How we built an award-winning culture + earned a spot on Inc. Magazine’s 2018 Best Workplaces

What makes people choose to work for your company over your competitors? Why, when so many other offers exist, do candidates accept yours?

According to Quantum Workplace, the best benefits aren’t usually physical – people prefer flex hours, a casual environment, and a clear mission statement to food in the fridge or a fancy gym. Again and again, research shows that giving your workers something to believe in can be more valuable than salary or bonuses alone.

At Proven Recruiting, we pride ourselves on the close-knit community – founded on trust, a Make $hit Happen attitude, and a shared weirdness – that we’ve managed to bring together and foster over our 10+ years as a company. Really – where else do co-workers plan each other’s baby showers?

Here’s the thing: culture doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. With a little effort and a lot of intention, any good business owner can cultivate a healthy culture. It just comes down to a few key decisions.

Here’s what has worked for us:

1. You’re building a team, not a machine.

What you’re creating is so much more than the sum of its parts. Culture is a living, breathing organism, which requires care and attention like anything else.

So where do you start? To build a strong culture, it’s important to consider the individuals who will help it grow. As recruiters, we’re acutely aware that one bad apple can spread like a disease – and that one inspiring worker can uplift an entire office.

On hiring, Proven Recruiting’s Co-Founder Ingram Losner advises against judging on experience; instead, he promotes hiring for capability. Doing so ensures that you aren’t simply replicating your current workforce – you’re growing it. By taking the focus off of experience, you allow for a higher level of diversity and creativity.

Our other Co-Founder, Louis Song, takes us a step further – he encourages hiring for character. While skills and knowledge can be learned, Louis points out that trust, friendliness, loyalty, and a go-getter attitude are innate.

For the best fit, make sure that these unchanging traits – the traits that will help your team grow over the long term – align with your company’s (current or ideal) culture.

2. Create space – both physical and emotional – for bonding.

To be clear – this doesn’t mean investing in a state of the art office space. You don’t need to spend extravagant amounts of money for a successful culture. Think about it: while Google and Facebook boast the nicest campuses and most competitive perks, that’s not what makes their cultures so cohesive and welcoming.

Experience has taught us that culture exists more in interactions than in material objects.

Try this: create spaces that will encourage workers to better get to know one another. In designing our San Diego headquarters, we focused on building conversation and meal-sharing areas. Natural spaces for people to break off into small groups, eat lunch together, and share in their routines are essential to growing your culture.

Physical proximity – especially when paired with shared values and concerns – often lead to stronger bonds of connection.

By creating spaces of common interest and dialogue, you are essentially ‘feeding’ your culture. Don’t be fooled – your culture is always hungry. But every instance of shared experience will make your culture stronger.

3. Make Diversity and Inclusion real.

We’ve always considered ourselves a ‘band of misfits.’ Regardless of age, race, beliefs, or gender, we’ll accept anyone willing to giving it their all, make $hit happen, and give back to their community. Weird, off-kilter, unique – you name it, we’ll take it.  

But being welcoming isn’t enough. In the past 2 years, we’ve worked hard to make real changes, so that every person we hire feels valued and special.

Did it work? All we can say is, there’s been a palpable change to our culture. In addition to hosting monthly D&I celebrations at the office, we now participate in community events, organize D&I lunch and learns, and collaborate with local companies to raise awareness of D&I issues.

Just remember – you don’t need huge displays of solidarity and expensive happy hours to prove that you’re clued-in. All you need is to show your employees that you care about their lives, their experiences, and their aspirations. Embrace what makes your people unique, and you’ll be well on your way to fostering an incredibly solid company culture.

4. Let meaning guide your mission.

Culture doesn’t spontaneously appear. Over the past 10 years, we’ve learned that it has to be supported by a strong foundation – the company mission. If that mission is money or expansion-based, it’ll fail to engage employees, who don’t usually share equally in profits.

People – and especially millennials – want something to believe in. Be authentic, meaningful, and honest about your company’s goals, and your employees will respond positively.

5. Encourage life beyond the office.

Seems counterintuitive, right? How will a better company culture result from encouraging employees to spend more spend time with their families or pursuing their out-of-work interests?

The foundation of a strong culture is trust. Trust your employees to use their time and energy appropriately, and you’ll be rewarded. Not to mention the fact that happier employees = better, more invested workers.

We always make it a priority to show our people that we care about their whole lives – not just their work output. We ask about their families, offer flex time when it’s reasonable, and make sure each employee is taking at least some vacation.

At Proven Recruiting, we take offense to the term ‘work life balance’ – instead we promote work life integration. Your time at work should make you a better listener and teammate. Likewise, your time at home should help you become a more patient, understanding, and lively individual. We want both elements of a person to be present at all times, regardless of the situation.

So invite your employees’ families to work events, create spaces for everyone to feel comfortable together, and always be inclusive. 

Most organizations, regardless of industry, size, or years of operation, are more similar than they’d like to believe. Differentiation is everyone’s priority, yet few manage to truly identify and embrace their uniqueness.

But it’s what makes you unique that will attract and retain your workers. Don’t try to be Google or Dropbox – be yourself, and give your employees the space to be who they want to be. Your workplace culture may not depend on any individual worker, but it requires the dedication of every person in order to succeed. Be inclusive, put forward a meaningful mission, make space for growth, and hire the right people.

Culture doesn’t have to be complicated – just authentic. Get in touch to learn more about enhancing your company culture at hello@provenrecruiting.com.