Culturally Inclined – The Story of Decoding Our Company Culture
“Make something that people want…including making a company that people want to work for” – Sahil Lavingia, CEO, Gumroad
Today’s competitive business landscape is evolving at a speed of light…what was relevant soon becomes redundant. With work and our everyday lives becoming inextricably linked and intertwined, it becomes essential to work towards achieving an equilibrium that helps us balance these two worlds better. In the years that I spent at InfoBeans the one thing that remained constant was the constant focus on the company culture. We articulated the personality of our company through our culture right when it was a fledgling. As the little fledgling grew, we decoded and fleshed out this culture so that it would find its place in today’s intense corporate environment without compromising on the quality of life and the quality of work.
Our story was like the story of any other startup. We worked hard, pushed our boundaries and saw our share of struggles that go into establishing a startup. What we did have was a great set of like-minded and hard working people…people with their eye on the goal. People who were driven and committed. Back in 2002 when we started finding our feet, we realized that while essential to work towards a common goal it was all the more essential to empower everyone within the organization with the right set of tools to do so. We already had a company culture in place. To do so, we needed was to decode our company culture such that it becomes an enabler of success for each and every member of our team.
I remember that when we had started off, we had a board where we had written out our vision statement. When we moved into our current campus, that board was left behind in the old office. It was time to ask ourselves was what we had defined still relevant? With more people and processes, were each of the team members completely in sync with the definition of company culture? Did all operations heads, delivery heads, the management heads and the team members conform to the perspective of company culture? Or were we just whirling dervishes in our own concepts?
With these questions in mind, we set out to decode our company culture. But fleshing out a company culture that would permeate into the way we work and conduct our work lives could not be done by one person sitting in an office. It had to be a collective effort. It was essential to understand the perspective of our team members about ‘their’ company culture. We thus decided to create a survey that would take inputs from all our team members to share the essential ingredients that our company culture comprises of. Knowledge, respect, credibility, responsibility, commitment, and dedication, out of the box thinking, ethics, a belief in greater good, meticulousness etc. emerged as some of the defining ingredients. With this understanding, we then went on to create four pillars – the foundation of our culture that would not only determine how the team members and the management would interact and manage the business but also assist in everyday decision making.
After a long process and countless hours of efforts, we narrowed down these ingredients to essential elements which reflects our core values. As we together make InfoBeans a great place to work, we believe that it’s important to share our core values to enrich our culture which depicts Excellence, Ownership, Compassion, and Openness- the four pillars.
For us, excellence is the quality of empowering our teams to help them achieve and sustain outstanding levels of performance that meet or exceed the expectations of all the stakeholders. Excellence has to be achieved in everything – from a status report to client management, from team meetings to expectation setting…excellence has been woven into the fabric of the organization that helps in building a sustainable future, harnessing organizational creativity and innovation, managing change and responding to opportunities and challenges. This focus on excellence ultimately helps the company achieve its goals by honing the talent of our people by helping them realize both their organizational and personal goals. We realized by empowering our team members and making them a part of the decision making process and giving them participatory roles that capitalized on their own expertise and judgement increased their sense of self worth as well as their commitment to the organization. Empowerment helps in building their capacity to execute the mission they are on with commitment and ensures excellence in whatever they do.
When I say excellence is one of our core pillars, we try to see to it that it reflects in everything we do – right from the way we have designed our offices, our policies, client engagement, training programs, and even our cultural programs.
Accountability breeds responsibility – By holding ourselves accountable for our actions we can ensure quality and timeliness of outcomes. Every team member at InfoBeans functions as a highly accountable individual, whether he/she is working as a team or as a sole contributor. Ownership is the foundation of trust…in an individual and in the organization. It is that factor that enables team members to exude the confidence to do the right thing, take initiatives, and bring their ideas forward. Ownership is about believing in our task and overcoming challenges by holding ourselves accountable for the outcomes. This helps in greater involvement with the task at hand and has a positive impact on the manner in which work is approached and as a consequence results in improved efficiency. When the client tells us that “for us, you are not just a vendor. You are our trusted partner”, it convinces me that our cultural pillar of ownership is well ingrained in all the InfoBeanians.
Compassion involves more than putting ourselves in other people’s place. It means genuinely wanting to understand & help them, even if it means to sometimes going against the tide. Compassion is the next level of Empathy.
Compassion involves beginning to have a totally different perspective when it comes to how we perceive our members. It is that factor that goes on to create a happy, fulfilling and a safe workplace where people feel like they belong and are valued. Compassion enables us to not only empathize with issues that a team member could be facing but also helps in extending support to alleviate both personal and professional issues. Our team members know that when they need support, if they need support for a problem, whether personal or professional, they have someone to reach out to and that they are not alone.
I read somewhere that “openness is not a passive exercise. You actually have to ‘do’ openness”. I couldn’t agree more with the statement since being open needs work. Openness as a pillar of our company culture thus had to work hard to create an environment where communication is transparent, where there is a free exchange of ideas, where there are no walls that decide who can communicate with whom and where feedback can be exchanged freely so that we build trust within the people and the organization as a whole. Openness refers to the culture of entrusting our team members with all the necessary information that helps them in making the right business decisions. It is the system for high involvement in change efforts, of openly discussing decision making criteria and ensuring organizational policies and procedures are applied fairly and equitably across the organization.
While those who had been working with the organization always felt that our value system and organizational personality has remained unchanged, decoding our company culture was an essential step to ensure that this value system resonates with all those who joined us in our journey later. We wanted to make sure that our company culture was more than perks such as office gyms and fancy cafeterias. It was more than flexible timings and material benefits. It was more about well-being that stemmed from a positive work culture – one that emphasized on the meaningfulness of work and treating each other with respect, integrity, gratitude, and trust…great financial results then became just an automatic consequence of our actions.