiring process inclusive

According to Reuters, the labor market currently faces record demand for talent. Meaning, it’s harder than ever to find the right people for the right job

For Devin Bramhall, CEO of the content marketing firm Animalz, securing top talent means making the hiring process as inclusive as possible. 

“We did an audit of our hiring process last year and realized that we were excluding a ton of really talented people just in the way we were reaching out to the market,” Devin explained. “That is a huge untapped opportunity.”

So, one change Devin made was writing role descriptions to include more accessible, non-gendered language. That’s because using corporate language in job descriptions can discourage people of color from applying.

Plus, Devin removed the requirement of higher education, broadening the scope of work experience. By opening up your role to different educational backgrounds or work experiences, prospective hires from all walks of life can see themselves filling the opening.

In the company’s first four years, Animalz grew to 50 employees. With these new practices, they’ve been able to double their headcount to 100 in the last calendar year.

Kevin Marasco, CMO of the people operations software Zenefits, seconds this push for a more inclusive hiring process. And he also highlights the importance of promoting your company’s purpose over your work benefits while you’re at it.

“A lot of companies gloss over the purpose and impact their work has,” Kevin shared. “I think that’s one of the fundamental [reasons people work]. The purpose and the passion behind [the work], versus just being more transactional in nature.” 

In fact, studies show that people are more invested in the human aspects of their work than their benefits. For example, more candidates are more interested in the interpersonal connections of the job than how many vacation hours they’ll get.

Andrew Chau, Devin Bramhall, and Kevin Marasco from Playbook 2021

Clearly define your company culture

As more employees come onto your team, you need everyone aligned. With employee training, everyone can learn how the business operates. But you also need to define the company culture.

According to Andrew Chau, CEO of the cafe chain Boba Guys, setting that culture early is crucial to creating employee alignment. 

“You can normalize [your company culture] really early because you’re starting with a blank slate,” Andrew said. “So, the team that you want to use to build are people who are very strong in [that] culture.”

Meaning, when you embody your company values from day one, everyone else you hire does too. That’s because by living those values every day, you make your culture recognizable. So, they know what principles they need to embody – and align their work with those values.

For example, one of Boba Guys’ core values is pluralism (finding the balance between individualism and collectivism). They want their employees to concentrate on their own career growth while adding value to the company as a whole. 

And because Andrew has focused on this value since Boba Guys started in 2011, its message has spread enough to help attract candidates who fit those values. (It also helps the company retain employees for a longer period than the industry average.)

“You really have to live and breathe your values, no matter what size you’re at.”

~ Andrew Chau, CEO and co-founder of Boba Guys

Prioritize employee opportunities

When your company starts to grow in business and revenue, it’s not enough just to hire more people. You also need to focus on employee development.

For a retail-based company like Boba Guys, many employees start at lower levels, usually a Many employees start at lower levels for a retail-based company like Boba Guys, usually a “bobarista.” And they get pulled up into management roles. 

Andrew then depends on rigorous training to get those team members comfortable with their new role, especially since most of them lack prior management experience.

But it doesn’t stop at vertical promotion opportunities. Andrew describes the company as a “metaverse,” where they’ve expanded their operations from a boba cafe into a restaurant group, warehouse, and factory. The company has even started investing in media companies like Watcher Entertainment.

All these branches provide advancement opportunities for their workers. And it gives employees the chance to explore different career paths – while staying in the Boba Guys ecosystem. This has been a great play for employee retention.

A staggering 94% of employees worldwide said they would stay at a company longer if they invested in their careers. Meaning, if your business grows people’s careers, they’re much more likely to stick around. 

At Zenefits, Kevin takes a similar approach. But, rather than simply promoting, he provides opportunities based on what his employees want from their careers.

To do this, Kevin talks with his team regularly. He’ll probe what they want to learn, what opportunities they’d like to see, and how they picture their future with the company. Then, he finds ways to make those wants a reality. 

“How do we provide new experiences and opportunities for our people to learn [so they] help make the company better and deliver value to our customers?”

~ Kevin Marasco, CMO of Zenefits

Embrace remote work

As asynchronous technology develops, remote work has become a staple across multiple industries. One that both employee and employer can embrace.

“Remote work is inevitable,” as Andrew puts it. And most employees feel the same way. Per an Owl Labs survey, 1 in 2 people don’t plan on returning to jobs that don’t offer work-from-home (WFH) options.

But WFH benefits employers as much as employees. In fact, Global Workplace Analytics found that the average US company saves about $11,000 per remote employee annually.

And for Animalz, who’s always been remote, having a strong WFH strategy is important. But Devin can’t stress this advice enough: “Never call your [remote] strategy done. Keep reevaluating it.”

Meaning, your WFH strategy for 15 employees probably won’t work when you hit the 100-employee milestone. So, as your team grows, take into account what your employees are asking for and make changes accordingly. 

For example, if your remote team wants to find ways to connect outside of work, schedule virtual events so your WFH employees can interact with each other.

“[The WFH strategy] that’s become the most successful is being open and creating space for employees to create their own engagement mechanisms.”

~ Devin Bramhall, CEO of Animalz

For Animalz, this meant providing platforms for people to connect, such as individual Slack channels or Zoom meetups. Then, they step back, so their employees can organically engage with their teammates.

All of that is to say, hiring and developing the right people becomes easier when you have a solid company culture. And you can share that culture by increasing inclusivity and investing in people. Admittedly, it’ll take some upfront work – but the backend pays off when your employees are more invested in growing your business.

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