Patrick Lencioni’s best-seller The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business, states that the two requirements for a successful organization are to be smart and healthy. A smart organization must have a sound strategy, good marketing, good financial controls and the right technology in place/ Smart organizations are the ticket of doing business, but being healthy is the game-changer. A healthy organization has minimal politics, minimal confusion, high morale, high productivity and low turnover. An essential component of a healthy organization is the company core values. Every competitive business leader is aware of the importance of having a vision, a mission statement, company values – something the entire company can rally behind. This self-awareness at the organizational level forms the foundation upon which company cultures are built. Unfortunately, too often these foundations are made of sand – empty rhetoric that is too broad to be useful and too vague to be implemented. How do effective business leaders combat this issue? At Fusion OEM, we went back to the drawing board.
In 2012, our executive team realized two things: our Core Values weren’t meaningful and didn’t resonate with our employees. This is a common challenge among forward-thinking companies: too often, core values are just empty words that mean nothing to the people they’re meant to inspire. Usually created from a well-intended place, they miss the mark when it comes to language.
It’s very difficult to nail down a set of core values that define a company and guide every team member’s actions. Many leaders and businesses try to create a list of values to impose upon the company, as opposed to creating a company with these values woven into the fibers of the business. We realized that Core Values were the essential element in shaping our company culture, and needed simpler, impactful statements to reflect who we are and where we’re going. Writing down and trying to adhere to a handful of general virtues felt inauthentic. Instead, our core values revealed themselves to us over time, and provided the foundation for our relaunch.
When revamping our Core Values, it was important to us to center them around action verbs. These verbs helped organize the actions of every team member toward our company’s goals. Instead of just listing a bunch of good qualities, we sought to build the rules of engagement for how employees should interact in our organization. Without them, too much could be left open to interpretation and the result is our team, unsure of performance expectations, would swim against the current and create dissonance. Actions require verbs. Verbs helped add meaning.
We unveiled the new Company Core Values at our Annual State of the Company meeting, an expanded version of our Monthly Meetings, where we provide real time access to the current state of the company, the progress we’ve made toward our goals and the policy updates that take place in our fast growing organization. To support this relaunch, our Core Values are displayed on a banner for all employees to see at Daily Huddle. Additionally, our Daily Huddle begins with Good News, where employees are asked to share good things that have happened within the past 24 hours related to their work or personal lives. The Good News portion of our Daily Huddle enables employees to share their personal and professional victories and tie them back to our Core Values. Fusion ends Daily Huddle with an Inspirational Quote centered around these Core Values.
In order to ensure our selection and screening efforts were in alignment with this relaunch, Core Values were woven into our application process. This is how we avoided a common pitfall – too often, companies try to hire folks who have the skills they need and then try to instill the values in them once they are onboard. Rather than that, we hire people who, themselves, embody the values. They are discussed on the application itself, mentioned in interviews, and also part of our candidate evaluation process. Onboarding new employees continues to reinforce those values. In orientation, examples of living out our values are shared and discussed in order to ensure that they resonate fully from the start. In addition, new employees sign our Core Values banner on their first day at Daily Huddle. It is these gestures that ensure that our Core Values remain alive and meaningful to every employee.
Our Core Values are also closely tied with our Peer to Peer Bonus Program, the Fusion “Rockstar” Program. What is key about the voting process is that nominees are also identified by the Core Value that they have displayed over the previous months. This is what makes the recognition meaningful. Rewards are not distributed with generic titles such as “employee of the month,” they are tied to specific behaviors. This creates a culture of “doing the right thing” and living out our Core Values every day.
Remember, when developing Core Values, there is no room for corporate rhetoric. If your employees can't relate to your core values, then it won't mean much to your customers, either. Sometimes simplicity is the key to clearly communicating the root of what your business is about. At Fusion OEM, we went against the grain to revisit and massage our Core Values because we knew that values guide behavior and decision-making.