How to Create a Technology-Driven Culture
By Salvatore Randazzo, VP of Engineering at Forum Brands
Companies across all industries use technology to accelerate and optimize their service offerings. You don’t have to be a technology company to have technology at the core of your business model. Consumers can easily see and feel the benefits of technology in a company’s business model through their user experience. A product may be particularly beautiful, adaptive, or easy to use. The real question is, how does a company make its employees feel that technology is at the center of everything? How do you create a technology-driven corporate culture internally? The question becomes even more challenging when you are not a “tech” company. We can draw parallels to others who have overcome this seamlessly. Apple, for example, is not a design company (in the purest terms), but design is one of the core elements of their success.
At Forum Brands, this is our challenge. We are not a SaaS company or an internet service provider or even a marketplace, but technology is at the core of our strategy, and should be reflected in our culture.
A corporate culture, however, does not emerge out of thin air, and it should not be created in a reactive state. It must be cultivated from the beginning, and reinforced through communication, systems, processes, and habits. It is critical that leadership sets the intentions for its corporate culture early, and then builds it through daily practices and constant attention.
We knew early on that data science and automation were going to be the most critically important keys to our success in the direct-to-consumer (DTC) industry. From sourcing our acquisitions to operating our portfolio of brands, technology plays a significant role in our day-to-day operations.
But how can a company built for performance ensure everyone considers technology the foundation of their team's success? We’ve condensed our approach into three key steps that companies can take to create a technology-driven culture. Some of these steps may surprise you, as they don’t actually involve building technology at all. Rather, they focus on building the right team and good habits to reinforce the culture you want to achieve.
Start at Day 0
The quality of your company starts and ends with your team. Building a culture of technology starts even before the first person is hired, by proactively and carefully establishing the qualities of people you want on your team, and the values you want them to uphold.
At Forum, we make sure we hire entrepreneurial thinkers who are adaptive, observant, and inquisitive. All employees need to have an ‘ownership’ mentality; there is no such thing as “it’s not my job.” We hold ourselves and our teams accountable to execute on our promises. Hiring an entrepreneurial, experienced team from the beginning will pay dividends down the road. These early employees will serve as the foundation for a company’s culture -- acting as culture creators themselves -- by upholding the core values and hiring others who will also live the company principles.
Set Clear Principles and Guidelines
Make the Engineering team one of the largest in the company.
By doing so, you are not only sending a signal about the importance of this department, but you are also allocating a large portion of the company's resources towards this team, which will drive its success. Technology underpins Forum, so it’s essential to invest in the Engineering team.
Clearly communicate the value of the technology that you are building.
Translate complex systems into terms that are easy for cross-functional stakeholders to understand. Our Engineering team's mission is to build complex systems that will simplify processes and solve problems for the entire company.
Promote a culture of learning.
Make sure the team has time to participate in 'extracurriculars' to learn about the latest market trends. Embracing learning will encourage the team to understand the newest trends in technology and keep your company ahead of the competition.
Allow for a certain degree of failure.
It is also important to remain agile and allow for failure. Make sure your employees understand that 'failing' is not always negative. Creating space for certain levels of failure means we are continuously marching towards improvement by iterating on and advancing the company's current state of technology.
Incorporate it into Day-to-Day Life, and Make It Simple!
Promote technology in everyday life. This can be accomplished by taking small steps every day such as:
Weekly lunch and learns.
By setting time aside to hold weekly seminars on the latest topics and technological trends, your company actively invests in its employees to develop a knowledgeable team. According to LinkedIn’s 2021 Workplace Learning Report, 94% of employees would stay with a company longer if there was an investment in learning.
Ensure data analysis serves as the backbone for company decision-making.
This allows technology to permeate the decision-making process across every single department. It is crucial to encourage bottom-up decision-making from those closest to data and information. In the absence of data, the scientific method should be used to validate ideas and test hypotheses.
The technology at Forum is one of the factors that sets us apart from our competitors. Technology allows us to grow our brands, hire our team, and make our acquisition process efficient and smooth. Creating a tech-driven culture is a daily, intentional practice for us. By following these tips, we hope your company can develop a culture that embraces technological ingenuity and becomes a forward-thinking leader within your industry.