Vibrant culture and strong brand message the start-up key: Google

With the Startup Spring festival well underway, the Google for Entrepreneurs team hosted a series of panels and workshops at Sydney’s Doltone House this week.

Michael Fox of Shoes of Prey joined three of Google’s best – Siobhan Lyndon, director of HR for Asia Pacific, Engineering Lead Gordon Rowell, and its head of local business Claire Hatton to discuss how to hire and manage a startup team.

Hiring for Culture

The panel acknowledged that recruiting top talent in Australia could be difficult as the cream of the crop often heads overseas to find work, but Fox believes startups should do as much as they can to make themselves look desirable.

Startups must build a reputation based on a vibrant culture and strong brand message, and be open about the different highs and lows they face.

While building a business reputation, Fox said it’s worthwhile cashing in on your personal reputation and looking to recruit from your network of friends. Many of Shoes of Prey’s first hires were friends of friends, which Fox believes allowed them to build a team with a strong culture they now hire towards.

“We’ve got a very clear picture in our mind of what kind of person would be a strong cultural fit at Shoes of Prey,” Fox said.

Hatton agreed that hiring the right cultural fit is critical, and said that startups must be clear on what they’re trying to do in order to attract the right people.

“People buy into your story and your vision,” she said.

Of course, big business can learn from this strategy too. Lyndon said that Google has moved away from brainteaser questions in its interviews, and now focuses on questions exploring behaviour that can predict a prospect’s willingness to collaborate and contribute to a team.

“We don’t want a lone wolf,” Lyndon said.

Fostering Growth

Google’s employee perks have been well documented, and it seems startups are keen to take a leaf out of the tech giant’s book to keep their employees happy.

Shoes of Prey often holds lunches for employees, gives them the freedom to work from home, and asks its team to fill out a monthly survey to gauge their satisfaction.

“We realised work/life balance makes it sound like you’ve got two parts to your life, one good and one bad. We want work to be life-enhancing,” Fox said.

For Lyndon, the key is to be transparent, inspire trust in employees, and give them autonomy.

“Give them guidance, but get out of the way,” she said.

On a more direct level, keeping staff engaged means keeping their work interesting so they don’t become complacent. For example, Rowell sets each of his team members a project challenge every three months.

Of course, no business can afford to keep on a team member who isn’t working to their potential, or just isn’t right fit.

“Try to work with someone who’s struggling, or maybe find them another role, but sometimes the best thing to do for both you and them is to let someone go,” Fox said.

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