Everything is easier when you’re Facebook!

By Huw Martin

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Photograph by Marco Paköeningrat

Quick disclaimer: This isn’t by any means a pop at Facebook! I know some lovely people who work there and was very lucky enough to have a little tour of their London office last year and loved it! The feel of the place was truly inspirational and I just wish that it was 25 years ago and I had chosen slightly different topics at school! :)

My sightly flippant heading is in relation to an article I read this morning over a bowl of fruit (I’m an athlete you see!?) and showed that millions of people have downloaded/read the Facebook HR Strategy. This got me thinking. What is it about Facebook and specifically their HR department that has everyone so interested!? Is it because they have grown such a huge and successful business by the gems that lie within that document or did the document come afterwards…?

Again it sounds like I’m being disrespectful, and in no way am I meaning to be. What I’m suggesting is that it sure as heck helps when your company is based on a product or service that is highly desirable/sexy and that people are genuinely interested in.

It doesn’t mean that what they have done to build such a global business with the energy and dynamism that it has isn’t truly remarkable or indeed that their HR plan isn’t groundbreaking in its make up however it seems to be that this really is enabled by the fact that everyone wants to work there; their product is huge, they have amazing facilities and they have deep pockets… really deep pockets!

How can others compare?

In a lot of ways we can’t. We can’t afford the games room, the climbing wall, the full size musical instruments, gigantic gaming area, free food for all employees (and their families!), sweets stall, beautifully creative designed spaces with ergonomic-everything! But then we all know that culture isn’t all about the perks of being a cash-rich company.

I met with a small tech company a few weeks ago specifically to talk about company culture. I’m not sure why they thought a large Welshman who runs a recruitment business was the best person to speak to or not however I took it as a compliment.

The company I met do some great things, have some great people, and yet they are finding the age old problem of having difficulty with their company culture as they grow from small start-up to a bigger company. They don’t have the budget of Mr Zuckerberg either so what can they do to help address some of these well-known challenges when a start-up hits that ‘first brick wall’?

My advice and experience in this area hopefully was of use, and yet is limited by the fact that I’ve not built a start-up, haven’t had the energetic excitement of a new build tech company or worked in the exciting tech realm of Silicon Valley.

What I could help with is experience gained from working in a business that’s grown hugely over a short period of time, that has had to deal with the usual challenges of a people business combined with the fact that its not in a ‘sexy’ industry, compared to the likes of Facebamazoogle. We are a services business; one that helps companies find skilled resources across the UK, and whilst on the one hand that is not overly glamorous, we still consider our culture and values as being vitally important components to us being a successful company.

Its amazing how similar the challenges are for companies. Whether you’re a multinational or a start-up there isn’t really too much difference other than the scale. Yes, we don’t have the big budgets of the giants of industry, and neither does the small tech company I’m advising, but what we both do have is some great people, a desire to be successful and a clear set of values to live by that hopefully will help guide and define the culture of the company.

It also helps having a HR manager who knows their stuff but who also understands your business. I don’t mean that they need to be a recruiter or technical; what I mean is that they understand that not all companies are the same. Things that work in large multinationals will simply fall on their faces in a start up. Case in point, the company I spoke with don’t necessarily need an all-singing, all-dancing HR function, as I am confident that they will have a huge amount of success from simply adopting a few key principles and not be forced to implement an HR strategy for the sake of it.

Back to my original point about Facebook; of course its not easy for them, and naturally they have huge challenges as any business of their scale does. However, the principle remains that people want to work in successful companies and part of what makes a successful company is its brand, company culture and values. If those three things are in place then it almost doesn’t matter what you produce, sell or what service you provide, you have a chance to run a successful business.

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