Why startup culture works

We chat to Breegan Harper (formerly SODA, Snap Inc., Amazon), a People Operations, Culture & Programs Consultant based in LA.

Breegan works with growing startups to implement clearly defined cultural values, an onboarding programme unique to the company, and sustainable, authentic hiring practices. She has also worked in large companies like Amazon and Snap Inc. (the makers of Snapchat).

When it comes to company culture, Breegan thinks that startups have somewhat of an advantage to large organisations, since you start with a ‘clean slate’ — having a smaller team of people who are deeply passionate about the same thing (app, product, service), without the history, red tape & bureaucracy that burden larger organisations.

Oftentimes startups also hire a core team of experienced people who have learned some valuable lessons at previous companies they’ve worked at (read: what not to do). This means there’s a great opportunity to grow a more intentional company culture in the startup environment.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that one environment is better than the other — startups just have more risk involved and therefore employee retention is super important.

Employee retention really begins at the onboarding — there’s so much data around how a company’s onboarding process makes or breaks an employee’s experience. This, of course, bleeds into the company’s culture as a whole.

Over half of senior leaders will leave their company in the first year of employment because of a bad onboarding experience.

Breegan’s tips on how to retain a great company culture:

  • Interest in the employee as an individual & their growth
  • Effective, open lines of communication
  • Constant feedback
  • Developing real relationships with co-workers
  • Keeping a good balance between structure & process and fun & creativity. People need to know where they stand in the company in order to feel safe.
What people are really interested in, is whether they are valued.

Enjoy! Hit play ▶️ above to watch the interview video.
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Timestamp notes:

1:30 — About Breegan.

2:56 — Startups vs larger organisations.

5:20 — Breegan’s learnings on onboardings & employee retention.

7:41 — Are CV’s still important? Breegan on her recruiting experiences.

11:17 — How to retain a great company culture.

13:30 — Anything you would have done differently?

17:23 — An average day for Breegan.

18:24 — What Breegan’s reading: How to find fulfilling work by Roman Krznaric, The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else In Business by Patrick Lencione.

19:18 — Software tools: Google Calendar for meetings, Asana for project management.

19:50 — Reach out to Breegan at breeganharper@gmail.com, or check her out on social: Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIN, website.

If you have any feedback, comments, ideas or suggestions, please get in contact with us on twitter @giveahi5 or email us on podcasts@get5.io.
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