Hiring and Building a Team: Things I Have Witnessed In A Start -Up

Hiring can be an exhaustive and equally an intensive process for any organization trying to recruit the best in the game. What are the fundamental factors we tend to consider in the final round of the decision making? Invariably, the final offer will be based around the skill assessment and the cultural fit. Sometimes, trade offs are also likely to happen compromising one factor over the other.  However, how much are we aware of such compromises? It could either make or break a company. This is especially very true, if you are a start -up. Your approach to hiring define the character of your company for years to come. I am in the process of learning, exploring and growing on how a new employee embrace the organizational culture as a whole. Especially,when one has been “disconnected” from the moments of it’s making. How one come to embrace these nuances without being alienated nor being regarded as a misfit.

For the past twelve months, I have gone through a journey of reflection and lived through the cognitive experiences into understanding how great organizations are built on great talent.  I have worked for several companies powered by a lineage of a long history of establishment. It is hard to piece together, how these companies cultivated a culture which is unique to themselves. I often wonder how they create and maintain an element of stickiness. Is it by passing down traditions? is it by coercion? or is it simply check and balances put in place.

Time and time again, I have witness, my organization Philanthropy University strives to attracts the best talent to work in the company. They are not just people with great IQ but they are also people driven by a purpose in life. To be a part of something beyond their perks. To live a life with meaning and impact. This is the secret sauce that Philanthropy University has come to master in their hiring process during this short span.

The usual norm of on-boarding,most likely to happen is in the form of a debriefing done by the HR. This on-boarding docket invariably contains few reading materials and the code of conduct that is expected to adhere. Sometimes, this is the only source of briefing one will ever get. Thereon, you go on assimilating to the culture based on your own reading and perspective. How healthy is this practice?.   Suppose for a minute, what if there is no HR person in the vicinity? This could be the case of many start -ups. In the absence of a regulated HR, who would take the responsibility of hiring and on-boarding?  Fortunately, these are some of the experiences I lived through and learn a great deal from. As a result of that it prompted me to write this piece.

Little under a year ago, when I joined Philanthropy University, I was the second employee. A beautiful empty office space eventually to be filled with more heads. In one of my very first conversations that I had with the CEO, he told me  “remember you are the culture, what we do as a group today will define the organizational culture of this company for years to come. This company is here to stay,  when you visit this organization some twenty years from now, you will still see the same culture that you helped to create”. This is the “Ahaa” moment that I have been waiting to feel subconsciously, the moment when I realize “I am the culture”. This is the DNA that one passed on for the future generations.

When you are the culture in the making, It runs in your veins, it runs in the whole ecosystem of the company. This sentiment is completely contrary to what I referred in the previous paragraph as  “disconnection”. Even though, Philanthropy University is still passing through the early stages of childhood, it has matured beyond years. How it perceive the culture, it’s ambitious goals, values and employee satisfaction are embedded in the decision making. “Hiring” stands at the forefront of decision making. Often times, my CEO goes onto add “if you hire the right people, then I believe them to do the right thing both morally and professionally’. His argument is that zero micromanaging allows him to focus on the bigger picture of the organizational goals.

Building a team while launching a new product is not the easiest thing for a start up. Both these two elements needs to go in parallel while complementing each other. When it comes to hiring,  the approach Philanthropy University takes is very simple. We do not compromise culture over talent. There is zero tolerance for inflated egos at Philanthropy University. if you fail to fit the Philanthropy university “town culture”, no matter how big of a rock star status you may have, Philanthropy University will not take a chance with you.

The hiring process at Philanthropy University would follow the following process. The hiring is at the discretion of the hiring manager. He or she will take the first pass at assessing the candidate followed by;

  1. Resume screen
  2. Role alignment
  3. Job skills
  4. Work product review
  5. Values / core competencies.


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