Scaling Culture: How to Achieve a Consistent Employee Experience in a Growing Business

Jamie speaking to his team

How do you maintain the values and vibe of a startup when you go from a company with just a few people in Sydney, to one with offices in London, New York, Manila, Wroclaw, Toronto and Sydney (plus “distributed crew” that’s spread across the globe in the Philippines, Pakistan, India, Malaysia, Vietnam, Egypt, Argentina and Korea – just to name a few!)? 

As the Global Head of Talent at Finder, Jamie Finnegan is tasked with not only hiring great talent but also creating a work environment where everyone feels comfortable, valued and empowered to contribute – no matter where they are in the world. 

Finder’s unique culture is underpinned by a set of values that have grown alongside the company, and most importantly, are lived and breathed by all employees, founders included. Indeed sat down with Jamie to chat about the process of creating a seamless employee experience, and scaling culture as teams grow and oceans divide them. 

How do you define company culture? 

The ideas, customs and social behaviours of a particular people or society. I remember one of the co-founders, Fred Schebesta, saying to me that culture is what people say and do when you’re not in the room. I always like to ask people that I interview, what culture means to them, because it means different things to different people. 

What’s unique or different about the culture at Finder? 

We have a core value of “one crew” meaning that we’re all part of one big team. We don’t refer to our remote crew as being offshore but instead we call them “distributed crew”. There’s no hub or central team; everyone is part of the same business. I think having that one crew mentality, allowing everyone to contribute equally and bring their ideas into the business and have real impact, creates a unique culture because it’s not just defined by a few and adhered to by many. We’re very outcomes-based as a business, so the flexibility element helps to create a better vibe as well. 

Can you take me through the company values? 

Finder company values

  1. “One Crew” means everyone is on the same level. No ego or hierarchy. Also working together as one crew. There are no tribes or squads. Our values extend past a poster on a wall, or a sticker, or a mug – they are the pulse of the business.
  2. “Go Live” is a bias towards productivity and being proactive. It’s keeping a standard level of quality, but going live and doing it often. Launching new things and getting feedback on them and refining them as much as we can. We take a “test and learn” approach.
  3.  “Be Straight Up” is all about giving and receiving feedback in an open and honest way. There’s a lot of opinions at Finder and this value helps to anchor conversations in truth and require people to be respectful in the way they give feedback. It helps us to form better products for our customers and also helps us to work better together internally.
  4. “Master Your Craft” is all about being the best at what you do. The greater I become at what I do, the better we’ll become as a business. It’s also about a natural curiosity, a hunger for knowledge and people wanting to do better. We have an annual “master your craft” budget that everyone has access to so they can attend industry events or conferences or complete a course. We also have an annual Finder summit event where we have a week of presentations and workshops with external speakers they can learn from.
  5. “Empower People” is about people being able to take action both internally and externally. It translates to the products, helping people to “compare better” whatever they do. 

How do you maintain the company’s culture when you scale in size? 

We make sure we have our values built into interview questions.The five values we have now aren’t the same as the ones we had when the business started. We are constantly refining these. We’re fortunate that the three founders of the business make sure that the values are really instilled in the business and that we continue to hire people that believe in the culture of the business. 

If you look at how we expanded into other markets such as the US: a few staff went over to New York, lived there and helped to launch the office. That really helped to ground the foundations. With the Poland office, we had a guy who used to work in the Sydney office move back home. He wanted to continue working for us and had some friends who wanted to join, so he helped us establish an office in Wroclaw, which now has over 20 people. We also have a team within Finder called GX whose role is to help establish foundations of Finder in new markets without having a physical presence there. So that helps bake the Finder DNA into things from the start. 

How do you combat isolation/disconnectedness in remote teams? 

This hasn’t been an issue to my knowledge and certainly hasn’t affected retention. We have a number of strategies in place to ensure everyone feels like part of the bigger Finder team. The average tenure of the distributed crew is around four years, which is amazing! 

Everyone who starts at Finder gets the same welcome package on day one, whether you’re in an office or not. We have a virtual onboarding system that is built into the Finder website for new distributed crew to be onboarded. It ingrains you in the culture of the business straight away. We have video conferences and lots of other tech that helps us to keep in touch and communicate ideas. We use tech to break down the geographical barriers from day one, but also make them feel like they’re part of the business from day one. 

How much is culture influenced by the office space? 

The physical office space we have is called the Rocketship. There’s a big astronaut in the hallway and our meeting rooms are called things like Interstellar, Rocketship and Orbit. The other offices have the same theme. The values are the same across all offices and the hanging planets in each kitchen are similar too. Each has its little quirks, but you know you’re in a Finder office no matter where you are in the world. I think you can reflect your values in a workplace. The whole Rocketship idea and reaching new heights, improving what you do – I think that transcends to users and the people in the business. Having a consistent look and feel across the offices helps us to be as one. 

What’s the best thing about working at Finder? 

The culture and the people. The people make the culture and we’ve continued to add people over time who align with the business values, but have also been able to bring something different to the company. The culture has shifted and evolved. Two years ago when I started it was a great company, but it’s a different business now. It’s tripled in size locally and globally. It’s a different company, but it’s still awesome. The people are to thank for that. The co-founders have built the foundations and been custodians of it as we’ve scaled. 

Perks are often equated with culture from a job seeker perspective. How do they contribute? 

Perks can be utilised to contribute to culture, but they aren’t one and the same thing. We do have a free lunch program at Finder and we’re lucky to have that. But it’s not about the free food. It’s the conversations that happen over lunch and the ideas that are formed that help to create real products and make a difference. Perhaps you might speak to someone that you don’t usually talk to every day during that lunch time. Or, maybe there is a cool little breakout area where you connect with someone that way. Such perks show that you do care about your staff and you do give back, and that helps to create a positive culture. 

We have regular pulse checks about the perks and benefits we offer in the form of surveys. Every day when we have lunch you can rate it and let us know what you think. We’re a big feedback culture and people aren’t shy about letting their opinions become known. 

How have you managed to create a space where people feel comfortable sharing their opinions, whether they be about food or about their boss? 

Good question! We are constantly looking at and evaluating the ways we give and receive feedback. And we’re lucky because the feedback is actually taken into consideration to improve things. If it’s honest and done in a respectable way, we will listen to it, it will make a difference and can be used to change things. 

What tips do you have for businesses that can help with the creation of a positive and consistent company culture? 

Getting these things right from the beginning is going to be beneficial to you as you do scale and grow. The founding team and the leadership team have been able to help with this as we grow. Look at your company values and make sure they actually mean something to the business. Align your company’s values and your people’s values and continuously check in on this. Build a remarkable culture for the crew and the crew will build remarkable results. 

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