The company culture myth

Posted by Mike Deissig

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December 4, 2013

Company culture is the new HR buzzword, and we get to the bottom of what it really is.

TheLadders_Culture_01The word ‘culture’ is thrown around a lot In the NYC tech space and hiring market as a whole. It’s as hot a topic as data science. As the technical recruiter at TheLadders, I’ve seen first-hand that members of the HR and talent acquisition community tend to look for easy ways to instill ‘culture’ into a company. Because of the popularity of these shortcuts, the term has become diluted. So what’s really at the heart of company culture?

What is company culture?
The term 'culture' as we know it appeared in the 17th century as the betterment or refinement of individuals. Take that and apply it into the workplace, and now ‘culture’ becomes an environment in which you are constantly looking to better or improve yourself, through those around you in your day-to-day work life. This directly relates to how I see culture. Culture is the way of the company; the passion, the build and the ambition. It’s what the organization values. It’s feeling the mission and energy of the organization reverberating through the room, and the way a company fuels the workers’ spirit and drive.

How do you build culture?
Too many companies focus on having the most ergonomic chairs and trendiest burritos. As HR, talent acquisition and recruiting specialists, we’re at the front line in terms of building culture, and need to focus on more than that. Culture is built with people. It’s important to establish the core principles of groups and leaders, and build teams around those. 

For example: If we want to hire six software engineers at TheLadders, but want them to fit into our culture, we will first establish core fundamentals about our engineering process and team structure. Then as we interview, we look for people in similar environments, as well as determine if these individuals seem committed to those same values.  At TheLadders, we have a few main drivers: Leadership, passion, humility, fun, and a proactive desire to learn and grow. People exhibiting these traits and values bolster our culture.

But what about the perks?!
From there, it’s important to build a ‘brand culture’ for teams, because keeping employee engagement high and providing small morale boosters ultimately keep people excited during the day-to-day grind. This is where the perks come in! TheLadders has a stocked kitchen with great snacks, awesome drinks (Naked Juice –YUM), catered lunches, ping pong, parties, and we each get a sweet iPad. Our goal is to win potential hires over with the people and company culture, and let the perks be the icing on the cake.

At the end of the day, it’s not the fancy chairs or food employees eat, but the employees themselves that define company culture. And it’s our job to shepherd the culture into our companies.

What does 'company culture' mean to you, and how do you build it? In my next post, I’ll dig a little deeper into the perks, and how they can aid your hiring.

Want to work with folks like Mike at TheLadders? Check out Life @TheLadders or browse our latest job listings.

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Michael Manager of Talent Acquisition Michael Deissig is the Manager of Talent Acquisition at TheLadders, and has 10 years of technology recruiting within NYC and the tech startup space. More than anything, he believes people should love what they do, and that a job should be a second home. When he’s not recruiting or helping people advance their careers, he loves watching football, being with friends, and playing FIFA. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeDeissig to chat or ask questions.

Topics: Recruiting & Sourcing, HR & Benefits