How can a fast-growing start-up avoid a toxic company culture?

Toxic boss blaming woman for her work in the office. Woman has a headacheIn one of his recent blogs, fintech commentator Chris Skinner highlighted the issue that plagues some start-ups: a toxic company culture. 

For some, the challenge of growth spurts means making sacrifices in many areas.  Holding onto those founding values, and maintaining a positive and rewarding company culture, can be the first to go.

Corporate values are often used as ‘buzzwords’ and extolled using nouns such as ‘honesty’, ‘integrity’, and ‘transparency’. At Quorsus, we know that simply articulating values is not enough to create a positive and nurturing culture. Our philosophy is based on exemplifying and promoting a set of behaviours that we truly believe in.

This has been key for building teams at Quorsus not just from the bottom up but (and especially) from the top-down. Today we celebrate our 2nd anniversary, during which time we have grown to a talented team of 50, and we want to take this opportunity to share our experience on how we tackled three issues often faced by fast-growing firms, where talent is key: 

1. Attracting the right type of people

Top talent attracts top talent, which couldn’t be more accurate in our case. Most of our new hires come from referrals and introductions from existing employees. We also incentivise our people to actively talk about Quorsus with their external networks and we have a referral bonus in place.  

We understand the importance of nurturing young talent and have created a graduate programme that focuses on attracting people that will thrive and enjoy working in our business. The key to this process is assessing graduates against our core values. Additionally, the program includes a 360-training programme covering all aspects of the business and encompasses the skills and knowledge they need to grow their careers. When asked about their experience, our grads consistently say that they enjoy our approach, especially the access they have to everyone in the business – from partners to subject matter experts – which helps them to accelerate their learning.

2. Settling in comfortably and retaining talent

We have built the Quorsus new employee onboarding programme on the understanding that starting a new job (especially in a hybrid setup) can be rather unsettling. Therefore, we provide a week-long group onboarding programme that covers all the aspects of the business. This approach also allows our new joiners to meet most of the team as a different team member delivers each session. The sessions are designed to be interactive,  questions and feedback are encouraged throughout.

Once onboarded, employee retention is our key focus, so we have created our internal initiatives programme. We understand that dynamic talent usually wants to be involved in most aspects of the business. Hence, we provide opportunities for our people to shape and contribute to the way we operate via internal initiatives programmes where they can grow skills outside of their day-to-day jobs and be engaged in making decisions regarding our learning and development strategy, benefits, tools, technology, and more.

3. Engendering loyalty and commitment to the firm

Investment in our people continues with our talent development process, which focuses on helping everyone reach their full potential. We try not to overprescribe what our employees’ career paths look like. Instead, we provide clarity on what skills, knowledge, and behaviours they need to succeed in the business. Whatever their growth ambitions, they have the toolkit they need to influence their direction, within limits to what we cover as a business.

We are also dedicated to providing a robust training programme, so much so that last year we delivered 300 hours on internal training, designed and facilitated by our teams and covering a broad range of subjects from business-specific knowledge to practical technology skills. So while we have a defined learning and development strategy and schedule to follow, everyone in the business is welcome to devise training that they can create and deliver, share their knowledge, and help others grow.

A high-performing team means we also need to focus on providing a fast career progression and frequent recognition. Last year we had 321 internal recognitions submitted for our ‘Core Value Awards’ programme. This channel was designed so that we can frequently recognize people who go over and above while demonstrating our core values. We also believe that promotion should be based on capability and the individual’s ability to perform at the next level; therefore, we don’t follow any set criteria as to how long an individual needs to be in a role before getting promoted. It’s about capability, not time.

Last but certainly not least is to remember that everyone needs support. Hence, we ensure that our people get support from their assigned people manager and a mentor if they need a different perspective on any matter. We have also created communities, such as the Quorsus Women Network, which has been created to bring our female employees together, not just to support each other professionally but also socially. We also have open communication channels where our people can share any feedback or suggestions anonymously.

We don’t claim to have solved all the problems of being a fast-growing company where demand is sometimes in danger of outstripping supply. However, as a result-based company, we’ve always tried to ensure culture doesn’t have to suffer. And we don’t rest on our laurels: we continuously review our practices and have regular staff surveys to ensure they are able to voice their thoughts, so we grow together, not apart.   

Miriam StaporAbout the author

Miriam Stapor is Head of People and Culture at Quorsus, with over seven years of experience in People Strategy across consulting and financial services industries.  Miriam is currently working as Head of People at Quorsus, focused on creating an engaging environment and developing high-performing teams.

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