Whether you look at it as where you go online to check in with friends, or you look at it as a company, one thing is consistent. Facebook is people, and within our company, culture is much more than a dress code or Nacho Wednesdays. It’s about the relationships, traditions and behaviors that can fuel or hinder the growth of a business.
As Vice President of Human Resources, I’ve watched our company grow very quickly. As we grow, we realize our culture must keep pace. The question is more than How can we maintain our culture? It’s also How can our culture drive the growth of our company?
What is your culture?
It may seem like an obvious place to start, but in the craziness of starting, growing and running a business, it’s easy to miss. The first step in caring for your culture is knowing what it is. Certain norms may have already formed your culture, and you may not even realize what they are. To get a better picture, here are two questions you might ask:
- What core characteristics define what it means to be at your company?
- What values underlie the character and behavior of your organization?
Our culture, for example, is bold, intense, fast-paced, and built on trust. It’s focused on impact and results, with tremendous transparency throughout the organization. These values are reflected in everything – from the way we behave, recognize and reward to the way we hire, celebrate and make decisions. They are part of who we are.
The importance of social connections, traditions, and storytelling.
All our employees use Facebook all day every day, and are often connected to hundreds of other employees. It’s a powerful driver of social connections and communication among the Facebook team.
So is time spent together in person.
We have various traditions, ranging from game nights to ringing the gong to celebrate product launches, to celebrating key user milestones (such as when we reached 500 million users earlier in 2010). Hundreds of our employees made thank you cards for our users. (In case you’d like to see them, here’s the link.)
As you consider your own traditions, try to look ahead a few years: what traditions do you want to see when you look back? Now is the time to start building them.
We believe storytelling is a powerful tradition. Storytelling helps us pass the culture along to new employees in a way they can easily digest. In turn, they share the experience with each other, eventually creating their own stories.
Stories not only connect us to the company, they connect us to each other.
Everyone owns the culture.
Everyone at our company has a shared responsibility to maintain our values, even though the way they’re expressed may change.
Take two of our core values, openness and trust. In the beginning, sharing information meant sitting around a dorm room with our founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg. As we grew, it became a regularly-scheduled Friday Q&A in the company lunchroom. Now, with offices in faraway time zones, we tape the Q&A to make it available globally.
But whether a dorm room or remote offices, people trust that they can share information openly, and that confidential information will be respected as such.
Your culture is unique to you… and it’s not for everyone
Having a well-defined culture will actually help in recruiting new employees: people who are a good fit will apply. Those who won’t fit won’t apply. That self-selection will help you maintain your values and evolve your culture as you grow.
At Facebook, we want people who will see a problem that others have already solved, and yet still ask whether there might be a better way. We welcome people with a proven track record of building great things, moving fast, and who are comfortable working iteratively.
Your culture is unique to you, the team you’ve built, the values you all share, and the commitments you make to each other. When you know it and use it well, it can give you a competitive advantage.