Published by Kelly McDonald - July 17, 2018

Taking responsibility for company culture

Tips on how to shape and scale culture from Calendly’s Head of Recruiting and People Ops

Taking responsibility for company culture

A solid company culture is important for both attracting and retaining talent. If you are intentional in how you communicate your culture, it becomes an embodiment of your company identity and values, and projects your desired brand image. It even influences your employees to be more productive and deliver higher quality products and services.

Millennials, who now make up the majority of the workforce, came of age in an era marked by relatively stable finances and a boom in technology. Unlike generations before them, they’re looking for more than a stable paycheck and benefits for the next 25 years. Meaning, influence and community are all major elements that most people now seek out through work and evaluate employers on.

“If you want to attract the best of the best, they have to believe that they’re going to have a significant impact with their own ideas in the company.” —Eric Ries, The Startup Way

A healthy, vibrant company culture lowers employee absenteeism and turnover costs; increases personal health; boosts morale, productivity and the brand—all contributing to a company’s bottom line.

Calendly Field Day

Who are the culture-makers and keepers?

Everyone builds the culture of an organization. Culture shouldn’t be determined by a People Operations team or the C-suite; all employees are important contributors to an organization’s culture. Hiring teams are responsible for enhancing and adding to the culture through who they target to recruit and hire.

When I joined Calendly as Head of Recruiting + People Operations, I knew that one of my top priorities was to learn about the culture and identify key influencers to help us continue shaping our culture and making it the kind of workplace everyone wants to be at. It’s important to have a culture task force so that culture stays at the forefront and isn’t pushed to the bottom of priorities, which can negatively impact the business. To do that, I pulled together the Calendly Culture Crew.

Calendly tug of war

Why organize a culture task force?

The culture crew at Calendly is made up of individuals from each department, nominated by their managers for exhibiting a commitment to our company values and furthering our overall work environment and atmosphere. We wanted representation from each department in order to have a diverse task force representing a wide variety of interests.

With a task force comprised of individuals from each business unit, we are able to stay connected with those teams, while People Operations and the leadership team can receive input and rely on these representatives to get their direct teammates on board and excited about culture initiatives. It presents a win-win for everyone. The employee base knows they have a voice and culture isn’t being determined by a privileged few, and the company can rely on the crew to ensure culture remains organic and genuine.

Rather than trying to shape culture through enforcing new initiatives or policies from the top down, a culture crew provides democratization and more naturally incorporates a wealth of diverse perspectives. While you could have separate committees for diversity and inclusion or other initiatives, we find that at our size and stage, this one crew is able to provide guidance across many different culture and people-related fronts.

How to pull together a culture crew

The process of appointing culture representatives needs to balance fairness and diverse representation with deliberate selection. While you don’t want to cherry-pick employees in such a way that you are showing favoritism (even unintentional bias), you do want to leave room in your process for choosing employees who are already culture-bearers.

Who are the employees that naturally organize social events or are the first to wish someone a happy birthday? Who greets new employees and takes them out to coffee? Who is always ready with a new idea and resources? Which employees embody your company values?

These names and faces that come to mind are those employees naturally gifted at upholding and spreading a positive workplace environment. No matter what your unique company culture is like, these types of employees are essential to engagement and will make excellent contributors to your culture crew.

At Calendly, we want a variety of personalities to help us look at things from multiple angles to ensure we are making wise decisions for the company. When delegating tasks, it’s good to have a diverse mix of strengths within your crew so that execution does not fall on one person. Some contributors will be better at planning, shopping, publicizing, facilitating or even clean-up. Each function is essential, so find ways that each member can lead in a way that leverages their individual strengths. A moderator is needed to lead the group’s meetings, keep people on track in their discussion and be conscious of budgets when planning purchases.

What kind of things does is the culture crew responsible for

Calendly’s Culture Crew exists to help build programs that support our values, keep employees engaged and make Calendly a fun and enjoyable place to work.

A few of the initiatives that they influence are:

  • Selecting company swag
  • Planning and promoting team events
  • Engaging and welcoming new employees
  • Identifying opportunities for employee recognition
  • Contributing to work anniversary, birthday and holiday celebrations and
  • Providing ways Calendly can give back to the community.

While participation in the culture crew is entirely voluntary, we ensure that all the contributors know what is expected of them and we respect their time. They are never asked to discuss topics related to performance management, employee relation issues or other People Operations initiatives.

Building a culture that scales

Once you’ve done the hard work of developing a culture that you’re proud of, you want to preserve it. Many companies worry about maintaining their culture as they scale. Calendly faces this challenge as well.

As we add rapidly to our headcount, we are also in the process of becoming one team in two offices. It’s essential to us that the culture which has been carefully cultivated in our Atlanta headquarters is just as evident in our New York City office. There could be a temptation to try to make the NYC office a carbon copy of our Atlanta office, but that isn’t our mission at all.

While we want to be in sync with our teammates wherever they’re located and whatever team they serve, we expect that the culture of an office is going to be shaped by its local community and regional culture. There will be differences between our offices that come about naturally, but there should also be some core commonalities based on our values, which we can carefully screen for, hire and reward.

SVP of People Operations at Google, Laszlo Bock, says that Google has always experienced a fear of losing the culture they’ve built, but he says it’s actually “a healthy paranoia because it’s about something that shapes and drives the company.” The truth is that culture will always change over time as needs and priorities shift and that does not have to be a bad thing.

We believe that diversity of experience, personality, perspective and identity are things that only add to our culture and benefit it. Rather than trying to safeguard some secret sauce, we actively seek to grow and change in order to become a better business and workplace year after year. With this mindset, we hire and make decisions based on our core values, not on overall aesthetics or what the current team is “comfortable and familiar with.”

So as long as you don’t mistake appearances like perks and personalities for core pillars of your identity, you can strategically build your culture into your day-to-day operations, ensuring that it grows with your company in a positive way.

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