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23 Sep 21 Industry Insights

4 Steps to Building a High-Performing Start-Up Culture

 4min read

 

 

Talented candidates with strong technical skills and experience are in huge demand as the number of UK job vacancies jumps above pre-pandemic levels. In a candidate-driven market, your company culture can be the key differentiator that pips your competitors to the post when hiring.

 

Zaptic is a connected worker platform providing frontline teams with digital tools to optimise and accelerate day to day operations. The venture backed team is growing fast and was recently voted as one of the Top 20 Manchester tech start-ups to work for in 2021 by Tempo.

 

We spoke to three members of the team – VP of Software Engineering Ben and Full Stack Engineers Clare and Sumbal - to find out what exactly it is about Zaptic’s company culture that makes them one of the most exciting companies to work for in the North West.

 

Read on for four key steps to building a start-up culture that will help you attract and retain tech talent in a candidate-driven market.

 

 

 

A great company always starts with a set of clear company values. By definition, company values are the core standards that guide the way you do business. They sum up what your business stands for, influences the organisational culture and drive how and why you do things.

 

When coming up with their own set of values, the leadership team at Zaptic recruited the help of the entire organisation. Bringing the whole business together over a two-day offsite, the team sat down to discuss what Zaptic meant to each of them.

 

“After the initial workshop establishing what values defined us as a business, we left it up to our CEO (Richard Milnes) to make the hard decision of which value sits where. That's how we ended up with transparency at the top, which I think says a lot about him and how he wants the business to be run”.

– Ben, VP Software Engineering

 

 

 

These values have helped to shape all aspects of Zaptic’s culture, from working arrangements, interview processes and even the tech stack they use; as one of a handful of businesses who work with the functional programming language Elm.

 

 

Using different languages is one of the key factors for keeping Developers engaged and excited in their work. By using a tech stack that isn’t widely taught in the tech community, Zaptic hope to attract curious and self-motivated Developers.

 

 

Autonomy means that deep down, everybody is trusted to do their job. In our recent talent insights survey, 59% of our tech network cited increased flexibility as the most important employee perk to them.


“I tend to forget about things like flexi time and remote working as a benefit as it feels so natural” , 
Ben explained, who’s based in Canada himself. Zaptic had adopted a flexible working policy long before Covid, with a focus on output rather than hours.

 

Zaptic employees now have the option to either work from the London or Manchester offices, or remotely. Working flexi hours that fit in with busy life and family schedules has helped to create a culture where productivity can thrive, giving employees the freedom to work when they’re at their most focused.

 

Mum of 2, Sumbal, is grateful that a flexible workday allows her to manage a healthy work life balance.

 

“For half the day I’ll work in the office or from home, but then I’ll leave to collect my kids from school and have dinner. Once they’re settled, I’ll complete my work in the evening, which works really well for me and my family. It feels a lot more relaxed as you can work at the time where you are at your full potential.”

- Sumbal, Software Developer

 

 

 

The tech industry has the lowest average employee tenure, with the average tech employee sticking around in a role for an estimated 3 years before moving on.

 

In a recent talent insights survey, 40% of our network cited a lack of career progression as a key reason for disengaging with their current employer.

 

Talented professionals want to work for a company that cares about helping them to build skills and knowledge, and pushing them ahead in their career. Investing time and money to drive your employee’s development will keep them engaged and help you to build a highly skilled workforce.

 

At Zaptic, each employee is given an annual learning budget which can be used at their discretion to buy books, courses, certifications or tickets to conferences or events. This can be used with their Free Dev time – half a day every two weeks, to work on anything you want - to give people the resources to skill up and learn something new.

 

“As developers we’re given a lot of time each sprint to work on things we’re interested in. We can use this time for whatever we like, for example: making improvements to tools or processes, or for learning. I’m currently working through a book on Functional Programming: https://leanpub.com/fp-made-easier” 

- Clare

 

 

Continuous improvement requires the contribution of everyone across the company. Ensuring everyone understands their role in the improvement of processes within the business will help to foster a culture where people feel confident speaking up and challenging practices in a constructive way.

 

“Whatever we do, we want to get better at it. We call our process repository our Zaptic Production Systems, which is where we write down everything that we’ve decided we’re going to do as a team. That's how we try to get continuous improvement to not be about, ‘you need to do better next time’, but more about, ‘this is how we need to do things as a company to make sure that we don't have problems.’ We go back and improve those processes every two weeks as a team to minimise the chances of any problems arising.”

– Ben

 

Make sure to celebrate the successes and small wins, as well as breaking down and evaluating the problems. Create channels of communication for employees to be able to shout out their colleagues, and make sure to recognise and acknowledge individual contributions from a management perspective.

 

 

 

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To sum up, the priorities of today’s workforce have changed immeasurably over the last decade and will continue to do so. Teams need to invest time and resources into defining the company values and culture that will underpin how they operate as a business and the people they hire. Getting this right from the beginning will result in attracting talent that wants to stay with you for longer, better internal communication, enhanced productivity, minimised disruption, and ultimately, a happier and high performing team.

 

If you're looking for your next career move, get in touch with the team today at hello@burnssheehan.co.uk and let us know the the roles you're looking for, so that we can put you in touch with the right specialist consultant best suited to your requirements.

 

 

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