BicycleYou would hope that 15Five, as the purveyor of an employee engagement solution, would have a great company culture. After all: If the employees at the company aren’t engaged, why would you trust the company’s product to make sure your employees were?

Based on my conversations with some 15Five employees – as well as the CEO himself, David Hassell – I can confidently say there’s no need to worry: The people of 15Five seem pretty damn engaged to me.

“The most remarkable thing about the culture at 15Five for me is how a workplace has been created that encourages people to turn up as their authentic selves,” says Luke Ryan, 15Five’s director of growth. “There are no facades being put up. Everybody turns up just as they are outside of work.”

Ryan says that, at 15Five, there is an “atmosphere of trust, transparency, and … fun.” That atmosphere is critical for the company’s success. During a typical day, Ryan says, there’s plenty of collaboration – that’s just how things get done at the organization.

Given how important company culture is to any organization and how successful 15Five has been at building its culture, I thought it would be a good idea to get Hassell’s thoughts on life at 15Five and why company culture matters. What follows is a transcript of our email conversation, minimally edited for style and clarity. Let’s start with an overview of the company culture at 15Five: How would you describe it?

David Hassell: The culture at 15Five is built upon our mission/WHY and our core values. Our WHY is to “create the space for people to be their greatest selves.” That is the default question we ask ourselves each day in regards to our team, our customers, and our product.

Our values are 10 core values that range from things such as “freedom and flexibility” to “dare to dream.” We instill our culture by asking the right questions to ensure we’re actually living these values everyday, rather than them just being a slogan on our website.

Along with the 10 core values, our mission/WHY is the overarching “true north” that we follow in our decision-making for practically everything: how we interact as a team, the policies we put in place, the development of our product, the interactions we have with our customers, etc. All of that is shaped and influenced by the mission “to create the space for people to be their greatest selves.”

LeafA lofty mission it is, but it is something that we adhere to as we continue to grow and maintain the culture that we have in place.

RC: Was the culture an organic development, or were there specific steps you took to ensure the culture would turn out like this? 

DH: The culture was very deliberately set up from day one – literally by putting the mission and the values up on a whiteboard and ensuring that they were in place from the very first hire to our most recent hire.

The steps we take to maintain the culture are:

  1. Promote the values.
  2. Hire for values.
  3. Fire (for violations of the values).
  4. Guide decisions and actions from the values.
  5. Build the values into the fabric of the company (policies, retreats, healthy office, etc.).

RC: How important is the organizational culture to your company, and why?

DH: It is extremely important. It is the key driver of our performance as a company. If we can create a space for our employees to be working towards their greatest selves, this means they will be highly engaged and feel supported. Ultimately, this will drive their best performances.

RC: How does organizational culture play into your hiring efforts? 

DH: The hiring is linked strongly to the organizational culture. New hires must be a cultural fit. If a great candidate comes along who has exceptional skills and an amazing track record, but who is clearly not a cultural fit, based on their worldview and our values, then we won’t make that hire.

[Ed. note: Ryan was kind enough to share a few examples of the questions that 15Five uses to determine whether or not a new hire is culturally compatible. These questions include: What do you like about working virtually? What do you not like about working virtually? and What would a joyful workplace culture look like to you?]

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