In a study made famous in Daniel Coyle’s “The Culture Code,” kindergartners consistently beat business school students at building towers from spaghetti and basic crafting supplies. To Coyle, the study illustrates the power of collaboration that emerges when hierarchies break down.
In Vikki Caruso’s view, Shiftgig’s team would build a pretty good tower. And as VP of human resources, it’s her job to foster that kind of collaborative culture. We spoke with her to learn about how she goes about doing that and about what Shiftgig looks for in new hires.
WHAT THEY DO: Shiftgig’s technology matches hourly workers with open shifts at restaurants, hotels, live events and retail locations.
WHERE THEY DO IT: Chicago
USER PERSPECTIVE: Several current employees have used the platform as specialists, picking up shifts throughout college or in previous careers.
PERFECT MATCH: The startup uses feedback from both employers and specialists to improve its matching algorithms over time.
Vicki Caruso, VP of Human Resources
What makes Shiftgig different from traditional staffing agencies?
Our marketplace gives employers access to workers they couldn’t normally reach. If you're a small-business owner in need of additional help, you typically need to spend a lot of time finding and vetting people. With us, all you need to do is put your openings on the app.
The most important part is hiring the right people, but we also continuously build our culture by doing things together as a group.”
What is the most important thing you’ve done to build a strong company culture?
The most important part is hiring the right people, but we also continuously build our culture by doing things together as a group. Just recently, we’ve volunteered at the Ronald McDonald House and at Cradles to Crayons. Doing things together builds camaraderie both with your team and with people you don’t usually spend time with. It’s important.
How can you tell when someone is a good candidate for Shiftgig?
A lot of it has to do with experience and intellectual curiosity. The people who really take the time to understand the business and who keep asking questions are the ones who end up succeeding. Through the interview process, we also assess whether people can handle change and whether they’ll raise their hands if they see things going wrong.
The [candidates] who really take the time to understand the business and who keep asking questions are the ones who end up succeeding.”
You’re currently consolidating operations in Chicago. What led to that decision?
We used to have offices in multiple markets, which often stood in the way of collaboration. The process of centralizing our operations was neither fun nor easy, but we did learn a lot, and we started having “aha moments” pretty quickly.
You mentioned that collaboration is important to you. What does that look like in practice?
There’s a real willingness to communicate across different teams and functions. At some companies, people don’t want to bother one another, but that’s not the case at Shiftgig. Our engineers are constantly talking with people from across the company to understand how they can make life better for our specialists and our clients.
I’ve been reading this book called “The Culture Code,” which discusses an experiment tasking kindergartners with building a tower using marshmallows, string and spaghetti. They build an amazing tower. When a group of leaders were asked to do that, they started arguing over who’s in charge and whose ideas are better. In the end, the tower doesn’t get built half as high as the kindergartners’ tower. I think we’d actually build a pretty good tower.
There’s a real willingness to communicate across different teams and functions.”
As you’re growing your team, what do you look for in new hires?
We want to make sure that people want to be here for the right reasons. We want them to be passionate about our mission. As long as you’re bringing the right people on board — who are passionate and intellectually curious — it’s easier to ensure that your culture moves in the right direction.