Employee Engagement

What is company culture?

Company Culture: It’s more than free food and bean bags

1000 726 Yvonne Kilonzo

Creating a thriving workplace culture that employees love and are passionate about is every employer’s dream. However, despite the vast array of literature highlighting different aspects of company culture, it’s still difficult for many companies to define what team culture is and what it’s not.

If this sounds like your company, have no fear, Shortlist is here to cast light on all things team culture…read on!

What is company culture and what is it not?

Company culture is a company’s character; it encompasses the company’s values, norms, systems, symbols, beliefs and habits. Culture is what defines employees’ code of conduct, including how employees should behave in meetings, the risks they can take, the unwritten rules that exist and all. In brief, company culture guides teams in their daily work-life and if you are lucky to have a strong culture, it binds the team together.

Companies tend to link defining their company culture with hosting fun activities. Hence, they frequently associate culture with the cool stuff (karaoke nights, free beer on Fridays, Secret Santa traditions) that showcase companies as an enjoyable place to work, rather than communicating what the company actually stands for as well as its values. Don’t get us wrong, free lunch and bean bags are great, however, they do not in themselves set or define company culture.

In order to win talent and set a strong culture, organisations need to ensure that every team member, from top to bottom, lives by the firm’s values.

Why is culture important?

Be it a start-up or a  corporate, a productive company culture helps to drive the company’s mission, goals and objectives in the following ways:

#1 – Attracting talent 

In today’s job market, the best candidates have many options; they are empowered with the ability to choose where they would like to work. This shift calls for companies to come up with initiatives that are a magnet for top talent, particularly because candidates can get a view of the internal work environment of a company through Indeed and Glassdoor reviews or by reaching out to someone within the team through LinkedIn.

It is important to have a workplace culture which nurtures employees who can double up as influential recruitment brand ambassadors. Just as a new customer would trust a referral from an existing one, so do candidates. Companies should strive to win their internal clients over through a culture that inspires cohesion, trust and confidence as well as celebrates individual and team success. You can survey your current team on their view of your corporate culture and values to understand how your team experiences your culture and what they are likely to share with candidates. For example, Twitter employees rated the company highly in corporate culture and values boasting of a supportive and motivational team-oriented environment as well as a great mission statement. This is a good sign of how their employees operate as brand ambassadors.

#2 – Employee engagement

Employee engagement is defined by how individuals feel about the work environment, their workmates and their job, and it is highly driven by culture. Engaged employees display great commitment towards their work and have a genuine motivation to exceed their goals.

Great company culture can help to ensure that every team member knows their role in the organisation and how they fit into the company’s ultimate goals and objectives. When the team connects with the company culture, it gives their day to day tasks broader purpose and they feel like they do meaningful work. It gives them the energy to be at work and infuses a deep sense of ownership and employee loyalty. Teams with a great culture are more likely to come up with new ideas and also inspire the best out of other team members.

On the contrary, employees who do not see how they fit into the company’s goals tend to have a negative attitude towards their work. A poorly defined culture could further instil fear and mistrust among employees and also between employees and leadership. This eventually affects both individual and team motivation and performance.

Although work may be challenging, companies can help reduce individual stress through a strong culture. It is imperative for companies to promote a culture that allows employees to be the best versions of themselves and motivates them to work towards the company’s success. For example, Google strives to keep its employees happy through the freedom to be creative, a flexible work schedule among other intangible benefits. As a result, it was named the tech firm with the best corporate culture.

#3 – Retaining talent

Companies exert a ton of time and energy hiring the best people – thus, it makes sense for them to work just as hard to keep talent in the company. While competitive compensation and great benefits may keep employees hooked to a company, the role that a winning culture plays in retaining great talent cannot be understated.

Individuals are looking to work for organisations whose goals and objectives resonate with theirs, as well as a company that is genuinely interested in their growth. This was evident in our employer brand survey which showed that professionals value learning and promotion opportunities over salary and stability. Job seekers are looking for companies that offer freedom and encourage openness by having an open-door policy. When employees find such employers, they tend to be satisfied and happy, increasing their chances of staying longer at the company.  Safaricom, for example, has emerged as a top employer in Kenya in multiples reports for years now. The telecommunications giant’s employees appreciate its fast-paced yet fun environment that also offers real opportunities for growth.

Overall, an exceptional company culture is a win-win for both employees and employers. Employees get to be the best versions of themselves and perform at their full potential while employers get to attract and retain effective star talent. There is no better time than now for companies to promote a culture that defines them in a way that enables them to win both internally and externally.

How do you ensure a thriving team culture in your workplace? Share with us and watch out for more resources on company culture during our ongoing culture code campaign that will run until February 2020!

Top startups in India

Top startups in India: Three lessons on culture and team-building

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Ravi Venkatesan — in his analysis of some common threads between these top startups in India — said it best:

“Becoming a magnet for talent is a very strong predictor of eventual success for all companies and even more so for startups.”

Being the recruitment geeks we are, this got us wondering… what makes these top startups in India so good at attracting and retaining top talent? And what can other growing companies learn? Read on for the three lessons on culture and team-building that you can apply to your startup today:

  1. Craft an amazing employee experience

Even though access to the world’s most advanced technologies continues to become easier and cheaper, it feels like it’s harder than ever to find the right people to power your business. Add to that the fact that it’s often difficult for a scrappy startup to compete on salary with established industry players. How, then, have these upstarts been so successful at using their people as a competitive advantage?

An engaged workforce is a motivated and high-performing workforce. If there’s one thing that stood out to us across these top startups in India, it’s the care with which they craft their employees’ experiences. This means everything from obsessing over their onboarding (like Schbang’s potli of hope) to making sure employees are challenged and given room to grow every day, and to being deeply invested in employees’ physical health and wellbeing.

Every new joiner at Schbang is greeted with a ‘Knapsack of Hope’ (Photo Credit: @letsschbang)

2. Build a strong connection with the customer

Love your customers and they will love you back”, or so the conventional wisdom goes. Purposefully creating a direct connection between your team (regardless of seniority) and your end users not only helps keep your team’s ears to the ground but also creates empathy and ownership for the problems your customers face (which is ultimately why you are in business).

For example, all new employees at Dunzo — a Google-funded, online concierge services startup (and one of our clients!) — are required to complete a customer order to understand the nuances of the business firsthand. Similarly, Razorpay team members at every level are required to answer customer calls for 4 hours a month.

It may seem counterintuitive to have employees spend their precious time on such unscalable things when your primary goal is growing faster than your competition. But you need to look no further than companies like Amazon or AirBnB to realize that the world’s most customer-centric organizations are also the most innovative (and successful).

3. Create a business that solves real, everyday pain points

From working with over 200 companies across India and East Africa over the past few years, we’ve noticed ‘problem-solving ability’ to be a nearly universal requirement for any position employers look to hire for. It also happens to be the case that the brightest, most ambitious talent is attracted to companies that are committed to solving large problems in a unique way.

Mukesh Bansal led Cure.Fit is a stellar example of this, combining primary care clinics, yoga studios, no-equipment gyms, and food delivery into a one-stop healthcare platform (or, as Aviral Bhatnagar put it in his fantastic analysis of Cure.Fit’s business model, “a combination of Swiggy, Gold’s Gym, Baba Ramdev and Metropolis”).

It’s also no surprise to see Digit Insurance make the list of top startups in India given its bold mission to create simple and transparent products in an industry that is otherwise anything but simple or transparent.

At Shortlist, we’re always thinking about how we can help growing companies build happy, high-performing teams. Did you see any other big lessons we missed? Let us know in the comments!

Thanks to Sneha Iyer, Olivia Wold, Doris Muigei, and Yvonne Kilonzo for their contributions to this post.

Millennials at the workplace

Millennials at Work: Let’s bust the top four myths

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The ‘me me me generation’, ‘narcissists’, ‘lazy’, ‘the joking generation’…there are probably more problematic names you have heard associated with millennials. Millennials, born between the 1980s and early 2000s, form a huge chunk of the global workforce and are steadily becoming key business decision-makers in the workplace. While the impact this generation has had on the workplace and the economy cannot be overlooked, there still seems to be a pervasive negative buzz around millennials at work.

How can this generation be better understood and equipped for success in the workplace? Let’s debunk some millennial myths as we explore some of the ways we can create a work environment for all generational employees to thrive:

Myth #1 – Millenials are obsessed with technology 

The gripe that millennials cannot go a minute without checking their phones may not be far from the truth.  However, given that this cohort was brought up right in the ascend of technology… it follows that phones, computers and tablets are a key part of their lives. This could, in fact, be a win for companies that millennials have no hard barriers between work and home life. This means they would work from anywhere at any time to beat deadlines.

Being the most connected generation in history, with the exception of Gen Z of course, millennials seek to make the best use of the technology available to them. At the workplace, this group wants to use the latest technology for efficiency and productivity. Getting stuck in old technologies while laying claim that millennials are slaves of new technologies could keep your company from achieving the best results. As we all know, slow internet and clunky systems frustrate both the old and young.  Consider taking what is available in your company a notch higher, to enable the new generations to perform at their best.

To further demystify this generation’s attachment to technology, a study shows that millennials actually prefer face-to-face communication to emails and texting. This goes to show that while they may make the best use of the new technologies for your company’s productivity, they are still interested in in-person conversations, for instance, when receiving or giving feedback.

Myth #2 – Millennials feel entitled and all they care about is money

A Shortlist survey that sought to understand what candidates value most in potential employers recently revealed that millennials are more interested in competitive salaries and promotions than any other age groups. However, while this stands true, it is fair to note that good pay is important to all employees. We are all hungry for opportunities to step up in our careers just as millennials are; the only difference is that millennials daringly ask for what they desire, and are more likely to move on to another job should they not receive the fulfilment they seek. This does not mean that they are selfish or entitled; rather they are brave enough to demand what they want while other generations may shy off or play cool.

This insightful report by CNBC further emphasises that millennials value opportunities to grow more than a competitive salary. An organisation that offers opportunities for professional development and pays fairly hones a high performing workforce. The key takeaway here? Millennial satisfaction does not come down to bean bags and 24-hour coffee.

Myth #3 – Millennials’ career goals and expectations differ from those of older generations

Millennials have been said to have career goals and expectations that are different from those of older generations. Top of this list is the hope of making a positive impact on society. While there is truth to this, doesn’t the need to make an impact cut across individuals from all generations? Rather than view this as a mean value, organisations should support these projects as they are important in affirming employees’ need to be part of a bigger picture. In addition to this, it further bolsters a company’s image and employer brand, which helps to build client relationships and stand out from competitors.

It is also true that millennials are different when it comes to switching roles, jobs or expecting internal promotions. Unlike the older employees, such as baby boomers, who could stay in the same job for long and some from start to retirement, it now seems rare to see employees hit the 3-year mark. This does not necessarily make millennials less loyal compared to the older generations; rather, it means that they seek to be challenged, have a clear career path and to feel valued at work. This calls for managers to do what they can to support the dynamic younger generation workforce.

Myth #4 – Expect a medal for participation

You are probably already familiar with the statement that millennials expect a prize for everything they do…even being last. However,  this not true. According to an IBM study, a fair and ethical boss means more to millennials than praise for accomplishments. The research further shows that Gen X are more likely to want a boss who compliments their work, while baby boomers would prefer a boss who solicits views from them than millennials would.  It’s not that millennials always expect constant acclaim and think everyone should get a trophy for participation. What they want is a manager who is transparent and open to giving them feedback for self-improvement which you would admit, cuts across all generations.

It is important to note that, millennials will represent 50 percent of the entire global workforce by 2020. This is, therefore, the ideal time to stop shaming them and instead nurture their creativity, passion and ambition to achieve success and make a world-changing impact. Rather than consider millennials a generation of weakness, let’s recognise them as diverse risk-takers who are shaping the future of work.

Further given the current competitive hiring climate, the talent available to you directly impacts your company’s ability to deliver its goals. It is therefore important to develop the best strategies to attract top talent among millennials. These range from culture, management style,  recruitment and retention approaches that benefit all employees.

Millennials are encouraging us to challenge and improve workplace practices that are ultimately beneficial to all employees. If anything, the workplace evolution doesn’t end here, Gen Zs are already joining us!

brand ambassador

Brand Ambassador: Employees Help Promote Companies

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Traditionally, the term ‘brand ambassadors’ has been associated with A-list celebrities that charge a large sum of money to sell a product or service. But according to a Nielsen study, 84% of people trust recommendations from friends, family, and colleagues over other forms of marketing.

This principle also holds true for marketing your employer brand. As highlighted in LinkedIn’s Talent Trends Report, job seekers are looking for unfiltered insights from current employees while considering new jobs. Some of their comments include:

“Connect me with insiders — nothing like hearing straight from the horse’s mouth.”

“I would like to hear the positives and negatives from real professional staff members — not the marketing gloss from the CEO or marketing. Real people. Real jobs.”

This was further corroborated in our recent survey in Kenya. Our findings revealed that while researching to learn more about a company, 38% of the candidates preferred speaking to current and/or former employees, 27% of them view current and/or former employees on LinkedIn and 20% of them check Glassdoor for reviews.

READ | Ask these 10 questions to define your Employee Value Proposition

Now that we know the importance of promoting your company’s employer brand through your employees, let’s move on to understanding what a company needs to foster a recruitment brand ambassador :

Show off your employees

Your employees define your company culture, manifest your company’s vision and live your values. Without them, your employer brand would cease to exist. By showing off your employees and increasing their engagement with the values of your company, you can bring out the recruitment brand ambassador in them!

Highlight employee experiences on social media

Did you know that one in four job-seekers view other employee profiles after finding out about a job opening? It would therefore be beneficial to encourage your employees to keep an updated, attention-worthy and professional online profile. Additionally, you can also leverage their experiences by having them share their stories as recruitment brand ambassadors on social media.

Encourage your employees to use their LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram social media handles to represent the values and culture of your company. For instance, if you’re hosting a mixer for your employees, create a hashtag and ensure your employees use it to share inside pictures from the event! Here’s an example of one of our Shortlisters doing the same:

brand ambassador

Not too long ago, Thomson Reuters’ stint with employee-generated content took Instagram by storm. In order to help prospective hires picture themselves working in offices across the world, they launched a campaign called #FeaturedFriday. Every Friday their Instagram handle featured an external or internal office photo captured by one of their employees.

      

The campaign garnered 30% of the likes for their Instagram account in 2016, but the real winner? Their employer brand visibility grew and so did their positive brand image!

Urge your employees to share company values & culture on LinkedIn

Make sure that your employees have up-to-date LinkedIn profiles with their company photo, descriptions, cover photo etc. coordinated, which lends a polished and cohesive feel when candidates are searching on LinkedIn.

You can even give employees a line about your work culture to add to their LinkedIn summary, e.g., “I have thrived both personally and professionally thanks to the supportive culture at <Company name> — check out our careers page or reach out if you’re interested in joining us!”.

Encourage your employees to write reviews on Glassdoor

Ask your employees to write reviews of your company on popular sites like Glassdoor. Ideally, favourable reviews will help strengthen a prospective candidate’s urge to work for your company. According to our latest candidate survey conducted in Kenya, job seekers claimed they would accept lower pay if the company has positive reviews online.

In the event that you receive negative reports on platforms such as Glassdoor, don’t give up! Your response to those negative reviews can actually help build your employer brand. For instance, you can use this as a chance to address negative feedback tactfully. Responding to negative feedback by current or former employees in a positive manner on this public platform will help secure the trust of job-seekers or anyone else out there.

Include employee testimonials directly on your careers page and in job descriptions

Add employee testimonials to show off your office culture and day-to-day activities in the form of pictures and videos in your job description or on your careers landing page. For instance, marketing giant HubSpot uses this feature on their careers page in the following manner:

Image credit — HubSpot

If you do not have a careers page you can always share testimonials on your social media handles. Moreover, if you do not have the option of making sophisticated video clips of employee testimonials, don’t worry! A smartphone camera and a video posted to social media still brings your employer brand to life!

READ | What is your employer brand and why does it matter?

As reflected in our recent candidate survey in Kenya, over half of the candidates use the job description and careers landing page to learn more about what it’s like to work at a company — over Glassdoor and all social media platforms. It’s therefore important to capitalise on your website as much as possible.

Employee referral programs can go a long way

Unlike other recruiting strategies, the employee referral program uses existing employees to find and hire the best talent from their networks. Research shows that referred candidates are 55% faster to hire than employees shortlisted through careers sites, and that employee referral programs reduce cost per hire, improve the quality of hire and reduce attrition rate.

With the help of some of these tips, you bolster recruitment brand ambassadors who can help you find talented job-seekers excited about coming on board!

Stay tuned for more

As part of our latest campaign on employer branding, we will be sharing actionable resources and tools like these over the next few months. To receive all of our latest tips straight to your inbox, sign up for our weekly newsletter here!

Anything specific about employer branding that you’re hoping to learn? Let us know in the comments below.

Employer branding tips for Kenyan companies

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Shortlister Spotlight: Meet Brenda, Applicant Care Associate

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At Shortlist, we love building our team almost as much as we love building yours! We have some pretty amazing people across our three offices who have a real passion for what they do and for the Shortlist mission.

Today’s installment of Shortlister Spotlights (a Q&A series to get to know some of our team members) stars Brenda, an Applicant Care Associate in our Kenya office!

Who is Brenda? When not at work, she’s probably in between classes, catching up with friends and family or on some of her favourite series, trying out a new recipe that involves pasta or getting some much needed shut eye! She also likes to make the most use of her commute time reading articles on Medium or a book on her current reading list. Basically embodying one of our favourite Shortlist values, Be a Whole Person.

A fashionista, party-animal or a foodie? Read on to find more about the face behind #CandidateLove!


Hi Brenda! Tell us about what you do at Shortlist:

My role involves working with candidates. Excellent candidate experience is our top priority and as such my role revolves around getting them through their applications by providing information that pertains to the roles we are recruiting for. In addition to that, I also educate both current and potential applicants on how the Shortlist process works as well as ensure that they get feedback on their applications promptly.

I also create content for our candidate blog series where we discuss different issues affecting job seekers and give guidelines on how candidates can get their dream job! Recently, we kicked off a candidates engagement series where we seek to establish deeper interactions with professionals in different fields through training and networking events.

What is your professional background, and what were you looking for in your next career step when you found Shortlist?

Before Shortlist, I was in Sales which involved customer acquisition and education. I then moved to Customer Service which was more of a support role, offering aftersales services and upselling and cross-selling products to existing customers.

When I found Shortlist, I was looking for an opportunity to take on more a challenging role in terms of the scope of responsibilities and expand my knowledge in customer experience. In addition to that, I wanted to be in a space that offers opportunities for both personal and professional growth and development.

What’s your professional superpower?

Empathy.

What’s your favourite Shortlist value and why? (Check out our values here)

Being a whole person: Ever since I joined Shortlist I feel like I’m well on my way to becoming one! As a part-time student and also working full time, it can be difficult to manage both without feeling like one end is falling off your plate. I am fortunate enough to be at Shortlist where we are constantly encouraged to be more than your job.

Because of this, I’ve tried out a couple of new things — for example, I started writing and learnt new skills in digital marketing through managing our candidate social media engagements. I have also been able to have a bit more time for friends and family thanks to the occasional flexibility that my job gives me — I’m now able to plan on when to get my work done and dedicate time to other activities.

What are the three words you would use to describe Team Shortlist?

Brilliant! Upbeat! Industrious!

Brenda also loves fashion!

What’s your favourite Shortlist memory?

There’s so much that happens on a day to day, and I make memories at Shortlist every day! My favourite so far has to be my first week at Shortlist; Aside from the warm welcome, we were kick-starting a major project, and everyone was nervous about how it was going to turn out. We were about nine team members in Shortlist (Kenya office) at the time and having each one of us embody the team spirit played a part in ensuring that the project was a success. The commitment and collaboration did enhance Shortlist One Team value way before it was even made official.

Why is the Shortlist mission important to you?

Helping candidates unlock their potential is important. Shortlist brings a new way into the recruitment process and especially how we treat candidates as we try and bring dignity back into the recruitment. On a personal level, I went through the process and felt the Shortlist difference so helping others through the same and having them feel comfortable and confident in the process is of utmost importance.

As you know, we like to give “high-fives” to recognise when our team members do something awesome. Now is your chance to make a public high five to a fellow Shortlister:

Edinah: Willing to help and always happy!! Literally, it’s contagious!

Olivia: I can’t think of a time I have approached her with questions on anything communications and content related or regarding my role with somewhat difficult responses, that she has not graciously come to my rescue!

Alvin: Ever so generous with his knowledge and experience. I think we have all benefited from Alvin’s expertise both at a professional and personal level.

Mercy: Life of the house for sure! A great listener too.

Ceverene: It’s such a pleasure to work with her; she’s very detail oriented and ensures she gets things done down to the last T.

What do you like to do outside of work?

Girl time is always fun time!

Hanging out with family and friends. This is usually my way of getting out of my head (introverts will understand).

I try and workout whenever I can, and I prefer outdoor activities/workouts. I run every weekend and try to squeeze in 15 minutes for an at-home workout. I find YouTube videos helpful for this. I also have a BBG guide which my colleague Olivia shared with me sometime back and a Shawn T guide for more intensive training.

I am trying to make reading a habit, and so I read a lot more lately. I am currently reading, Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn by John C Maxwell. The book gives insight into why we should not focus so much on our loses and always see these as an opportunity to gain some new perspective and make better decisions. It also paints a clear picture of the damage we can do to ourselves when we fail to learn from our failures or if we allow ourselves to remain defeated.

Have some alone time — I am a natural introvert, but I can be an extrovert occasionally. Hence, I do appreciate time to sit down, organise my thoughts and recharge before taking on a new project.

I also love to listen to music, and a Techno/EDM playlist is always my go-to when I feel myself getting sluggish.

Sleep! My job takes a lot of my mental energy and juggling both work, and school really drains me. This helps me to reboot.

When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I’ve never been one of those people who’ve always wanted to be one thing in life. I have had moments where I could switch up… I remember I wanted to be a musician at one point. My Mother freaked out when I told her this and insisted I study Business instead. When I was in high school, I wanted to be a doctor, thanks to my love for Biology. Then I grew up, and I just could never see myself working in bloody environments or practising on dead bodies.

I have also wanted to be an Architect like my Father — not sure what happened to this one. Last and currently on my list is a Psychologist. I love helping people and giving advice, and I believe I will get around to doing this at some point in my life. 😊

Tell us about a candidate that inspired you?

I’m always inspired by candidates, working with them every day. I admire their determination to keep going and try again even after a setback. I have encountered an applicant who has been declined for positions seven times and kept on trying until she was finally hired for the eighth role she applied to. The resilience and the determination to not give up despite many failed attempts really inspired me.

Another example is a candidate who has attended each training since we started candidate engagement events. What was inspiring about this is the effort he made towards his professional development by taking the time to attend training consistently to upskill himself.

What surprised you about working at Shortlist/ how is Shortlist different than other companies?

Shortlist has a dedicated leadership team keen to help each team member achieve their highest potential. It also offers a challenging environment where you get opportunities to try your hand at different things and learn new skills.

What are you currently reading, watching, or listening to?

Reading Sometimes you win; sometimes you learn by John C Maxwell, watching Dynasty, Star and HTGAWM, and listening to… really depends on my mood or vibe.

Meet Brenda’s bestie, Mimi

Do you have a favourite quote or saying?

My inspirational quote is If I use all I’ve got, God will be all that I’m not! — A reminder to always work your potential, put your best foot forward and believe that you will eventually get to where you want to be!

What is that place in the world you’ve not visited yet but would love to?

Italy! The country of amazing fashion, art and of course PASTA!🍝

Which two individuals, living or dead, would you love to sit next to during your flight back from the above destination?

Trevor Noah — who wouldn’t want to laugh all the way back? — and Ayodeji Awosika — he’s an amazing writer.

Final words?

You don’t have to create a masterpiece every day, some days you just need to paint.


Thank you, Brenda! We are so lucky to have you on Team Shortlist.