I find that oftentimes when I’m talking to people about WeWork, they think of it as a real estate company, and I really think of it as a people company. I think of the recipe for creating a close-knit, high level community in three chunks.
First, it is about the space and how we design around shared spaces. There are very easy ways to design your layouts that kill the idea of community, and then there are lots of subtle things that we do that foster, nurture and bring that out. So it’s about space first.
Next, it’s about how we staff and activate the space. It’s a profile of who we hire, how we train them, what we charge them with, and how we measure their performance. Those are all tied to community and not just to standard building operations kinds of things. We treat the space like a platform for our members and that’s the vocabulary that we use. So members themselves then host lots of events and it just creates opportunities for people to share their knowledge and their networks and that’s where community happens.
And then the third layer is this digital layer that sits on top of that and gives people another easy way to connect, again within a building or even across countries and around the world. We’re talking about tangible business value that derives from being part of a community. This is very different from the way anyone has thought about commercial real estate before, and that tangible business value is: I source vendors faster. I find partners faster. I’m able to sell and create business development partnerships faster. One of the biggest ones—and in today’s knowledge economy, this is probably the most important—I hire faster and I retain my employees longer.
How Do You Hire the Right People?
In a previous life I was a filmmaker and I think that this hiring process here at WeWork is a little bit like casting in a film—not from an appearance point of view but rather in finding the people with the right qualities. certain actor can play a certain range and not really beyond that. We have a very specific notion of who we’re hiring for in community in WeWork. It’s about energy and it’s about a hospitality mind-set. It’s certainly about work ethic, drive, and eagerness to learn, which is a big one and something that I focus a lot on in my interviews. How much does this person have a learning mind-set?
There’s a woman out at Stanford University named Carol Dweck whose work is all about mind-set. I think hers is an amazing book and an amazing body of work to dig into if you are responsible for hiring. At a high level, it’s this idea that people have one of two types of mind-sets: either a fixed mind-set or a flexible mind-set. Fixed mind-set people basically see themselves as a function of their attributes, so they may say, “I’m smart,” or “I’m tall,” or “I’m handsome,” or something like that.
The flexible mind-set person sees himself or herself as a function of behavior. So that person says, “I take risks.” “I work really hard.” “I consider my choices.” Whatever it is. Obviously, it’s much more powerful to have a flexible mind-set because you’re not attached to something that’s ego-based. You’re really on this journey of learning and discovery and challenging yourself, and that’s who we want to hire.
What Have You Learned?
I think one of the simplest things is we’re in the interview and I ask you, “What have you learned in this job that you’re in now? What have you learned this week? Oh, that’s an interesting thing that you have on your resume. What did you learn there?” And if people fumble to tell me what they learned, that’s kind of telling. There is a subset of people who, when you ask them, “What did you learn when you did this internship in, say, Northern England?” they come right away and say, “I learned something about cultures,” or “I learned something about myself,” or they may take it to more specific level: “I was really focused on content marketing or learning Java Script or some skill.” They don’t hesitate so much in terms of what they learned. And then there’s another set of people who maybe say, “Hmm, I have to think about that.” And to me if you’re not already thinking about what you’re learning, then it’s a bit more of a long shot that you’re a fit for this team.