Google company culture and you will find a staggering 3,790,000,000 results. There is a wealth of information out there on establishing a positive culture, and even more on the benefits of doing so. Yet despite this, just how you create a successful culture in your workplace, and (crucially) maintain that culture as you grow, is a concept that is almost impossible to define.
Within every business, the word “culture” will mean different things to different people. At Trident we have chosen to frame our view on what makes a positive atmosphere around the things that are most important to us: our values, the relationships we form, and the reasons people enjoy coming to work. For companies in the recruitment sector, establishing a culture along these lines is arguably more important than ever. As an industry, recruitment has long suffered a bad reputation for corporate greed, fast turnover and a toxic workplace. In 2020 we set up Trident Search to be the antithesis of the classic recruitment model – and we have pioneered the new standard for what good looks like in the sector.
Our teams are competitive and driven by nature, but they’re also hugely supportive of one another, and we’ve established collaborative policies and a flat hierarchy. As a team we’ve always been proud of the culture that has been established here, and this year we were justified in our beliefs when Trident Search was selected as one of the top 50 recruitment companies to work for in the 2023 People’s Platform Awards.
Jake Taylor, People Manager at Trident Search, explains how we set up our system:
1. What makes our culture different?
“Right from the start, when the business was launched in 2020, founders Josh and Charlee knew they needed to hire people who exemplified the values of the business and shared their passion for cyber security. It’s genuinely our people who make us different from the competition. Our team are defined by key attributes: hardworking, collaborative, open and honest.” says Jake.
In our state-of-the-art London HQ office, we have created an environment for thought leaders where innovation and collaboration are at the forefront of our success. With an unrivalled onboarding plan, and weekly training to support professional development, we pride ourselves on helping consultants to grow throughout their career, with the autonomy to set their own goals and the support they need to reach them. We have built a high-performing team of 20 passionate, driven and intelligent individuals, yet the culture at Trident Search remains the same as it was on day one: supportive, collaborative and united. With annual, monthly and team-based incentives, our team have forged incredible friendships and share in each other’s achievements and successes, whether these be personal or professional.
We’ve made a real effort to define our culture by continually investing and testing. Each quarter the full team are asked to elect their “Values Champion” who exemplifies what we stand for, and we regularly run feedback sessions to hear their thoughts on the direction we are taking.
Unlike others in the recruitment space, we are also performing well in terms of retention. In the year to date our retention rate is sitting at 87.5%, which compares to an average of 43% in the wider UK recruitment industry.
2. Establishing a culture: hiring for the right fit
Now that our culture has been established it is one of the key reasons we get from candidates looking to join our team. At Trident, we have made this a central part of our talent acquisition strategy. As Jake puts it: "Culture is the backbone of our organisation, and we can't achieve our goals without employees who share our values."
Throughout the interview process we integrate cultural assessments including behavioural evaluations and the famous “no dickhead” test established by James Kerr in the best-seller Legacy: What the All Blacks Can Teach Us about the Business of Life. Alongside their skills within the role, we want to find people who are a great fit for the organisation and align with our vision, mission, and values. This approach enables us to evaluate candidates based on how they have acted in the past, how they handle challenges and conflicts, and whether they share our core values. Interview questions we use to assess cultural fit include “Can you recall a time where you sacrificed personal gain to support a colleague?”. By hiring employees who fit with our organization's culture, we have been able to build a team of 20 highly motivated and committed individuals who are passionate about achieving our goals.
3. Nurturing culture: maintaining what you have achieved
Once you have established a great environment for your employees, it’s imperative to keep working on that culture. As we grow, we’re very conscious that the excellent atmosphere in the office could be diluted. Our people are our most important USP, and we never want to lose the team mentality and ethos we have achieved so far. We therefore support our consultants to pursue continuous improvement and development. With a close-knit team, we are focussed on building each other up and supporting each person to be the very best they can be.
Jake has also built in opportunities for team building to ensure we keep the close ties that we’ve worked hard to build. With annual, monthly and team incentives we’re a social bunch and love getting together outside of work! Last year we took the whole company to Dubai, ran a top-billers trip to Ibiza, hired a haunted house for Halloween, played life-size Monopoly and cracked the crystal maze – and that’s not even mentioning the after-work drinks and coffee breaks that keep us connected.
4. What happens if it goes wrong?
Maintaining a positive company culture isn’t always easy, and it becomes more complex the larger an organisation grows. It’s something we’re conscious of at Trident as we work towards our growth aims, as culture is a crucial part of the compay's ethos. Across the recruitment sector the average retention rate sits at just 43%, and the industry is plagued by a reputation of high turnover and conflicting colleagues. Any change in the business environment is going to affect the culture you have established, so it’s essential to deal with these challenges proactively:
Address conflicts before they become too big of a barrier - This could mean the HR representative or business leaders speaking to the individuals involved and putting conflict resolution or mitigation practices in place early in the situation’s development. Even simple measures can help to diffuse tense situations.
Communicate changes clearly - One of the biggest causes of dissatisfaction is change, but this is unavoidable if you want to grow. In order to keep a positive environment, you need to ensure the full team are well aware of any changes such as an office move or a policy amendment before they happen and are briefed on why this will benefit them. We host quarterly “Questions with the Directors” as a forum where the team can ask about changes and air their views on the direction of the business; involving employees in the process right from the start will help them to feel included and supported.
Invest in talent acquisition – Ultimately, you can teach someone how to do the job, but you can’t teach them to be a different person. Being able to bring the right people on board will help you to keep the right ethos in the office, with colleagues upskilling to become the future leaders who will drive that culture forwards. In all our interviews we do a “culture test” with two team members who haven’t been involved in the more technical interviews to assess how well the new person will gel with the rest of the team.
As a start-up we have been able to integrate culture from the very beginning and keep it central as our team grows, but it is possible to pioneer a cultural shift in a larger, established company too. There are several key resources available from The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) to help start the process.
“As organisations' grow it’s important to embrace changes and the new elements each team member brings to the table, whether they are driving a more social atmosphere or offering a calm balance to louder teammates” says Jake. “If you aren’t evolving, your stagnating, so welcome the positive additions each new employee brings.”
We’re always on the lookout for talented recruiters who align with our values and ethos. If you want to join one of the top 50 recruitment firms in the UK and join our powerhouse of a team as they pioneer the new industry standard, then get in touch today.