How “Cultural Fit” Changes as Companies Grow
Two CEOS, Jason Weingarten of Yello and Amanda Lannert of Jellyvision, discuss how growth has led them to adjust their companies’ views on recruiting and culture.
It’s always special when a startup company becomes viable enough to emerge from its founder’s garage, and watching those organizations pivot and adapt and evolve into mature companies can be tremendously exciting. On today’s blog, we’re sitting down with two CEOs to discuss what they’ve learned about recruiting and culture as their companies have grown from startups to more substantial, destination employers.
The first CEO you’ll hear from is Amanda Lannert of Jellyvision, a technology company that
makes interactive employee communication software. Over the last five years, Jellyvision has grown from 40 employees to more than 400. That kind of rapid and impressive growth has required Lannert rethink her approach to and assumptions about talent acquisition.
The second CEO you’ll be hearing from is Yello’s very own Jason Weingarten, who talks about what he learned about culture and recruiting as he guided his company through a period of expansion that doubled its size from 100 to more than 200 employees.
Read on to discover their stories.
Jellyvision’s Culture Story
For years, Jellyvision had been known for a rigorous application process that was designed to assess whether candidates possessed certain traits that would help them be successful with the company. Although this process yielded plenty of happy, loyal, high-performing employees, it was very labor intensive and prone to delays. In other words: no longer a good match for an organization whose growth required swifter talent acquisition and a more mature understanding of fitting in.
“At Jellyvision, we used to have a recruiting playbook that we stuck with for years, even as the company grew,” Lannert explains. “While that playbook did us a lot of good—I would put our people up against anybody’s—we’ve come to understand that the way you have to hire and act as a 400-person company is just different than the way you act as a 40-person company.”
“When you are a teeny, tiny startup, recruiting for cultural fit and finding people who are all birds of a feather is critical because after your candidates become employees, you can move really fast and have very little friction. When your company grows, however, your needs are going to change. The second you start to get traction—meaning you can sell the same thing to multiple satisfied customers profitably—you’ll find that you need to shift your focus from cultural fit to competencies and outcomes.”
“What that has meant in our recruitment process is we have had to learn to stop asking ourselves ‘Is this candidate someone I want to go to lunch with?’ so we can concentrate on the outcomes we need from a given role and the competencies we think the person in that role needs to have.”
“That doesn’t mean that cultural fit is no longer an important factor for Jellyvision recruiting. It is. We know how our bread is buttered, and it’s by our people. There is still a certain cultural DNA we look for in every candidate. We just want to start casting a wider net, and that’s required us to challenge all of the assumptions we used to have about the packages in which that cultural DNA comes.”
“We are being open to new ways of bringing in talent. We have changed our interviews, our job descriptions, and our expectations of what good candidates need to provide. We have very different ethos around recruiting, and it is because we need to get not just birds of a feather, we need to get birds of all feathers so that we have lots and lots of different viewpoints—lots and lots of different perspectives—so that our software isn’t tone deaf to huge parts of the population we’re trying to serve.”
Yello’s Culture Story
Because Yello’s culture story is very different from that of Jellyvision, it didn’t suffer the same kinds of growing pains. Yello recruited for competencies and outcomes since its inception, but its sense of culture didn’t develop until much, much later.
“One of the most difficult times for me as CEO was when Yello was at a hundred employees,” Weingarten explains. “We were going back and forth between 95 and 105 employees for what seemed to be forever, and I was struggling with the culture of the business as we were getting ready for another period of expansion.”
“It got to the point where I wanted to get some outside advice, so I went to Amanda Lannert, who I knew to be ahead of the curve on the topic of culture and hiring. Amanda turned me on to a couple of books, and we exchanged some ideas that helped me realize the core values we had defined for Yello just weren’t right for us.”
“Although our employees were living our values, their behaviors weren’t lining up with my expectations. They weren’t doing anything wrong—it was that our values weren’t structured in a way that made sense. We needed to anchor our value statements to actions we wanted people to take, so we brought in a consulting firm to assist us through that process and to make sure we got it right. Our value statements are now a much better fit for us, and that’s allowed us to be very crisp and clear about our expectations and how we measure them.”
“Compared with how we were at the beginning, I would say we’re now much more close-knit. We’ve been able to recruit similar by culture, even though we have a fairly diverse group, which is exciting. We now have large groups of people who enjoy hanging out with each other and organizing activities outside of work. More importantly, our success rate for filling roles with people who become happy and successful employees has gone up dramatically.”
“My advice for a CEO who’s hitting that 100-employee mark is to take a pause on hiring so you can make sure your values are right. It’s much harder to do it at 200 employees than 100 employees—and it’s going to be insanely painful at 1,000—so take a quick pause and focus on making sure you’ve got the right values that drive the right employee behaviors.”
If you’re working for a company that’s experiencing rapid growth and would like to get some more information on how Yello can help you meet your changing talent acquisition needs, please take a few moments to check out some of the following resources.
If you’re interested in developing a pipeline of passive talent, you should start with Passive Talent Is Hiding in Plain Sight: Here’s How to Find It. To learn about diversity recruitment, you might find our What Job Seekers Really Think About Your Diversity Practices survey report to be especially helpful.
Finally, if you want to see how your growing company’s culture is an asset to be used in your recruiting, you should see 4 Eye-Opening Insights About Employer Branding, How a Recruitment Brand Can Impact the Bottom Line, and 7 Ways to Build Your Employer Brand on Campus.
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