Now you have read our Part 1 blog on “Why your Company Values really matter” Now it’s time to look at the many important facets of defining your Company Values.
Just to recap, in regards to having a positive culture, there are some key points that we go by:
– Get clear about your purpose and make sure your employees are plugged into this
– Define your mission, vision values, these should set the boundaries of behaviour
– Communicate! Communicate! Communicate!
– Have fun
Get clear about your purpose and make sure your employees are plugged into this
We all know that companies that have a higher purpose (other than just to make money) seem to be more successful, and there is a simple reason for this. Think about it, your company purpose or mission is what your employee’s get excited about, and if your mission is not exciting and does not have a higher purpose then you could be in trouble! Sound corny well it’s not. Think about it, people want to feel that they work within an organisation that is making a difference, that is working for the forces of good not evil. They want to feel that their work has meaning and is actually having an impact in the world. Once you define your mission this should guide everything you do. Often your mission is also your unique competitive advantage. So many businesses miss out on this key point and have boring uninspiring mission statements that put employee’s and customers to sleep. Once you define your mission or purpose you then need to make sure your employee’s are plugged into to this and more importantly that this aligns with their own personal values and beliefs. This is where you values or boundaries of behaviour come in. This process of defining your mission is vital to you unlocking your business values, so normally once you define your purpose your mission, vision and values should come easily.
Define your mission, vision values, these should set the boundaries of behaviour
As you now know the importance of defining your mission, vision and values its now time to take action and go through this process for your organisation. We challenge you to check in with your company mission, vision and values and ask yourself: Are they inspiring, am I personally excited when I read them? Do they really define the essence of who we are? Because if they don’t it might be time for a re-jig. Your business goals, mission statement and values combined with policies will help you clearly define the foundations for what is and isn’t acceptable in your workplace.
You may think this is overkill but believe us when we say this is vital to your success. Your people and the way they act define how your customers perceive you. If they don’t like it, they’ll simply go elsewhere. Setting the boundaries first and foremost will, in the long run, help you attract the business you want, and be the business that you want to be.
The first step is your business goals, mission, and values. Hopefully, you developed these when you started your business (before you even had employees), because this is how you create your strategy. All of these set the tone for what kind of business you are, where you are going, and how you and your people operate (and relate to customers and each other).
This isn’t fluff. Your customers’ money is serious stuff – especially if they take it to your competitor! Having the right culture for your business will make a difference.
Think about this high profile example: Virgin Australia.
When you think of Virgin Australia as an employer (or even simply as a consumer brand), what do you think? Fun? Professional? Innovative? Passionate? Even ‘revolutionary’ when they first started up? Why do we think these things about this brand? Perhaps because that is the way they behave: on flights when we are passengers, in their public relations, communications, and advertisements. (Plus, everyone knows Richard Branson, and these behaviours are a strong reflection of his personality). This is what we mean by culture.
So, let’s break it down, look at their mission and values, and see how they align to our experience and views of this business:
‘We believe that there is a market for an airline that provides service and value, one that carries both business and leisure guests.
That’s where Virgin Australia comes in. We have embarked on a mission to redefine the airline industry in this country.
It isn’t something that can be done by a single person in a single day. It will take the talent and determination of us as Virgin Australia team members to make it happen. It is our people who will put the magic back into flying, guided by our values, which define us as team members of this new airline and apply across every aspect of the business.’
Pretty powerful stuff, isn’t it? As you can see, it shows the world what they want to do, and how they want to do it. Words like ‘service’, ‘value’, ‘talent’, ‘determination’, ‘magic’ are all strong words that really show the ‘how’ of their operations. Next, let’s look at their core values:
• Resourcefulness -The ability to adapt and respond to circumstances
• Innovation – Lead the pack, not follow it
• Caring – A duty of care for guests, yourself, your colleagues, the environment, and the community
• Enthusiasm – Loving what we do
• Excellence – Always looking to provide the best quality experience
• Individuality – Respect for the individual
• Integrity – Acting with honesty, openness and doing what we say we’ll do
These values tell us a lot about what it is like to work for Virgin Australia – how they behave, how they treat each other and their customers, and the boundaries set for all employees. Do you think it aligns to your perceptions of the Virgin business?
It should, because Virgin Australia is a great example of a successful culture, defined by a mission and strong values. People want to work for Virgin Australia – they barely have to advertise (remember in Recruitment we were talking about attracting stars and your brand?).
Take another example – Google. They are commonly voted as the most desirable place to work in Australia (and across the world). And do you know why? Because they get that their culture is VITAL to a productive and successful workplace, particularly in their industry. If you aren’t on your A-game for 1 minute, you can lose valuable time and ground. It could mean the difference between being first, and being last. Google know that they need the best people, so they create the most desirable workplace to attract them – their culture is renowned, and the best of the best are constantly attracted to them as an employer (and stay put, too).
So, how do they create that culture? Through their philosophy (mission) and values (or guiding principles, as they refer to them). Check these out – how does it fit with a) your perceptions of Google and b) their success in their industry?
‘Ten things we know to be true’
“The perfect search engine,” says co-founder Larry Page, “would understand exactly what you mean and give back exactly what you want.”
When Google began, you would have been pleasantly surprised to enter a search query and immediately find the right answer. Google became successful precisely because we were better and faster at finding the right answer than other search engines at the time.
But technology has come a long way since then, and the face of the web has changed. Recognizing that search is a problem that will never be solved, we continue to push the limits of existing technology to provide a fast, accurate and easy-to-use service that anyone seeking information can access, whether they’re at a desk in Boston or on a phone in Bangkok. We’ve also taken the lessons we’ve learned from search to tackle even more challenges.
As we keep looking towards the future, these core principles guide our actions.
• Focus on the user and all else will follow.
• It’s best to do one thing really, really well.
• Fast is better than slow.
• Democracy on the web works.
• You don’t need to be at your desk to need an answer.
• You can make money without doing evil.
• There’s always more information out there.
• The need for information crosses all borders.
• You can be serious without a suit.
• Great just isn’t good enough.
We can almost hear you saying, ‘But they are huge businesses! They can afford to do all of this stuff!’ That is true… now. But it wasn’t always this way. They had to start somewhere and these philosophies, cultures, values and the commitment to them is what got them where they are! Also, you should remember that writing a vision, a mission, and having strong core values is FREE! (Yes, we like that word, too.)
It’s not enough to have great goals, visions, and values, if you don’t actually DO what you set out to do. You have to DO. And the way this can happen is through great policies.
Before you start saying ‘I don’t want policies – I don’t want to be tied to them! They make life too strict!’? think about this: how would people know what is acceptable and what isn’t? Core values alone are a great way to create a direction, but policies define specific boundaries. If you don’t have boundaries, people can become out of control.
The next thing we would say to you on this is – if you think ‘policies’ means too many restrictions on your business, you have had the wrong people writing them. We believe in flexible policies that provide guidelines to what is acceptable, but we don’t believe in the ‘policy police’ carrying big sticks. There are ways and means of being flexible, and as a successful business owner you would know about that within your industry. Success comes from being able to roll with the punches – and being fast and flexible.
The final thing we would say to is remember the Legal Stuff chapter? There are some things that you just can’t ignore: sexual harassment, discrimination, victimisation, bullying, health and safety – you simply must have policies around these, or you are creating a huge risk for your business. You could be breaking the law if you don’t tell your people some of the things they can and can’t do, when it comes to these matters.
Once you have established clear, flexible, appropriate policies for your business, get out there and show them how it’s done. Leading by example is the best way to show your people that you mean business (pun intended), and you should be making sure that your managers and informal leaders are doing the same thing. If they are true leaders, they will want to be a part of creating the right culture, but it’s up to YOU to set it. The other vital thing about leading by example is… respect. You can’t demand respect, it can only be earned. Having a firm vision for your organisation and leading a positive culture is a darn fine way to earn it. (Of course, the last element in the respect equation is that you need to be great at your job, or be big enough to find and rely on others who are.)
So, by now you have put two of the three foundation steps in place for creating boundaries and expectations for your culture, and there is one more important item: HOW to make sure people align? Often managers think ‘punish people who don’t align’, and that may be appropriate in some certain circumstances. But, have you ever heard the phrase, ‘you get more flies with honey than with vinegar’? Well, apply that one here: we think that you need to reward people who DO align to the culture and behaviour that you want to set.
Rewards can come in many different forms, and in this instance we don’t mean give them a pay rise. What we mean is recognise their efforts: Give praise when someone does well. Agree with them when they make a decision that is in line with your culture. Put them in positions of leadership – maybe working on a new project, or seconding them to a new role. As you read in our Rewards chapter, if you praise people, they will repeat the positive behaviour.
Again, it sounds simple, we know. And it can be – as long as you are committed – because if you are trying to change the culture of your business, it is not an overnight fix. You need to set the boundaries, get the leaders in your business on board, and stick to the goal – even when it gets tough. People don’t like change, but that’s OK. Those who want to be part of your culture will stay and align, and those who don’t want to be part of your culture will more than likely leave. Although we preached the virtues of retaining your people, sometimes it is not always a bad thing if people leave when they are not on the same path as you. The plus side of this is that you will then be able to get the right people on board who align with your culture (see our Recruitment chapter).
In part three of our blog we will explore the other key topics around the importance of communication and having fun. Stay tuned for more awesome advice on how to turn your people into profits.
This blog in an adapted extract from our book “What is HR” written by Emily Jaksch and Sarah Gibbins.