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Company culture is what you reward, punish, and tolerate, says this founder

“We don’t look at passion, as it is very intangible. In fact, everyone is very passionate at job interviews,” exclaimed Oswald Yeo, CEO and co-founder of Glints.

I spoke with him on stage at Tech in Asia Singapore 2017 on the topic of company culture. Yeo thinks passion is overrated. To him, it is very intangible and short-lived. “Look out for skill sets and attitude instead,” he advised. For him, these four metrics determine the quality of a candidate: general intelligence, cultural fit, role-related knowledge or skill sets, and leadership potential.

He almost made his first hiring mistake two years ago when hiring for a software engineer, choosing between two candidates: a passionate articulate candidate vs a skilled, soft-spoken one.

“I wanted the more articulate one, but luckily, my CTO stopped me to say that guy didn’t know how to code, and he was more of a sales person. We ended up hiring the soft-spoken one and that worked out really well. He became one of our best hires.”

Stick to your culture even if it hurts

Company culture is defined as the personality of the company. This includes elements like company mission, environment, values, ethics, expectation, and goals.

Yeo shared that when the company started two years ago, his team sat down together to jot down their company culture on paper. They decided on two values: integrity and user focus.

However, Glints began facing a problem in the marketplace platform: they were getting a lot of spam job listings.

While it was good for the numbers, it was not what the users wanted. They decided to only accept verified companies to post listings on their platform. This, of course, affected their numbers for a few weeks.

As a growing company, it becomes even more important to stick to your culture regardless of possible gains or profits.

Attracting millennial talent

Setting up a job advertisement is different when hiring millennials. “Job advertisements are advertisements to attract talent,” Yeo said. “You [have] to sell the job and sell the vision. You see lots of job listings that are pretty much the same—copy and paste—very wordy and very boring.”

Keeping the company culture scalable

One member of the audience asked, “As the company grows, how does one keep the company culture scalable and consistent?”

Here’s Yeo’s strategy:

“Everything sort of breaks when you triple the company size—from one to three, three to nine, nine to 27, and so forth. So keep things as flat as possible. Try to have as many direct reports to managers instead of layers. Google has a law of seven: every manager has at least seven direct reports. It sounds quite crazy and hard, but it forces managers to hire the right people to reduce hand-holding and also prevents them from micromanaging.”

Yeo says that to reduce micromanaging, the process should be results and outcome-based. According to him, use “RPM: results you want to achieve, purpose that is important, and a massive action plan.”

Notes on nurturing company culture

Yeo also shared a few takeaways on establishing and nurturing company culture.

When asked whether the company culture has to be aligned with the founder’s values, he said, “The company culture, especially in the early stages, is the embodiment of what the founders believe and act. If it is not aligned, it will not be sustainable.”

For those companies with multiple offices in different countries, Yeo feels there is no need to force fit the company’s culture into the offices. “Enforce the values from management to everyone else, but don’t force fit people to behave in a certain way.”

With regard to CSR activities as a tool to build company culture, he said, “CSR activities are getting cheesy and cliche, so I don’t think you can build company culture by bringing people out to pick up trash. Company culture is what you reward, what you punish, and what you tolerate.”

This article first appeared on Tech in Asia.