Facebook’s Tips on Building Culture

Facebook HQ

It’s hard enough to build a small startup with an evolving, effective culture. But how do you make that successful culture scale much bigger? Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has some ideas.

In a recent interview with Fast Company, Zuckerberg and his lieutenants suggest that a strong employee referral program, coupled with a focus on hiring people who “really get it,” is key to scaling from dozens to thousands of employees without losing the culture. In some ways, that ethos is reminiscent of the advice Steve Jobs once gave in an interview about hiring only ‘A’ players, because “they only want to hire more A players.”

The layout of Facebook’s headquarters also plays into the collaborative aspect of its culture, its open spaces designed to encourage random encounters and easy conversation.

“You can’t pretend to be a different company than you are,” Zuckerberg told the interviewer. “At each scale, you have to do the things that are uniquely suited to the environment you’re in and your position in the world.”

Even if you’re not running the world’s largest social network, however, there are lessons about culture you can take away from Facebook’s experience:

  • Start early: Indoctrinate employees in the culture from the outset, by discussing it early and often. Every new staffer at Facebook hears about the culture at first-day orientation, and talks about it with their boss.
  • Encourage Participation: At Facebook, employees are encouraged to assume ownership over the culture; many draw inspirational signs or come up with the slogans (‘Move Fast and Build Things,’ ‘Systems for Society,’ etc.) that illustrate the walls. While that’s an extraordinary example, every tech company can encourage employees to contribute to the culture in some way.
  • Evolve: While it’s important to try and keep whatever works in a culture, it’s equally vital to recognize when something needs to change in order to keep everybody happy and productive.

With a healthy culture, a tech firm—no matter what its size—has a better chance of retaining its brightest and most productive.

Image Credit: Facebook

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