I was in San Francisco last week and two of our Campers (in different situations) told me that Culture Amp was the best place they have ever worked. Our commitment to being Culture First, the product we build and the customers we work - all combine to create a unique and very powerful culture. However we are not perfect. Being willing to hold the mirror up and be accountable for what you see is part of what it really means to put Culture First.
We look at what’s working but also what is not working. When hiring, most organizations focus on telling people all the great things about the company but don’t necessarily explain what the job is actually going to be like.
On this topic, Dr. David Ostberg (our Director of Culture Enablement), recently did some research on the realistic job preview. David’s research showed that realistic previews didn’t scare people away - it actually helped keep them for longer. There’s a correlation between how long people stay in a company and whether they had a realistic job preview. Essentially, it’s about expectation management which can stop people from second-guessing why they joined in the first place.
To help us understand what it’s really like to work at Culture Amp we asked our people directly to share what they struggled with the most. We‘ve also collected feedback through our own quarterly surveys and our exit interviews. Here I’ll share the three themes that have come up in the feedback so far.
1. Geographic distribution is painful
Everybody at Culture Amp struggles with the global nature of our business to some extent. We only have about 200 people but we’re intensely collaborative and work across four time zones. The geographically distributed nature of our team means people have to find ways to connect the dots across the organization. This is made even more challenging because our organization is also pretty flat.
I’m often asked by new people what trait will make them successful at Culture Amp. I say that it’s going that extra mile to work with people outside your own office. It takes a lot of hard work to constantly build and maintain those relationships, but the people who are successful are those who are willing to put in the extra effort.
2. Our decentralized model makes decision making challenging
We run a fairly decentralized model - we’re a team of teams. This makes wayfaring really hard because it’s not necessarily clear which area or role is responsible for something. Even when you do work it out, the person you need to speak to may not be in your office. “It is hard to know who to speak with when you need something that falls into another practice area,” explained Matt Orozco, Lead Enterprise Account Executive.
The inclusive nature of the decision making process is also difficult. In most organizations, people have complete control over their own little kingdom but that isn’t necessarily so at Culture Amp. It can actually be difficult to describe to somebody what decisions we trust them to make and those they need further input in.
There’s a lot of support and more information available than any one person can consume - we have more Slack channels than people. This means everyone needs to determine what they need to know about to do their job and what they can trust others to make decisions on. For people who come from a traditional hierarchical model that can be hard, but everyone has to find their place within the organization.
3. The rate of growth can be emotionally tiring
“It takes an incredible amount of energy to keep up with the rate at which our industry, product, business and organization are all growing,” said Peter Haasz, VP of Corporate Development.
Some people find that this means they want to do too much and that can be emotionally tiring. We ask people to share their hopes, dreams, aspirations and fears. That's very powerful but it also requires them to be constantly engaged - more so than they may be at other workplaces.
People at Culture Amp care so much about what we do and it can be hard to know when you've given enough. I often tell people that a startup will take everything you have - it will never stop. As an individual, you have to actually create a boundary around yourself and say this is what I can give. If you don't the organization will take absolutely everything you have.
This feedback is valuable to us for two reasons. We can give people thinking of joining Culture Amp a realistic job preview so they know what to expect. It also gives us focus in improving our culture and continuing to make Culture Amp a great place to work.