TAFEP Hero 2023 June
human resources online

How to create a culture that people love

Katie Burke, Chief People Officer at HubSpot shares why growth, transparency, and flexibility are crucial for creating a culture employees love. 

Our culture at HubSpot is based on the belief that the way people want to live and work has changed. Traditional workplace culture - where ‘showing face’ is more valued than business impact -- is dated, yet too many organisations still operate as if they are frozen in time. In fact, survey of 756 Singaporeans conducted by YouGov found that “many Singaporeans are staying back late at work just to ‘show face’ - sometimes trying to curry favour, other times attempting to boost their reputation”.

However long hours don’t usually equate to productivity, retention, or employee happiness and wellbeing. While there are a few key ingredients to building a successful company culture, the foundation is often the same: happy, engaged employees are ones that  feel connected to the company’s mission and are supported both professionally and personally.

At HubSpot, we’ve built our culture not around our perks, but around our core values allowing employees to be successful because of the autonomy they get to do their best work, the flexibility to build their work around their lives, the transparency of the information we provide, and the inclusive culture where they can bring their true selves to work. The culture we’ve built across our eight offices has been recognised worldwide by Great Place to Work, Glassdoor, Entrepreneur, and more.

If your company culture isn’t rooted in clear values, no amount of perks will fix that. Whether planned or not, culture happens and it’s important to be deliberate when creating a culture that people love. Otherwise, the values that organically manifest throughout your organisation may not be the ones you would have chosen. Here are a few things that are critical when building a culture people love.

Encourage constant growth

We know that our employees won’t stay at HubSpot forever. But while they are here, we want to help them increase their market value by creating constant opportunities for them to learn and grow. That not only makes them love coming into work every day, but it means they’re more productive and engaged in that work.

HubSpot’s tuition reimbursement program allows employees to upskill by taking classes or courses. Employees in Singapore have used the funds towards negotiation training with Harvard Business School Online, in-person courses with organisations like Charisma Academy, and post-graduate qualifications including NUS’ MSc Business Analytics Programme. We also have a Free Books Program - any employee can request a book and we send them a Kindle or hard copy for free.

Transparency is key

The natural inclination for most large companies is to hide things, yet transparency has been core to HubSpot’s culture since our startup days. However, a culture of transparency doesn't just happen - we had to build it and commit to it as we scaled. Now, even as a public company, we default to sharing as much information as possible, from financials to strategy, with everyone in the organisation, including interns, executives, and everyone in between.

When companies struggle to create a successful culture, it often stems from secrecy between leaders and teams. When leaders are transparent, it sends a message to employees that you trust them. Ultimately, the more information your employees have access to, the more context they have when making important decisions that drive the business forward.

Culture needs to be flexible

Culture needs to evolve along with your company. Companies often struggle when they try to keep culture the same in every location, but we believe offices should be siblings, not twins. This means they have similar ‘DNA’ in their commitment to our company values, but differ in terms of traditions and leadership, with a lot of input from local employees to shape this. For example, in our Singapore office, in addition to our existing unlimited vacation policy, we provide quota relief for employees who are called to National Service so they can fulfil their duties without worrying about it impacting their performance at work.

To ensure we don’t fall out of touch with employee sentiment, we constantly gather employee feedback and revisit and edit our culture code to reflect changes in our culture as we scale. We run a quarterly survey to assess employee happiness. It asks if employees would recommend HubSpot as a place to work, how they feel about their career growth opportunity, and any advice for leadership. The responses are anonymous, and we analyse the data to get a view of how we’re doing, and identify action items for leadership in each office to make improvements.

Ultimately, HubSpot’s culture is built on the belief that the way people work and live has changed. That means rejecting traditional workplace culture, where ‘facetime’ is valued above impact, and instead focusing on creating a culture that inspires people to do their best work.

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