Tips for creating a cohesive company culture remotely
We are growing. Rapidly. This past year, we have gone from 80 to 114 Scrapinghubbers. Companies expanding so rapidly can risk losing what made them them in the first place. We don’t want that to happen, especially since we have the added challenge of being an entirely distributed company with remote coworkers scattered around the world in 36 countries.
However, we also want to be sure to adapt to the changing dynamic. Sticking to a method that worked well with 40 people means stagnation. It falls apart when you double your numbers. We have had to learn how to communicate through these growth spurts while maintaining our core culture.
One of the further challenges has been to stay true to our quirky selves while building up. With engineers, programmers, data scientists, writers, marketers, and a whole slew of other positions, we’ve got a lot of different personalities. Extroverts, introverts, niche interests in dystopian novels; you name it, we’ve got it. With applications coming in each day, narrowing down qualified candidates can be challenging because above all else, we stress a cultural fit. We want to ensure that each new hire fits in with their team and with the wider community as a whole.
Here’s a breakdown of the key steps we take to get there.
Hiring a Cultural Fit
CVs and resumes are a very flat way to learn about a person. We know that sometimes people have trouble showing their full potential through such a limited document. So, as part of our screening process, we assign a trial task to give people a chance to shine. This gives both us and the candidate a little taste of what it would be like to work together in a real world scenario. A successful project then leads into an interview.
Our interviews reflect the position that is being filled. Whether that includes a sales pitch or a detailed overview of relevant background experiences, rest assured that we’re not going to ask you any odd hypotheticals about being trapped in a blender. Instead, we will look for situations where you have demonstrated:
4. Be transparent about your activities, including mistakes or failures. We're separated by many miles and time zones, don't make life harder on your team by being secretive!
5. You're bold, creative, and not afraid to take chances. You embrace opportunities and you enjoy the freedom to find passion projects.
We cover all of our bases before making an offer. Picking the best candidate right off the bat smooths the rest of the hiring process and ensures that we strengthen the baseline of our company culture.
Once we find the right cultural fit, onboarding our new teammate is the next priority. This includes maintaining open communication and transparency throughout this process. Immediately working closely with a new hire in a remote setting is critical to easing people into our company environment. It can be an overwhelming enough experience to be onboarded onsite while in the physical presence of your coworkers. That overwhelming sensation can multiply exponentially when you are dealing with remote situations.
This is why we have a buddy system. We pair up new hires with veterans from their own teams who can be their mentor (much like Yoda).
This mentor is the point of contact for the new hire and the gateway to the pulse of Scrapinghub. Mentors are crucial to the continued success of our remote lifestyle. Mentors help with all questions big or small and are always available for reassurance and feedback.
Confidence is one of the foundations of independence and we strongly believe in working with self-assured coworkers who are excited about taking control of their own projects.
Open Lines of Communication
Since Scrapinghub was founded around Scrapy, the Open Source project created by our co-founders, most of our culture was inherited from the Open Source community. This includes an atmosphere of collaboration and problem-solving alongside innovation. While this is a great environment for independent individuals who enjoy working on passion projects, it can be challenging to keep everyone on the same page.
Factor in time zones, language barriers, and varying levels of technical expertise, and it’s like we’re attempting to herd cats. This is why it is critical for us to keep many lines of communication open.
Here are some of the methods that we use to ensure that our teams are all on the same page:
1. Weekly Newsletter
This is an internal newsletter that covers new projects, products, features, new hires, and where we feature remarkable Scrapinghubbers every week. It provides a weekly overview of achievements within the company.
We love Slack. Slack is easily our go-to communication route between Scrapinghubbers. It’s immediate, clearly shows who’s online (important with our various timezones), and has a ton of different features.
We have many channels that not only cover clients and projects, but also different topics of interest to Scrapinghubbers. These interests include #radiohub to share music, #beer for beer lovers, and channels for our individual countries, regions, and everything else.
3. Office Tour Week
We don’t have cubicles to show off. Instead, we work from places like:
This is how the Office Tour Week started. It is a way for us to share our lives with our distributed colleagues. We remain connected in spite of the distance through these exchanges and glimpses into each other’s lives.
The “tour” takes place on our Google+ Community where people share photos and/or videos from their workplaces and their lives.
We plan to continue to grow with our tried-and-true roadmap. In case you’re struggling with developing a company culture that is realistic, productive, and cohesive, try out the methods that have worked for us.
From finding the right candidates to hiring a cultural fit and maintaining open lines of communication with a mentor, it is a process. Please share yours and let us know what tips you’ve picked up along the way!