“The Soft Stuff”
For many left-brained innovators, “soft” aspects of HR don’t come naturally. As noted above, the answer is neither “set it and forget it” nor “just forget it”, yet this is a common response among those first-time entrepreneurs who actually ask the question. Deliberately nurturing a company culture and regularly and clearly espousing a core set of values are incredibly powerful ways to improve your chances of success.
Is a competitive culture better than a collaborative one? Should your company focus more on science or delivery products? Does your company exist primarily to provide new knowledge, cures, a return to shareholders, fame? Will a message of power or altruism better resonate with your employees, or put another way, are you seeking employees who will resonate with power or altruism? There is no right answer to any of these questions.
If you don’t ask the questions, however, you will likely find yourself in a culture resembling the average of your first handful of employees’ personal values, or more likely the personal values of the most dominant personality in the founding team. Or worse, the company could be entirely rudderless, with each employee acting as an independent agent. Worst of all is the all-too-common situation when employees sense inauthenticity (hypocrisy), i.e. when what the leadership is saying and what they are doing are not consistent and aligned. A company’s vision may be aspirational, but its values are foundational, and inviolate.
Before company formation, and then be introspective and critical about your answer annually for a couple years, then every three years or so.
How to define, recognize, manage, and communicate a company’s values and culture.