I was recently chatting up talent leaders at Hubspot, Autodesk and Dell about the creation of their culture-related slide decks — thousands of new candidates are flipping through these things every day. The 3 of them kindly agreed to let me share my notes from our exchanges.
I shortened some answers for clarity. Thanks for sharing your experience, Katie, Andrew and Jennifer!
Note: If you’ve never seen the Netflix Culture: Freedom & Responsibility SlideShare deck (nearly 12 million people have!), I recommend it as a must-watch for anyone in talent or business building. It was crafted by former Chief Talent Officer Patty McCord (great piece here by Patty on How Netflix Reinvented HR) and CEO Reed Hastings.
Culture Code: Creating A Lovable Company (1,737,799 views)
Chat with Katie Burke, Vice President, Culture and Experience for Hubspot
Why’d you create the CultureCode and why’d you make it public?
1) We’re an inbound marketing company and we train our customers to grow by being generous, authentic, and helpful with the content they deliver, so we try to practice what we preach as it relates to walking the walk on inbound and content creation.
2) …as a company we are radically transparent, so sharing what makes us tick and what we aspire to be as an organization helped us all rally around its importance and be more honest about the degree to which we were living up to our promise across every candidate and employee touchpoint.
Tell me about the results?
Since it launched, the Culture Code has become our most powerful recruiting and employment brand tool, but it’s also an important promise to our customers about the type of company we are and how we hire people that will fundamentally help their companies grow.
“Culture Code has become our most powerful recruiting and employment brand tool”
I’ve been amazed by the sheer number of customers who choose our culture and approach to solving for the customer as a core reason to invest in partnering with HubSpot.
Who was involved in its creation?
Dharmesh Shah, our co-founder and CTO, was the primary author, spiritual leader, and catalyst behind the Culture Code, but countless employees were involved in its launch and success.
Dharmesh did multiple practice runs of the deck (both online and in person) to solicit feedback and ideas, and we continue to update the deck to reflect feedback from employees, partners, candidates, and customers alike. When it comes to culture, we are never done–just always improving.
Can you describe the biggest recruiting wins that came from your Culture Code?
One thing we are incredibly proud of is the degree to which it has helped us attract top talent as we scale globally–we are relatively well-known in Boston because it’s where our company started.
But as we have expanded to Portsmouth, NH, Dublin, Ireland, Sydney, Australia, and Singapore, we’ve been outside our traditional brand awareness comfort zone and the Culture Code has been a massive asset in helping us scale globally by attracting top talent in key markets.
How do you actively promote the Culture Code?
When we first launched, we did a fair amount of press around the Culture Code, along with contributed content, social promotion, and comarketing offerings, but since then it’s honestly taken on a life of its own.
Now, the Culture Code is primarily viewed on SlideShare given its popularity there, our Jobs page, LinkedIn page, Glassdoor page, or from one of our employees, partners, or customers sharing it on social.
The Culture Code is a great example of creating remarkable content and watching it spread like wildfire.
Dharmesh invested a herculean amount of time in building it, and that investment has paid off in spades over time.
We didn’t think of it as a campaign, we thought of it as a document to help scale how we think about what means most to us, and I think that’s why it worked.
What were the core steps you took to create a Culture Code?
1) Making a founder level decision to actually publish something externally with our viewpoint on culture
2) Investing time (not just from executive leadership but from employees at every single level and from every team) to fine tune and edit and refine the doc
3) Making it clear which parts of the document were aspirational and which we currently delivered upon
4) Hitting “publish”–it would have been easy for Dharmesh to work on the Culture Code for another five years, but ultimately there’s always room for improvement–hitting publish made us take a stand and put ourselves out there, and the risk was really well-received
5) Being clear and public about our commitment to improve, both in terms of what was in the doc and just generally to how we can continue to improve the candidate and employee experience.
How long did it take to create?
The creation of the document itself took Dharmesh and the team working on it months, but honestly, creating a culture and a company that our employees, partners, and customers can be proud of has taken us years, and we’re just getting started.
What are the top few tips for someone else creating a Culture Code?
1) Don’t be afraid to take a stand–sharing what you stand for with the world is hard, but if you’re boring and say what everyone else is saying or has said you’re not building any net gains with current or former employees. Be bold–it’s worth the risk.
2) Make it a commitment, not just content – at HubSpot the Culture Code isn’t just a doc, it’s something that helps inform day to day employee decisions and helps keep us honest about how we are improving every aspect of our employee’s lives.
We consider it a living, breathing document and something all of our teams reference on a daily basis – your culture manifesto isn’t a “set it and forget it” type of thing.
3) Share it–sure, you can keep it internal and put it on posters to show people when they get to your office, but why not share it with the world and get much more scalable awareness on what you stand for and what types of candidates you’re hoping to achieve.
How has it influenced your recruiting process?
I always say that the Culture Code is as helpful for the candidates it brings in as the candidates it filters out.
“Culture Code is as helpful for the candidates it brings in as the candidates it filters out.”
At HubSpot, we are radically transparent. We give employees a significant amount of autonomy, and we ship code, market, and sell at a really rapid pace, so if you don’t like that type of work environment, we likely aren’t the best fit for you.
Outlining what we value most (HEART, which stands for humble effective adaptable remarkable and transparent), and ensuring that we screen for it at every turn in the hiring process is imperative to us, and serves as a daily barometer for our recruiting teams and hiring managers on every team across the globe.
What were the biggest challenges in creating a Culture Code?
Balancing the desire for feedback and buy in with our general philosophy of shipping fast and iterating on what we deliver, and then I would say daily it’s the discipline to keep living it in every single thing we do.
Why did you acquire CultureCode.com?
Dharmesh is one of the most brilliant marketers I know. He is very deliberate and intentional in everything he does, and he knew every early on that people would remember a name that was simple, remarkable, and to the point, so making it highly searchable and easy to find on the internet was imperative.
This is just one of the many reasons he’s a thought leader in the world of marketing.
Do you have any other advice for employers about Culture Codes?
People think about culture as an after thought or tangential part of their competitive strategy, but at the end of the day it sets the tone for how your employees behave, how they interact, the types of people you hire, and the way in which you grow as an organization.
It is the very foundation of any remarkable company, so it should be a driving force in what you do, not something left on the back burner for a rainy day.
Top 7 Reasons You Should Work at Autodesk (1,002,117 views)
Why’d you create the The Top 7 Reasons deck and why’d you make it public?
Autodesk has its hands in so many cool industries it’s hard to keep track – it’s even harder to distill that story into a simple pitch. I wanted a quick, easy, visual, fun, way to tell engage the public.
This deck is a teaser, designed to grab your attention quickly and make you want to dig in more.
We made it public because 7 reasonsis equally compelling to new employees, recruiters, candidates, or really anyone interested in learning about the stuff Autodesk and our customers work on.
Who was involved in its creation?
The deck was co-created by myself and Social Media at Dusty DiMercurio, Senior Manager, Content Marketing.
Can you describe the biggest recruiting wins that came from The Top 7 Reasons?
There isn’t one win that I can point to. I’d say the biggest win is that it exploded both internally and externally – we’re approaching one million views!
I encouraged employees at all levels to share it everywhere – it’s on many people’s LinkedIn profiles, on all of our Ongig job descriptions, on social, email signatures, you name it. Countless applicants and candidates note that it helped open their eyes to Autodesk and pulled them towards us.
How do you actively promote the The Top 7 Reasons?
The deck was created for free and was given only a few hundred dollars of paid social attention. Everything else was organic!
“The deck was created for free and…given only a few hundred dollars…”
Are there any other Web pages on which The Top 7 Reasons is included?
Slideshare, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Ongig, Bonfire (an employee engagement platform that allows for social sharing on employee’s personal channels).
What were the core steps you took to create The Top 7 Reasons?
Countless hallway conversations about how challenging it is to tell Autodesk’s story in succinct way was what inspired the deck.
From there, Dusty and I sat down and sketched out a skeleton of what we wanted to say, sourced photos, wrote and slimmed down the text, and slapped it together.
All in all, I’d say we spend 5-6 hours on the content and editing. We wanted it to be quick and playful – content these days can be rough around the edges as long as it tells a great story.
What are the top few tips for someone else creating The Top 7 Reasons?
This sounds like a broken record in the content world but it rings true – be authentic and visual. Talk about things that really inspire you about where you work, that inspiration will resonate. Consider your audience and be respectful of their time – you probably only have a few seconds to capture their attention.
“Great slide decks can be blasted through in a minute or two. They make you want to keep clicking next, next, next, next, next.”
How has it influenced your recruiting process?
It’s made it easier. It’s a rallying point around which you can start a conversation. It’s the perfect primer to a conversation.
What were the biggest challenges?
There weren’t any — it was super organic and easy.
Do you have any other advice for employers about The Top 7 Reasons?
Take a stab at a simple slide deck. They’re cheaper than video and can be just as if not more effective!
What is life at Dell? Our #CultureCode (129,700 views)
Chat with Jennifer Newbill, Senior Manager Global Candidate Attraction, Engagement and Experience for Dell
What’s the origin of the Dell Culture Code?
It’s rooted in our need to continue to speak to our employment value proposition…that highlights our people.
Slideshare was doing a really good job promoting culture code in general. I had seen the Hubspot and Netflix culture codesI kept thinking it would be worth the time and effort. A lot of the traffic comes from LinkedIn.
“It’s not so much what execs or Michael Dell thinks is important…but what our people value.”
“I think of it as a social asset. Candidates behave so much like consumers. They now search “Dell Culture.”
It’s the context they want to see!
Any tips for others who want to create a CultureCode?
Don’t make it too long.
Don’t be an ivory tower.
Don’t make it corporate.
Give it a global feel.
Focus on the EVP (Employer Value Proposition).
Make sure it’s accurate!
Any big wins?
It’s generated a good dialogue internally (not just HR but marketing too). Steve Price, VP of HR, said it helps tell our story.
What were the steps to create It?
1) I told people on the Talent Acquisition team in Asia out of Taiwan, Europe, Slovokia, Panama, India and a couple of people in the US.
2) I asked people what’s unique to Dell’s story
3) We created a“Strawman”
4) We showed that to recruiting managers, marketing/communication people one-on-one
5) We determined that 40 slides was the max (anything more was overkill)
6) We re-socialzied it with others including Talent Management, my team and management.
How long did it take?
We spent 90 to 120 days on it
How has it helped your team recruit?
We posted it on social media (including to attract passive candidates. Team members (recruiters and employees) share it — it’s more valuable when it comes from a team player than from Dell Corporate.
“It’s one of 2 or 3 things in recruiters’ “toolkit” that they share with candidates.”
Everything has been positive. We use CultureCode outside of the recruiting team….everyone from exec to front-line people.
Any other ideas on distributing your CultureCode?
We have our CultureCode posted on our Glassdoor page. We have also posted/shared it on several social properties – Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google + – although those are more ‘temporary’ – we also have it on Pinterest which is a little more evergreen (we have a culture and careers board).
I was interviewed by Loraine Lee at Slideshare (Dell: Creating a Culture Code by Employees, for Employees) and that got us some good traction.
What I’d like to see more of is if at TalentConnect or with Universum we could talk more about our Culture Code with other HR professionals.
About the Author — Rob is the Co-founder & CEO of Ongig, the first-ever Employer Branding SaaS that allows employers to attract the best talent in the world faster. Yelp, Autodesk, GoDaddy, Auction.com and BMC Software are among the early customers of the Ongig SaaS.
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