It is hard to overstate how proud I am of Aidoc. In less than five years, we’ve grown from an idea that three friends came up with to a company with 130 employees, over $60 million in funding, and six FDA clearances and CE marks. As we continue to grow, the pace of hiring is picking up and people management is becoming more complex. As a result, we have decided to hire a Head of HR for the first time in Aidoc’s history.
A few common questions I’ve been getting around this topic are:
- Why only now? How did you manage so far without an HR manager?
- How come you don’t have an HR-interview stage when recruiting to your company?
- How can you have time to do all that? Don’t you have more important things to do with your time as founders?
My unequivocal answer to the last question is no. I honestly think that our most important job as a management team is making sure we have the best people on board, people who have the best fit to the culture we are building, and keeping them happy, motivated, challenged, appreciated, and striving for a common goal and for the good of the company.
I honestly believe that the people who make up the company and its culture are the key factor that will determine a startup’s success. They are the basis of the company’s ability to move fast as one coherent being, to make decisions, and to execute on the strategy that the management team defines. It is often said that culture eats strategy for breakfast, and I wholeheartedly agree.
I understand that other founders might care about these topics as much, and make sure this topic is taken care of by hiring a Head of HR in an earlier stage. While I appreciate that approach, for us it was (and still is) important to be personally involved and active in shaping the company’s culture.
When Aidoc was still in the early stages of growth, as founders we were worried about distancing ourselves from “the field” and from the details of people’s feelings, behaviors, norms, and values. It was important for us to be directly involved in shaping the culture of the core team that is today leading our company. When I say culture, what I mean is the set of values, behaviors, habits and norms that create alignment in a group – the things that define how we do what we do, how we make decisions, and what allows people to know what to expect from each other without having to put it in words again and again. In this post you can find a brief overview of Aidoc’s cultural values.
Because “shaping the team’s culture” can be understood in many ways, I’d like to give a few examples and be very explicit about what we did actively during the past few years. From our perspective, “people-operations” activities that are key to shaping an organization’s culture are hiring, employee career development, company feedback, and management training.
Culture-Shaping Fields and Activities
When we had ten employees, we felt we were on the right path to success because we brought in the best of the best. Hiring the finest employees is the foundation of building a culture that champions excellence. Today, we have 130 employees in many teams and departments. We’re proud to say that most of these employees are at least as good as the original ten and we’re continuing to raise the bar. Identifying, attracting, engaging, hiring, onboarding, and retaining a single superstar is hard. Doing it repetitively and consistently for 130 employees is almost unheard of, and we feel that we’re just getting started.
One of the most important factors in bringing a new person into the company is cultural fit – whether the person will think, act, and make decisions in a way that aligns with the company’s culture. Our goal is that with every new person joining the team, the culture will only grow stronger and for there to be a high level of synchronization between the newcomer and the team. In addition, the cost of a mistake (hiring a wrong person) is very high for a small startup – working in reduced capacity, and paying the opportunity cost when working with a non-fitting person can be devastating for delivering the product on time or providing the best customer experience. Making this decision about a candidate can be very tough – people are complicated beings and information about candidates is limited. As founders in a startup – it is important for us to have the maximum understanding about candidates before we make the decision to hire them. This means being personally involved in several interviews and meetings with the candidate, and seeing them in different situations to maximize the information we get about them. This is why, so far in Aidoc there is no such thing as a Professional vs. HR interview – every interview is an opportunity to learn about a person’s cultural fit to the company.
Another aspect of this principle in hiring is that it has been important to us from Day One to create a “recruiting organization” – it is everyone’s responsibility that we recruit the best people to Aidoc. The entire organization has to be mindful of the importance of onboarding the best possible candidates, and that the people who we accept to the company are what enables our day-to-day and long-term success. Currently, around 80% of our engineers have been introduced to us by our employees or recommended by our networks.
Promoting and developing employees’ careers
Promoting and developing employees’ careers are first and foremost the responsibilities of team leaders. These discussions involve both professional and personal/cultural aspects, and as people who work the closest with each team member, the team leaders are usually in the best position to recommend a team member’s next step in the company or their career. Team leaders often need support in these discussions from a manager who knows a bit more about the opportunities for the team member’s next steps. This is an area of people operations that we take very seriously and are honestly quite reluctant to let go. It is both necessary and rewarding to help our employees grow and gain the skills necessary to succeed professionally, and learn to know them deeply during this process.
Feedback from employees
We want to hear directly from our employees about how they feel about being a part of Aidoc. What can the company do to make their days more effective and how we can help them bring the best out of themselves? At the moment, we get this feedback in both an ongoing manner from our employees through the team leaders and periodically through surveys. It’s important to us not only to know what the employees feel, but also to derive this feedback into an actionable plan that will enable us to change for the better. We encourage a culture of continuous learning and improvement, and facilitating an environment that encourages honest feedback and the comfort to voice your mind is essential for this.
The backbone of decision making and coherence between different parts of the company are the team leaders, who form the “core” of Aidoc’s culture. Since we think it’s essential to align all team leaders on values, norms and approaches to our work, we enjoy and value being involved in management training sessions. For example, we’ve frequently hosted leadership seminars for managers. In these seminars, we present a management topic to the team leaders and provide a platform for discussion about professional questions, difficult situations with employees, and general advice. Some of the topics we’ve covered are giving and receiving feedback, taking care of your employees, promoting your employees, and more.
As you can probably tell by now, it has been important for us to personally make sure the culture and quality in Aidoc are exactly the way we envision them before we distance ourselves from them. It took us time to shift to the perception that the company’s people-operations will be better handled by a dedicated person. I still think it was the best choice for us until now, but it is time to move forward and fill this role.
We have clear expectations for this role. First and foremost, we expect this person to understand our mindset on the importance of company culture and work together with us – the management team – to promote the values, culture, and processes that are important for us. We expect them to facilitate processes to help Aidoc and its employees grow personally, socially and professionally.
It is extra important for me that as a person leading cultural aspects in the company, our Head of HR will be highly aligned with us on the company’s values, and will have the ability to put these values into action by making sure every process in the company (hiring, onboarding, personal management, etc.) continues being a full reflection of them.
As the company continues to grow at an incredible pace, we are excited to add more and more people to our family and make a good dent in the world.