Design Squiggle

Dec 10, 2018

5 min read

Get your startup a ‘Cultural Compatible’ workforce 🧑✅👩✅

Doodle by @cloudythecrab

There is this show on TV called Married at First Sight. In every season of the show, three couples marry without having seen each other before the day of the wedding. The series follows a month in their lives, and at the end of the one month experiment, they continue to be married or divorce each other. I was quite fascinated, not about marrying a stranger part — because it used to be quite common in India, and so ingrained in the culture that I didn’t even wince — but about how they sort expert advice to help them find a life partner based on a 600 question profile the submitted. The hypothesis of the show is that —

Can the experts of the show arrange a happily ever after.

There are four experts on this show,

The clinical psychologist: He conducts psychological tests for personality and psychological profiling akin to those used in the CIA and FBI to match people who have signed up for this experiment

The sexologist (physical compatibility): She takes care of matching people not just on chemistry but common like and dislikes, tastes and preferences

The sociologist: She studies how the person is with friends, family, what are their core values and behaviours in regards to the society — from games they play to places they work at, and kind of professions they choose to be in

The spiritual advisor: He usually plays the role of a couple’s counsellor, but also brings a deep spiritual angle that stresses faith, belief and support systems

So why did this show fascinate me in the first place, and what has this to do with the startup culture or for that matter an organization culture?

I find it really fascinating that when we hire people, we test them on logical skills, communication skills, and in the four rounds of interview, at best five people spend ten minutes with the candidate and they are hired. Not to ridicule the sophisticated recruitment processes of today. I just feel that the culture fitness is the biggest gap we face in the workforce today.

Imagine you are searching for a co-founder, or core team who are going to be part of your startup, how do you apply the above sort of expert angles to check compatibility?

Psychological stability: In startups, the ambiguity is really high due to a lot of unknowns. This causes high stress and ambiguity. Capability to handle change, rolling with the punches and thinking on the go is a needed mindset. The ability to dawn multiple hats play different roles also becomes the key — to having a learnable mind and a growth mindset is a great advantage.

If you haven’t failed you haven’t learnt anything new in the entrepreneur journey — so having high creative confidence is important. We can draw inspiration from event planners and managers, they have the highest variables riding on at any moment, and the show must always go on, irrespective of how messy things in the background gets, they have the ability to handle it. They practice the essence of preparedness, the visualize scenarios — good and bad and are prepared to handle it if and when it occurs. For employees in services space and client facing roles, this becomes even more important.

Physical compatibility: You might think what has this to do with work? We spend at least half our lives at offices, and that takes away most of our active day too. I have a cousin who simply cannot sit in a place for too long, or travel long distances, given this state of affairs she lands in a job as a tech support engineer. By the way, she is really good at negotiation and customer management. So you get the drift. Is that person’s energy fitting our office culture or the job description? Can they travel without being stressed out, carry weight, strain themselves, sit through a daylong meeting, stand and deliver a 16-hour lecture. At the end of the day, they cannot be physically and mentally drained, with a pisser of a mood. That really affects both professional and personal lives.

Sociology: The background, attitude, the behaviour of a person at the office, and otherwise make a huge impact in the way they will behave as a team member, a manager, a customer or a provider. I have seen people who are very independent and autonomous stuck with micromanagers, experimenters stuck with taskmasters, and that becomes a huge gap and causes unhappiness. Startup businesses need cultural acumen, ability to work with diverse groups of people, have inclusive mindsets, and wade between being an expert and a novice.

Especially, when experts turn entrepreneurs they tend to have face curse of knowledge — they speak a language that is not easily understood by their users or customers. They know both the problem and the solution, and the language used is very abstract. A startup business should embrace talking more in a novice language — where there is less or no awareness about the solutions existence.

For instance, my dad was a very impatient teacher — he would get frustrated when I didn’t get the basics of the Hindi language. My dad has been speaking the language since he was four years old, so what appears easy to him 30 years later, to me sounded Greek and Latin — sorry like Hindi.

Belief systems: The last part is not about just spiritual compatibility. It is about common beliefs and values. These are what they call non-negotiables. Say I am against smoking, I am for animal rights, and I stand for gender equality. Now, these are things that would make or break a long-lasting relationship or my decision to work for someone.

Everyone has the right to find the job they like. We cannot ever judge if someone is a good worker or not. But we sure can say if they fit into this job profile and this company. Of course, I am a firm believer in learnability — any skill can be learnt, practices and even mastered with time. Despite that, I find it would help to find people who are compatible with the company’s vision, values, and culture. They should love getting up and coming to do their job. When our business evolves and grows we need to look for people with the different skill set, again we cannot judge a person to be a good or bad worker, all we can do is say that they are culturally misfit right now, and then help them to find a place else that they would fit in rather perfectly.

What do you think is the best trait to look for when partnering with or hiring people to work with you?