How do you create high performance culture? - Laith Al-Hashimi, VP - New York

Our Vice President of New York, Laith, joined our London office in 2011; since then he’s relocated to New York to open Meet’s first US office, dominated an entirely new market and grown the start-up from 3 to 30+ people. The now 30+ strong New York team had an outstanding year last year, outperforming all expectations. So, what’s the key to their success? According to Laith it’s their ‘High Performance Culture’.

He believes that culture is the most crucial driver of success and that creating a high performing culture should be a priority for any business. So how do you create one? Laith fills us in…

What is high performance culture?

‘The true evidence of a culture is how people behave when no one is watching’, this is the opening statement of Damien Hughes’ book ‘The Barcelona Way: unlocking the DNA of a winning culture’ which tells the story of how Pep Guardiola (now manager of Manchester City) worked on creating a winning culture at FC Barcelona. For me, that statement epitomizes what a high performance culture (HPC) is; a culture where each individual on the team takes responsibility for its overall success.

It won’t surprise anyone who knows me that this book is about football, but more significantly, it’s about how high performance culture is relevant to any team, in any organization, in any industry (not just football, or sales in our case).

HPC is defined by Culture IQ as, “a set of behaviors and norms that leads an organization to achieve superior results by setting clear business goals, defining employees’ responsibilities, creating a trusting environment, and encouraging employees to continually grow and reinvent themselves.”

As you can see, from this detailed definition, there are a number of elements that constitute a high performance culture.

You mention that there are multiple aspects that create HPC, what features have been key to creating this culture at Meet?

There is not a one-size-fits-all formula to create a high performance culture because each business is unique. Our approach can be defined by 3 key features; Trust, Development and Discipline which form the HPC triangle.

For me, trust is the foundation; it’s about building strong relationships based on respect, openness and listening. Having trust within a team fosters an environment where everyone believes in and works towards a common goal. A clear indication of mutual trust in your business is a low turnover. We’ve got a good retention rate here in New York and that’s something we’re very proud of.

Development comes from having open and honest feedback, strong communication, as well as clear transparency which stimulates progress and improvement both for an individual and the business as a whole. We see really clear evidence of this development across all of Meet’s offices as people grow as recruiters as well as human beings, progress up their respective career ladder, and drive and contribute to the overall growth of the business.

Finally, Discipline. This is not about disciplining people, I’m talking about having self-discipline and self-motivation. Recruitment is a very entrepreneurial job and there is no doubt that the work you put in is what you get out - the best recruiters that I know are the hardest working. We have a very autonomous environment at Meet but it takes self-motivation each and every day to stay focused and achieve your professional and personal goals.

As VP of this office, I need to lead from the front, set the standard and communicate my expectations, but if my team aren’t role models themselves then our organization can’t be high performing.

How do you maintain that culture?

As a growing business we’re constantly evolving and innovating. But, what’s really important for our culture is that we are encouraging new ideas and constantly collaborating as a team to improve the business. At the beginning of the year we held brainstorming sessions in small groups to discuss our culture and how we can develop it to become even more high performing. These sessions have been really important in finding out what the team think and how they feel. There will always be things we can do to improve but all the feedback was overwhelmingly positive which was nice to see.

I want to make sure the team feel that they can come to me with their ideas. I hope they know that I’m always open to their feedback, whether it’s positive or negative!

One of the great ideas we’ve implemented from these sessions is our buddy mentoring system, an idea driven and run by one of our Future Leaders, Lindsay. Each rookie is paired with an experienced mentor who can guide them through the first 6-12 months of their career - it’s been really positive in helping people settle into the business.

Even little things we’ve introduced like having bagels on a Friday morning, providing flexibility on start and finish times as well as longer lunch breaks to exercise or even sort life-admin, have had a really positive impact on the atmosphere and general welfare of the office. They are changes and improvements that cost so little but boost morale a great deal. There are other improvements to physical and mental health that we are looking to roll out in the near future as we want to be providing the best support we can.

We recently moved into a brand-new office in Soho at the end of last year; it’s a beautiful space, in a better location and much bigger than our old office - we’ve definitely upgraded which was a significant and necessary next step for us in line with our ambitions to grow further this year whilst providing the best facilities for our current employees.

Across the whole business we’re always looking to improve the way of working by introducing, changing or upgrading to the latest tools and software that recruiters can have at their disposal, to make the job as seamless as possible.

All of this reflects our ethos as a business: responding and adapting to new opportunities. When we first launched the business in New York we were just working in the Healthcare Communications market. However, Hannah our CEO, was keen to grow into the Life Sciences sector as quickly as possible - 3 years later, a team of 3 is a team of 30+ and our Life Sciences division is by far the largest team in the whole business. It’s in our DNA to constantly push the boundaries and evolve.

What’s the impact of having a high performance culture? and what is the potential?

Fundamentally, culture is one of the most crucial drivers of business performance, so by fostering a high performance culture, a business will achieve better results. Recruitment is a results orientated industry and our culture at Meet is integral to our success; not only does it ensure we are continually hitting our targets and achieving our goals, it’s also important in improving engagement, productivity, and employee satisfaction – reflected on our Glassdoor profile.

It’s also significant in retention and internal recruitment which obviously impacts our ability to grow. The team in our New York office are inspirational, ambitious people and they attract like-minded individuals to join Meet, so that we continue to increase our headcount. It’s no secret that people want to work for great businesses and that’s what a high performance culture nurtures, a positive, collaborative and most importantly, enjoyable working environment. When people ask me in interviews, what I like the most about this company, my answer is always the fact that I relish coming into work each and every day.

Finally, having a high performance culture means that we see people improving on a daily basis, developing their careers and reaching personal and professional milestones both inside and outside the office. As we continue to scale the business we will need new people to spearhead divisions and launch new offices just like I did, I want to be developing the next leadership group from within the team. That’s exciting for me - a new generation driving our high performance culture.

 

Our New York team is growing (they need to fill that beautiful new office space), if you like the sound of the above and want to be part of the next generation of Meet's leaders then get in touch with careers@peoplewithchemistry.com.

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