What do you as an individual value? What does your business or organization value? How are these reflected in the way you work and your daily life? Hopefully, when you consider these questions you can see clear alignment between what you say and what you do. If not, then perhaps there's some room for improvement.
Organizations may share a purpose or even share values, but how those organizations align their work and lives with their beliefs and values is unique to each company. I recently talked to leaders in several organizations that have experienced a transformation around purpose and values to learn how they are living their values in life and work.
Living Collaboratively, While Working Remotely
Jon Brinton, EVP of business communication provider Mitel's Cloud division, says collaboration is a value that is transforming how and where individuals work, thanks to technology. "The traditional office was designed under the assumption that everyone works in the office from nine to five. It's based on the idea that collaboration is dependent on physical proximity," says Brinton. "That fatal design flaw is finally catching up to enterprises, especially as millennials flood the workplace."
Traditional ideas about workplace collaboration are coming into conflict with an increased desire for flexible work arrangements and the proliferation of mobile devices that make these arrangements possible. "Today's workplace needs to be 'natively digital' with processes built around the digital enterprise and less friction around the idea of being remote," says Brinton. "They need to embrace the virtual and empower teams rather than simply empowering hierarchy. Companies need to adapt and provide the tools to keep employees engaged with work even as they disengage from offices."
Looking at collaboration in new ways doesn't just benefit employees, it benefits organizations as well. Julie Wood, chief people officer at national accounting/consulting firm Crowe Horwath LLP says that her firm is experiencing this shift and the benefits it brings first hand. Crowe Horwath was one of the first top ten accounting firms to implement a mobile work and across-the-board casual dress policy, summed up in the ideas "work wherever, wear whatever."
Says Wood, "We've seen a two-point increase in our engagement index and our retention levels are also up since rolling out the new policies. Employees indicated they feel their decisions to dress casually and work remotely don't come at the expense of their career trajectory. The policies also give us more flexibility in hiring - we're no longer tied to hiring geographically."
Living Results, Not Activities
Many companies claim to be results oriented, but too often, this means completing a checklist of activities rather than increasing the value of the activities they're doing. Steve Auerbach, CEO of consumer driven healthcare solutions provider Alegeus, says, "Our goal was to increase the value we deliver to our customers. To do that, we had to change the way our employees think and the way the company thinks about our employees."
For Alegeus, increasing customer value started with valuing its employees. Says Auerbach, "we started a mentorship program that has resulted in faster internal promotions and a boost to employee morale. As a company that cares about health, we're also looking at better work-life balance, healthier food and fitness options in the office, and to focus more on collaboration - both work and health-related - across all of our offices."
Says Auerbach, "We're trying to instill the idea of "being a student of the sport": understanding our customers and competitors more intimately. We want our people to go out and learn from the marketplace; to observe what is happening."
Put Values in Action With Culture Hacking
Mike McDerment, CEO of FreshBooks, has a unique perspective on how to live culture daily. Says McDerment, "Sometimes you have to perform an act, and sometimes you have to hack - hack your culture to instill a new habit."
According to McDerment, this means looking at the behaviors you want to enforce and taking action or incentivizing accordingly. "We value understanding the customer so we have our people spend their first month in our customer service department to gain an understanding of what makes our customers tick. We value empathy, or being caring and supporting the team - which gets harder as you exceed a group of about 150 people - so we do things like the "blind date" with new employees to get to know people around the company. And we do a 'heads-up hello' where we learn each other's' names and make eye contact when we say hello. These actions and hacks - habits if you want to call them that - help us live out the things we say we value."
Living the Culture Code
Second to defining purpose, or "what are we here for," defining the values that guide your company is one of the biggest challenges your business faces. The bigger and more complex your organization is, the harder it is to nail down a set of values that should guide individuals within it. According to Jennifer Saavedra, Senior VP of HR at Dell, defining the values that will guide your culture is key to defining human potential within the organization.
Says Saavedra, "We looked at 23 values and our team members and leadership defined five that are most important to success - Customer, Results, Integrity, Innovation and Collaboration - that we feel really differentiate Dell. From these, we created a set of behaviors - some do's and don'ts - that help us live those values.
Then we took it a step further. Every team member knows what they are. They are accountable for not just the results and impact they deliver but also for how they do their work. In this way, we are able to begin to crack the culture code by having every single person share the same performance expectations across the organization."
Remember Who You First Wanted to Be
If you want to live your values, you can't lose sight of who you are and why you went into business in the first place. Yet, putting culture first is a challenge when it is perceived to come at the expense of growth. RichFitchen, GM of North America at Business Process Management Software provider, Bizagi, says, "when companies grow quickly, they sometimes get pulled in too many directions and chase the wind. They forget how to say no to opportunities that aren't a fit, and they lose sight of what was important to them -their core values- when they first got started."
Fitchen believes the drive for scale at any cost can be the enemy of culture and values. It takes real effort to keep culture and values at the forefront when there's money on the line. According to Fitchen, "When you forget who you wanted to be, you burn through resources. You're left with a fragmented business and employees who are over-stretched and burnt-out from chasing the wind. The key to avoiding this is to know who you are, and who you are not."
Infusing Startup Mentality
Keith Eadie, Co-Founder of TubeMogul, an advertising software company recently acquired by Adobe, says that the company has worked hard to continue living the startup values that made it successful even after being merged with a larger company. Says Eadie, "Our company values sprang from the behaviors that our leaders actually lived as they started the business: move fast, make mistakes; do a lot with a little; get things done."
As the company merged with a much larger company, one thing they focused on was maintaining the ambition of startup culture, along with an enjoyable workplace. Fortunately, these were values that Adobe shared. "Adobe told us, 'we want a rapidly iterating, agile organization, so don't change your pace. Bring that velocity to us," says Eadie. As a result, Tubemogul has been able to maintain many of its startup values, including fast decision making. "For us, it's better to move fast and make the wrong decisions than to debate a decision for a long time. We're attacking problems and finding solutions more quickly."
These leaders may each do things a bit differently, but they agree on one thing: your values shouldn't be a static statement sitting on a page. They must be brought to life in the way people and organizations do business, make decisions and live their lives. By aligning organizational and individual values, people are happier and more engaged in their daily work and life and businesses benefit. Says Dell's Saavedra, "People want to succeed. By clearly defining expectations for how we work and lead we help everyone be more successful."