Learn how Tojo Eapen, Managing Director of Armorblox India has grown a team by 140% while creating a culture where authenticity and psychological safety are at the heart of day-to-day interactions.
After completing a year with Armorblox India, I wanted to share my key reflections and experiences from developing a team in the startup world. During a chaotic year for startup hiring and retention in India, we were very happy to experience 140% growth with 8% attrition. Building a highly engaged and close-knit India team has been a rewarding experience personally. We put culture, authenticity, and psychological safety at the heart of our day-to-day interactions and continue to apply some of the valuable leadership concepts and knowledge gained over the years.
At Armorblox India, we’ve primarily focused on building an environment where team members feel fully comfortable bringing their own unique, authentic personalities and perspectives. As a leader, I’ve reminded myself constantly to be aware, be humble, keep an open mind, listen to varying perspectives, check for inputs from all team members, and respond to feedback actively.
Our global company culture incorporates high customer focus in priorities. Across the board, our team members strive to follow and live our core values of Accountability, Trust, Candor, and Grit on a daily basis.
- Talent Acquisition & Onboarding: We focused on attracting, engaging with, hiring, and onboarding the right talent, and enabling an environment where our team members can thrive. This led to higher engagement overall and successful candidate conversions.
- Engagement & Communication: Regular connects every week provide a safe space for members to share professional and personal highlights in a relaxed setting. Our co-founders make it a priority to actively connect, share business updates with team members and respond to any questions every week.
- Growth Mindset: We are learning and adopting the growth mindset while working through challenges and mistakes. We constantly discuss improving our internal processes, our partnerships and keep learning.
The SCARF Model
One of the core frameworks I’ve tried to constantly apply in our day-to-day work is my interpretation of the neuroscience-based SCARF model
- Status (every team member feels fully involved, respected, and included)
- Certainty (actively communicating, clarifying, listening, and engaging)
- Autonomy (reinforcing the belief that there is complete ownership of deliverables and autonomy)
- Relatedness (developing a high degree of comfort, understanding, and connectedness with each other)
- Fairness (reinforcing/strengthening the belief through role modeling, decisions, and communications that our approaches and decisions involve fairness)
Building on neuroscience research findings, we’ve also focused on a low threat, high rewards environment. All this has enabled us to build a highly engaged and collaborative team, where members fully support and care for each other.
These efforts were ratified by our Great Place to Work Trust Index employee survey results (February 2022), where we had 100% participation from our team.
Considering the virtual work environment, our ratings resulted in an incredible trust index score of 99.
Sub scores included:
- Credibility of management -- 100
- Respect for people -- 98
- Fairness at the workplace -- 100
- Pride -- 97
- Camaraderie between people -- 99
According to Great Place to Work, the six elements of a great company culture are Community (employees express a sense of winning together when times are good-and sticking together when times are tough), Fairness (employees feel like everyone is getting a fair opportunity), Trustworthy management, Innovation (managers create a safe environment to express ideas and make suggestions), Trust, and Caring. This was proof of the impact of leadership's focus on culture and seemed to align very well with our overall approach.
An emerging view of culture indicates that the culture inside an organization creates value for stakeholders outside. A recent McKinsey article about hybrid work stated that an inclusive culture is an increasingly competitive advantage for organizations in attracting and retaining top talent. They found that there is a 47% increased likelihood of employees staying, a 90% increased likelihood of going out of their way to help a colleague, and 7x increased likelihood of saying their organization is high performing if they work in an inclusive organization. This element becomes the hardest to develop and replicate organizationally and makes this an enriching journey to cherish for all team members.
As we plan our future growth, we continue to focus on ensuring that all our team members fundamentally trust our psychologically safe environment, feel pride in their work and the organization’s mission, and believe that they are constantly thriving at work.
On the personal side, my learnings and experiences about startup environments, leadership, mode of operations, talent landscape, overall excitement, speed, and energy seemed to make the past year go by very quickly. As a team, we are looking forward to more exciting and rewarding times ahead.