Accion Labs demystifies its culture with transparency

Bijoor says the first filter of potential job candidates is based on technical skills, which can be done through objective, autonomous tests.

“One of the challenges is that the skillsets are not commonplace. So, it’s not easy for us to bring a number of candidates for any particular job description, to begin with,” he says.

Then, it’s a matter of discovering if someone will fit into Accion Lab’s culture, which Bijoor says is difficult to quantify.pit_cs_KineshDoshi7_0916

To deal with this, Accion Labs created a subset of people who have worked with the company long enough to understand and present the firm’s culture. These thought leaders do the interviews and determine if someone will be a fit, he says.

It’s not a matter of finding a direct cultural match as much as looking for the potential for a culture match, or the potential of a mismatch, Doshi says.

“We realize that certain people come from different backgrounds, and there are different ways of doing things,” he says. “What we’re looking for are people who can be trained into our culture.”

You want to be upfront about what it’s like to work at your company. Explain how you do things by laying out scenarios and seeing how they respond.

“We lay out our culture in a very unambiguous way and typical manner, and then we see what their reaction is to that,” Doshi says.

At Accion Labs, it’s a culture of execution, high responsiveness and transparency, so the employees need to be able to take that in stride and not get flustered. The firm doesn’t value meetings and Power Points; it values action.

If you want an environment where it’s OK to respond to an email after three days or you won’t get a call in the middle of the night from a client, Doshi says their firm isn’t a good fit.

“If even one person has a gut feeling that there are signs of a potential mismatch, that’s not the person we want to be hiring,” he says.

But, again, a critical piece is identifying a core group of people who are the thought leaders that represent the culture. Then, Doshi says, you can invest time and energy in making sure they are on the same page as the top executives.

Some of these thought leaders may do better than others at imparting the culture to the rest of the employees, but he says the key is to keep trying.

Accion Labs also makes sure that it declares ownership of a new hire by having thought leaders act as a mentor in order to provide feedback.

Encourage questioning

The same transparency that the Accion Labs shows in the hiring process permeates the organization, including its communication methods.

Doshi says their culture is well documented in the handbook, and they continue to do training on it with employee groups.

It’s important to have discussions and brainstorm about different scenarios that may come up. Don’t just talk about ideas; explain what you mean by them.

“You can talk about responsiveness, but if you get an email from an employee and a customer, the question becomes which one do we respond to first?” Doshi says.

“It’s not just, ‘Oh, OK, we have to be responsive.’ We build different scenarios, do the analysis and then document it,” he says. “In this scenario, this is our approach, this is our response.”

Doshi says you need to give continual feedback to help people understand.

At least once a month, Accion Labs holds global town halls with some of the employees.

After some high-level background on the company’s growth and challenges, he says the town hall is opened up for questions.

“What we have found is when you just open it up for a Q&A, no one asks any questions. People are just afraid of asking questions, particularly in a setting where everyone is watching,” Doshi says.