BLOG | Building a Meritocracy at Onfido

Let’s start with a question.

Below is a list of seven job titles (mine included). What do they all have in common?

  • HR Advisor 
  • Product Partnerships Manager
  • Product Analyst 
  • Software Engineer
  • Finance Assistant 
  • Client Support Lead 
  • Associate Product Manager 

If you answered “they’re all part of the team at Onfido”, you’d be right. But that’s not what I was looking for. The answer is they all joined Onfido as Data Processors within the Service Delivery team. 

Despite starting our Onfido careers in the exact same role, the “Service Alumni” have found their way into a variety of roles across the company. And though each has a unique story, all serve as examples of the same thing: a meritocracy. 

So what does it mean to be a meritocracy? 

A meritocracy is any “organization in which people have power because of their abilities, not because of their money or social position”, in other words: everyone has the chance to progress and develop irrespective of background or starting position, based on hard work and merit alone. Every individual on the list (as well as others) started in the same place but was able, through their hard work and drive, to move into a completely new role to allow them to develop and grow further.

How does our meritocracy work?

There are a few key principles that we try to stick to at Onfido.

1. Be transparent and recognize excellence.

What is it?

In a meritocratic culture, it’s crucial to be transparent about how the performance of an individual is assessed. That means identifying someone’s strengths, and reinforcing them with appropriate recognition and support after great work. But it also means providing fair, constructive feedback and helping to improve areas of weakness. Positive and critical feedback are two sides of the same coin, and an imbalance of either can be damaging to both the team and company.

It’s important to set clear boundaries, too. Recognition should always be appropriate in terms of magnitude and frequency. It’s the difference between a simple “well done” for running a meeting well and a public shout out for the completion of a big project. 

How do we do it?

At Onfido, we celebrate with Value Awards. They’re quarterly and company-wide, and involve five parties (there are sometimes joint nominations) being celebrated for going above and beyond in one of the five areas represented by Onfido’s values. Everyone in the company is open to point out excellent work via weekly shout outs, which are then collated and analyzed to decide on the winners. It’s a great way to recognize excellence because (a) it happens frequently enough to keep people engaged, without becoming meaningless and (b) it’s filtered through the senior team to ensure calibration so that the most impactful work is rewarded. 

2. Engage teams

What is it?

A key indicator of a true meritocracy is an engaged team. Team leads with the skill to identify and foster excellence are great, but without an engaged team to deliver, they’ll struggle to see the benefits. It’s sometimes called a “growth mindset” – a culture where people are encouraged to push themselves, try new things, and go the extra mile.

How do we do it? 

Having a growth mindset is a key part of our values. We encourage people to “Find a Better Way” and challenge norms. It applies to everyone; no matter what office, function or role they’re in, we ask every team member to find innovative ways to improve our product and our processes. Then we reward them – our last Hackathon winners won a surfing weekend in Devon.

Another way to foster constant learning is through shadowing. As a company grows, each new hire brings with them unique experiences, both personal and professional. Sharing them can catalyze the development of a whole team. 

3. Empower great leaders

What is it?

Just as a great team lead can’t see results without an engaged team, an engaged team will go nowhere without strong leadership.

Truly great guidance is more than just a weekly touchpoint. It’s someone who’s willing to go the extra mile to support their teams, to see the best in them when others don’t, and believe in the person they might become. When things don’t go well, a great leader should be quick to provide support and help others rise above adversity. It’s only with this support network that people can grow and develop. 

How do we do it?

To grow great leaders, companies need to invest in training – for new team leads and veteran managers alike. All new team leads at Onfido go through a 10 week Leadership Training course, developed and delivered in-house. The sessions range from how to support someone professionally to practical guidance on helping them cope with mental health issues.

I’ve had two team leads at Onfido and I can confidently say that without their support, there’s no way I would have grown as much as I have, both personally and professionally (big up to Rid and Jurkie).

 

If you’d like to chat about the meritocratic culture at Onfido and how to build one at your business, drop me a line at isaac.rahman@onfido.com.

About the Author

Isaac Rahman

Isaac is Associate Product Manager at Onfido.

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