How Facebook Built a Billion-User Culture

Sheryl Sandberg shares what made Facebook the number 1 place to work in Glassdoor's annual survey.

"Leadership is about making others better as a result of your presence. Great leaders make sure that impact lasts in their absence."

Sheryl Sandberg, Ex-COO of Facebook & Chairperson of Lean In

Welcome to the Elite Team Talks newsletter, where we reveal the strategies and blueprints of the world's most successful teams 🏆

In this edition of Elite Team Talks:

  • One quick win: Adobe’s revolutionary approach to performance

  • One proven system: onboard your new hires like England Football

  • One to watch: the hidden sacrifices of inspirational leaders

  • One for you: your secret weapon for enhanced productivity

  • One million dollar question: building deeper bonds with your team

  • Ones we recommend: decoding the core pillars of Facebook’s culture

1. THE DEATH OF THE ANNUAL PERFORMANCE REVIEW

The annual performance review is a tradition that is ripe for transformation.

They often:

  1. Increase employee anxiety

  2. Take up a lot of time

  3. Reduce regular feedback

According to Gallup, employees are 3.6 times more likely to do outstanding work when their manager provides daily (vs. annual) feedback.

The NeuroLeadership Institute found that companies embracing regular feedback saw a 12% increase in employee performance.

So Adobe canned them altogether.

They saw a 30% decrease in the number of employees leaving and saved over 80,000 hours of employee time 👀

Elite teams use frequent and less formal "check-ins" which do three things:

  1. Allows the manager to deliver clear expectations

  2. Each person receives regular positive and constructive feedback

  3. Underperformers can no longer hide until the next review

Brad Frost is one of the most successful hockey coaches of all time, with four NCAA national championships under his belt.

He’s got the magic touch.

In this clip, you can see why 👇

How might frequent, constructive feedback "check-ins" transform your performance management approach?

2. ONBOARD LIKE THE EURO WINNING ENGLAND LIONESSES TEAM

Strong cultures don’t see onboarding as a tick-box exercise. They see it as a tool to build safety and belonging.

NYT best-selling author on culture, Daniel Coyle created the PALS framework to show how it can be done well:

1. Personalised welcome

On day one at Pixar, you are brought into the auditorium where leaders say, “Whatever you did before, you are now a moviemaker. We need your help to make our movies better.”

What could you or your team do?

  • Add the most useful items into an onboarding box that is repeatable for every new hire. This will help them get up to speed as quickly as possible with an additional sense of belonging.

2. Artefact

This is a token of appreciation that makes people feel like the start of something special.

Since 1972, every Lioness has received their own legacy cap to recognise their unique place in the team’s history.

“Connecting the current generation of players to the history of the women’s game is really important for us all. It is part of our identity as a Lionesses family.” - Kay Cossington (FA women’s technical director)

What could you or your team do?

  • Think about what artefacts reflect your identity and origin story. For instance, at Airbnb, new hires get a £2,000 travel coupon yearly. Meanwhile, Zappos gifts a "culture book" filled with employee insights.

3. Lunch with the team

This can work even better as a breakfast so the new person in the team gets to know their teammates outside of the work environment. Walking into the office with your new team also significantly reduces the anxiety on your first day.

What could you or your team do?

  • Encourage new team members to share their life stories with the team. At Alex’s time at Wiser, this practice extends company-wide, with employees presenting a 10-page slide deck of significant life moments and people during the monthly standup, fostering connection and understanding of the new hire.

4. Solo meeting with the manager

A Microsoft study found that hires who had early meetings with their managers built stronger relationships and felt a greater sense of belonging, leading to higher long-term retention rates.

What could you or your team do?

  • Schedule time to prepare a vibrant welcome guide with a clear four-week roadmap for your new hire. For an extra touch, pair them with a buddy who shares their interests or role.

Other options that we would add to the PALS onboarding framework:

  1. Onboard digitally with an interactive, gamified platform

  2. Give a tour virtually or in person of the building or facility

  3. Create a trust agreement that is regularly updated

Onboarding starts as soon as their contract is signed, not their first day.

The stage between someone accepting an offer and their start date is called preboarding.

Use belonging cues in this period to build excitement, help them feel welcome, and begin the steady stream of information they will need to get up to speed quickly.

3. FUTURE NFL PROSPECT & TEAM CAPTAIN SHOWS WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A LEADER

Before you watch this, ask yourself this question:

What are you willing to sacrifice for your team?

This is a tearjerker so get the tissues ready 🥹

@athleteam

This player gave up his scholarship for his teammate🥺🙌 #football #sports #emotional #wholesome #scholarship

Captain Brian Dooley, a senior who has started 45 games during his career with the program, gave up his own scholarship to fellow offensive lineman Zack Conti.

When team members feel supported and see that others are willing to sacrifice for their well-being, it increases their loyalty, trust and commitment to the team.

"Seeing him walk away from something that he loves did not sit well with me. He works hard and gets extra work with me all the time. In my eyes he earned it 100%, giving up my scholarship so he can stay and play means everything. I'm proud of what he has become and cannot wait to see what he does on the field."

4. THE GREATEST PERFORMANCE ENHANCER KNOWN TO HUMANS

Sleep 7-9 hours. Consistently.

I know what you might be thinking - I get 5-6 hours and I’m doing just fine.

But research shows people who routinely sleep 6 hours a night display cognitive impairment equivalent to being awake for 2 days straight.

The most alarming part? They perceived they were doing just fine.

So why is this? Why do we perceive we're 'fine' with a bit less.

A human phenomenon known as 're-norming' means it's almost impossible to remember how we felt and performed when we consistently slept for 7-9 hours a night.

Throw in the fact that for some of us it may have been years, or even decades, since we consistently slept 7-9 hours a night, and you have 'renorming' in abundance.

What if you're one of the 13% who sleep less than 6 hours a night?

Whilst there may be a very small minority who can get by on less than 7 hours of sleep due to a 'short sleep gene', this equals 0% of the population when rounded to the nearest whole figure.

As a result, those who consistently sleep for less than 6 hours a night have a 12% higher likelihood of an early death.

So how can you achieve 7-9 hours consistently? The following will help.

 

If you have any sleep-related questions then feel free to submit them this email and we'll get back to you with an evidence-based response.

Here is one of the best sleep experts in the world (Matthew Walker) dropping knowledge bombs left, right and centre 👇

5. A QUESTION TO BUILD TRUST WITH YOUR TEAM

Who is one person on your team that you want to spend more time with this month?

Even though we spend the majority of time at work, sometimes we can overlook those in our team that mean the most to us.

Here are a couple of activities that you can do to connect with the person you chose:

  1. Enroll in a class together to master a new skill they want to learn

  2. Choose a cause or a community service project that resonates with them

  3. Organise a mystery lunch/dinner outside of the office with fun questions/topics - "My First Job" or "A Travel Adventure I'll Never Forget."

Interacting in different settings can stimulate new ideas and perspectives.

6. ONES WE RECOMMEND

  • Sheryl Sandberg shares Facebook’s secret to creating a workplace people love (LINK)

  • 5 ways to make sure extroverts don’t dominate brainstorms (LINK)

  • How to be a visionary leader and still have a personal life (LINK)

See you next week for some exciting announcements…