There are a few companies that have written at length about their culture. Companies like Netflix and Hubspot articulate clearly what their culture is and communicate what behaviors they want to encourage (and which they want to discourage). Less well known are a few companies like the SAS Institute and Bridgewater that have equally strong cultures, and a similar commitment to educating their current and incoming employees about ‘the way they want to get work done.’
I’ve been thinking a lot about team-building and traditions lately as our team has grown. It has been really exciting and challenging to see how each additional team member brings their own needs, strengths and ambitions to Pomello. When you’ve been working so long with one person – shout out to my awesome co-founder, Oliver – it can be easy to get set in your ways. And so it is refreshing to have new perspectives and personalities.
To those of us in the business world, academia can appear to move at a glacial pace. But academic research plays an essential role in identifying successful organizational strategies and mechanisms that might not be apparent, even to the actual teams that are implementing them. Pomello is built based on a large body of research which validates the relationship between strong organizational culture and key metrics like employee performance, engagement, and turnover.
Measuring employee performance, engagement, and turnover is something like taking your company’s temperature — you know when a problem exists and look to fix it. With recent studies finding that business units with highly engaged employees report 22 percent higher profitability and 21 percent higher productivity, it’s not surprising that smart company leaders are rushing to foster greater employee engagement.
We get asked a lot about our name. So I decided to write the definitive guide on why we named our company after an obscure citrus fruit most often found at Chinese groceries. Like a pomello, the best part of a company is not visible from the outside. You have peel through an outer layer to understand what’s underneath. And like the inside of pomello, a company culture is made up of different components aligning with teams, locations, hierarchies.
The Pomello team recently had the opportunity to visit NASA Ames Research Center. I wanted to take a break from our regularly scheduled programming to talk about what we saw when we were there. I am embarrassed to admit that I thought NASA Ames was shut down years ago, and it does feel like the days of space exploration are a distant memory that our parents can relate to better than us. You can wander the campus buildings where the hallways are often quiet, and peer into the windows of monolithic buildings where wind tunnels tested the aerodynamics of shuttles.
Company culture is everywhere these days, but few people understand how to manage it. That’s largely because no one knows how to quantify it. Topics that are subjective and qualitative in nature do not lend themselves to quantitative measurement the way a test score does.
Many companies promote expensive perks they provide like gourmet catering, unlimited vacation, and onsite yoga. Of course, these sound great, but when something sounds too good to be true, it usually is. Perks look good on paper, but they often come with downsides that companies and employees just don’t see coming.
There are a lot of similarities between dating markets and job markets. So it didn’t surprise me that I started to think about Amazon’s hiring practices as I was reading a dating advice column recently. In the column, a girl complains that she is always dating boring guys that don’t work out. The columnist tells her stop trying to date potatoes when you are a radish. Amazon’s hiring problem is that they are trying to recruit potatoes when they should be recruiting radishes.
Sometimes talking about company culture can feel like a minefield for everyone involved. Let’s take a mid-week moment to laugh about how hard it really can be.