How to scale culture through hyper growth?

Vedran Ismaili

CEO

Your company is growing and as an entrepreneur that means a lot of new and exciting challenges but there is specifically one you need to handle sooner rather than later, namely how do you build and maintain a strong culture

I sat down with Tony Pedersen from Tretton37 to hear more about their story and how they have been able to successfully scale their culture through hyper growth in an extremely competitive market.

I have met quite a lot of people but Tony is truly fascinating. Before Tony devoted his attention to HR he worked in the Swedish Army with psychological operations, he also served in Afghanistan. Tony's different background and experience definitely makes him stand out and so does his deep interest in people and human psychology.

According to Tony culture is the primary differentiator between great and average companies and the numbers back up the claim. Today statistics show that more than 70% of Swedish employees arrive at work disengaged, Tony and his team set out to build a company that they themselves would be excited to work for.

As Tony says himself “We have calibrated and re-calibrated the talent function in our company in order to perfect it. We wanted to make sure we are able to find individuals that match our culture, because if they do, we would be more likely to sustain this culture as we grew”

So how did they build a process that helped them maintain their strong culture as they grew? This was how they did it.

1. Simplify the recruitment process

The window of recruitment is much shorter today than it was a few years ago, especially in tech. Therefore you need to have a streamlined process enabling you to move faster than your competitors. You can't afford a complicated process today with too many steps as you will be setting yourself up for failure and you will see many potential employees getting snatched up by competitors. Keep it simple, iterate the process quickly and make sure to check-off the basics of the position as quickly as possible in the interview process.
 

2. Find common ground and define common language

As the recruitment window are becoming smaller it’s essential that the recruitment/HR team are aligned and agree on what is important as well as what they need to search for in an individual. This is something that is easy to mess up. Make sure everyone is crystal clear for who and what they should look for in an individual. Talk, discuss and debate internally, so everyone is beyond clear on what you're looking for in terms of skill and what is expected from new hires. If you use any internal expressions make sure to have them thoroughly explained and documented.

3. Create infrastructure for scalability

Create templates, structure and an order to follow in the recruitment process. This enables everyone to document the process, providing a clear picture of the candidate but also promotes internal alignment. At Tretton37 they score candidates in relation to the factors that they have identified are important for individuals to possess. This process as Tony mentions, will to some extent address the bias, or more specific the “guess work” that is usually part of the recruitment process but it also makes it clear for everyone what they are looking for. The other benefit is that will also enable colleagues to read up quickly on a candidate wherever they are and pick up the process if a recruiter is sick or away on leave.

4. Actively look for culture fit

When recruiting spend more time screening for the character than specific skills. Often skills can be learned given the right character and attitude. By searching for a specific character and attitude you will also more likely find individuals that will be able to amplify your culture and solidify your core values. So looking for character fit instead of only searching for competence fit is a good way to scale culture as you grow.

One part Tony says he swears by is the reference. As he puts it “ Many people don’t believe the value of a reference, I think it’s a great way for me to double check my impressions of a person.” But as Tony puts it, all these stages are essential to minimize risk. It won’t protect you fully, and there is no magic bullet to do so. 

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Illustration - Cari Vander Yacht