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Why HubSpot Execs Spent Over 200 Hours Documenting Company Culture-And Now Change It Every Six Weeks

March 31, 2014
Business Insider
by Alex Heber

Securing talent in the tech space is a competitive game.

Marketing software company HubSpot has been monitoring its company culture closely since its launch in 2006. Since the early days, co-founders Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah set about building a company that matches the modern ways people live and work.

The pair saw the company’s culture as a weapon to help it attract and keep talented employees. They set about crafting its culture code of practice.

“That culture is to recruiting as product is to marketing,” Shah said.

Initially taking Hubspot’s executives about 200 hours to get the culture it wanted into words, Shah said the Culture Code is a dynamic piece of work he was consistently revising.

“Crafting the document itself took over 200 hours before we initially hit publish, but I push a production update every six weeks or so,” he said.

Shah said revising its culture code every 6 weeks is vital to the philosophy’s relevancy.

“Culture is a living, breathing entity at HubSpot, and like our software, I want us to constantly be re-factoring to improve upon it,” he said.

Taking the time to define culture has made the company commit to and deliver on some of its “big statements”.

“One really positive result of getting our culture in writing is that even some of the tenets that begin as aspirational become a self-fulfilling prophecy. For example, one of the core beliefs espoused in the document is a push to “Solve for the Customer” at every turn. We don’t get that right every time, but documenting it clearly means that every single one of our employees and leaders aspires to behave that way–that’s great for our customers and great for our business,” he said.

Shah said making the document public has empowered his team to “resist taking on culture debt and prioritise hiring and retaining people who embody our core values”.

“Taking a stand on what’s most important in our culture makes decisions easier on a daily basis for employees because they know how we think about what’s most important to our business and our approach,” he said.

Revisiting the Culture Code every month-and-a-half is a process in itself but changes no longer just filter down from the leadership team. Shah said it was important to get weekly input from people outside his company, employees and customers.

“HubSpot’s Culture Code isn’t a policy document; it’s a philosophy that we are sharing with the world, and we hope it inspires great conversation and discussion while helping us iterate our own views on culture,” he said.

About 12 months ago HubSpot hit publish on its culture code, making it available to anyone who was interested – an inbound marketing strategy which has driven traffic to its website and boosted HubSpot’s profile.

“The core belief of an inbound approach is that creating and promoting remarkable content will actually draw people to your business, earning their attention instead of renting it through channels like interruptive advertising or direct mail,” Shah said.

“The Culture Code is great evidence that inbound marketing works: customers, competitors, and influencers alike have tweeted it, commented on it, and shared with their followers and colleagues: that’s something we are really proud of.

“At the end of the day, the document has helped us attract better candidates, engage with prospects and leads, and build global awareness of our view on culture–those are results we can count on.”

After spending hundreds of hours developing HubSpot’s culture Shah said there were a few pointers other companies could take on board when trying to drive internal culture.

“Nobody outside your company wants to read your rules, regulations, and legalese: there’s nothing remarkable about policy handbooks,” he said.

“Instead, they want to know how doing business with your company will be different and how it will benefit them.

“Great content educates, entertains, and inspires people: if you’re taking the time to share your culture with the world, make sure you are bringing something new to the table.”

Why HubSpot Execs Spent Over 200 Hours Documenting Company Culture-And Now Change It Every Six Weeks

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