Seventeen years later, we still have that pioneering spirit, but with a team of 400 across the country and a dynamic rhythm to our work.
With a recent rebrand under our belt and new senior leadership in place, it made sense for us to breathe new life into our principles and empower our team to continue doing great work.
In a world where workplace stress leads to an almost 50% increase in voluntary turnover, companies need to work to produce a positive culture so employees feel a sense of purpose.
Here are five key points that seasoned companies, as well as sprightly startups, should consider.
1. Understand the importance of values
Company values are a roadmap of how a team strives to conduct business. Every company has a personality and something it stands for, giving prospective consumers and employees insight as to their ideals.
Our values are ingrained into our interview process, part of our annual reviews, and woven into everything we do.
Zappos, a company that prides itself on being “powered by service,” rotates its ten core values on its homepage; doing so lets consumers know where they stand as a business and adds a level of accountability.
Values also help leaders market their company, guiding messaging and tactics with strategies that pertain directly to their mission.
Last fall, REI made headlines for its decision to forgo Black Friday altogether, urging consumers to #OptOutside instead.
While many brands benefit from hyped up sales, REI decided that participating in Black Friday was brand erosive, as the company motto is “life outdoors is a life well lived.”
By taking a bold stance against the hectic and crowded indoor shopping day, it enhanced REI’s positioning as an outdoor fitness brand.
When people are looking to do business, it’s not just about the product or service value, but how business is conducted.
Ultimately, business is about building great relationships and choosing the right partner based on shared values – the common adage rings true, “People do business with people they like and trust.”
2. Know when to modernize
When it comes to a refresh, companies should consider the impact they hope to make and the proper time for pursuing it – don’t just change for the sake of changing and don’t change values often – that will lead to confusion.
Often, a values revamp makes sense when a company enters a new phase.
We began discussing modernization during our rebranding process back in 2013 and, in the months since, watched as our principles evolved alongside the company.
While your core values shouldn’t make large swings, you may need to reinvigorate them as your business evolves.
3. Know what you stand for
When issuing corporate values, think about not only who you are as a company, but what you aspire to be.
While it’s fine to include these ambitions in company standards, values should be attainable, embracing behaviors that can be embodied every day.
Southwest Airlines, for instance, is known for its fun-loving attitude despite the chore that travel can often be.
Above all, employees need to feel empowered to mobilize around these principles and implement them in daily operations.
— Southwest Airlines (@SouthwestAir) December 28, 2015
4. Create a sense of ownership
To ensure values are carried out at all levels of a company, leaders must actively demonstrate these beliefs – you can’t recite them once and be done.
Leadership teams should frequently evaluate how well employees are invested in these values and find ways to reinforce positive examples.
Publicly celebrate individuals who are ‘culture carriers’ at company meetings, in internal newsletters, on your company blog – whatever channel fits your business.
Quarterly peer-nominated awards are a great way to actively empower employees to recognize these values among their peers.
Send thank you emails to team members and copy their leaders; order buttons, magnets or small trophies to gift workers when they do a good job. As a whole, visible recognition is an effective way to reinforce key behaviors.
5. Live values everywhere
Whether you have one office location or 1,000 retail outlets, genuine culture adoption comes from full leadership buy-in and an intimate knowledge of the principles and how to live them.
However, even when you give leaders the tools to succeed, understand that adoption won’t be instantaneous.
For the best results, keep things simple and find opportunities to lead by example. Keep values in mind when hiring.
Recruiters should seek individuals that personally embrace the same values to ensure a cultural fit.
Starting from square one?
If you don’t have a core set of values written down already, take a hard look at who you are – ask both employees and clients what makes your company special, and begin there.
What gets your team members excited? Why do they like working there?
Finally, keep in mind that cultural values aren’t the same as perks. Shy away from calling out your colorful walls, hip break room and foosball table, and instead focus on the qualities that help you stand out in your field.
Values aren’t tangible things, but a culture can certainly be felt the moment you walk in to a place. The more authentic your values are, the easier they’ll be to instill and the stronger your company will be.
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