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A ‘culture’ approach to hiring

Neel J Shah
December 19, 2022
The importance of culture in recruiting

In our Scaling Stories podcast, we were delighted to catch up with Kevin Kwoka, Director of Talent Acquisition at GRIN, a pioneering creator management platform.

In our conversation, Kevin discusses the importance of knowing exactly what qualities will make a candidate succeed at an organsation. In the case of GRIN, those attributes include “‘extreme ownership’ and humility.”

Kevin describes his team as being a “culture gatekeeper”, and explains: “We want to make sure that regardless of experience, and regardless of what their resume says or who they know – are their core values aligned and can they add to our core values in our culture?”

“It's the character of the individual.”

By following this approach, it means dispensing with the idea that credentials are everything. For example, during the interview process, “not overlooking in your gut those little red flags” can help you avoid making the wrong call.

Moreover, this culture-focused strategy has been a long time in the making. In its early days, GRIN established a core list of values, and sought feedback from employees on the proposed list. Additionally, GRIN continues to live and breathe these values even after an appointment has been made. For example, Kevin explains that new hires are invited to a face-to-face core values presentation by the CEO, rather than being asked to watch a pre-recorded video.

Why hiring more is often ‘less’

Whether you’re hiring in good times or bad, there’s often a temptation to pursue a ‘scattergun’ approach to recruitment and try to grow, grow, grow. But as this wise and perceptive piece by Ravi Gupta (Sequoia Capital partner) underlines, simply adding to your headcount is no sure-fire way of building a winning team. And if anything, hiring for the sake of hiring is destined to backfire.

In the blog, titled ‘Hiring: Why More Is Often Less’, Ravi sets the scene of a board meeting where the CEO was asked how aggressive the (cash-flush) organisation should be in recruiting more staff.

“I have no idea,” said the CEO, to everyone’s surprise. “I have no idea how many great managers we have, so I have no idea how many people we should hire. The constraint on hiring should be how many great managers you have. Figure out how many managers you would clone and give them as many people as they can handle.”

This proved to be hugely influential on Ravi, who observes in the blog that it’s often a small percentage of “trajectory-changing people” who create most of the value in an organisation.

Ravi writes: “In my experience, the issue holding back most startups is not that they don’t have enough people; it’s that they have the wrong ones.”

The blog includes some actionable tips on how to implement this ‘less is more’ approach, and identify those stars you’d most like to clone (if we were living in a sci-fi film). For example:

  • “Make a list of the best people in your company.”
  • “Confirm that those people are working on the most essential thing in your company and are overloaded with responsibility.”
  • “Tell these people they are your stars. Pay them like it too.”

If you’d like to read more on this subject, check out our previous blogs on how to build a great workplace culture and our guide to the Employee Value Proposition (EVP).

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