It’s the new year, and we have a lot of exciting plans in motion.

At the very top of my personal list, and my super-exciting project for the spring, is a revamp of our company values.

Fluffy (and to some extent tired) though it may sound, we are a hugely values-driven organisation.

From our recruitment process, to the energy in the office, to the way we pitch for work and deliver results, our approach and outcomes have been shaped by our values from the outset.

For us as Founders these were always grounded in the beliefs that

– you could make money by creating genuine value for people

– that honesty is at the core of good work

– and that it’s possible to create and maintain a supportive, friendly workplace that people really wanted to turn up to each day.

But having said that, the last time we evaluated and updated our values statements was when we rebranded in 2013. At the time we were a team of 11, and the values exercise was driven wholly by our excellent branding agency and was exclusive to the four directors.

Now that there are 35 of us, it’s apparent that our company values need an update – and for me, it’s vital that our work on them includes the whole team. Values that are served top down will only ever be slogans – whereas those that occur organically and are voiced by the team are more likely to be all-pervasive.

I think that if you asked our team today to list our values, only a handful of them would be able to recite them accurately.

But having said that, I think that everyone would come up with something in a similar ballpark – and beyond that, most of them would voice additional values, in line with each other and based on their experience of our culture, that complement our approach and aims.

So the first step is going to be a team conversation about all this. Then we’ll survey to get everyone to throw their ideas into the hat.

From there, a smaller group of us will review the ideas, edit out any humourous-but-off-topic input, and then bring an edited list of values ideas back to the team for a workshop, which will be off-site and run by an external facilitator. We’re planning to do this in small groups of 6-7, with each group including a director, a team member who’s been here 3+ years, a team member who’s been here 6-24 months and a team member who has joined in the past 6 months.

Together, and with the help of the facilitator, we’ll whittle down to a core list of values that we agree on – and start brainstorming our definitions of these values.

The next stage will be to assemble a smaller task-force of volunteers among the team and book in 2-4 sessions to develop the values definitions and adapt them into a list of standards relating to each value. We’ll then present this back to the team and take a final round of feedback to make the last tweaks.

So the finished articles will be:

– a list of values

– definitions of each value

– a set of standards related to each value

The crux of it all, and the real success is how we then use these standards.

So here’s how we plan to use them.

Recruitment:

Communication of the values to candidates and making sure that potential new team members are willing and able to embody the values and meet the standards.

The values will be at the core of the new interview questions and interview assessment criteria that we develop – and as we look to standardise our interviews, we’re looking for ways to bring existing team members into the process more.

Feedback & Appraisals:

We’re setting new standards based on our values, as a community, and these will form the basis for our informal feedback meetings and appraisals. Conversations about performance can be based around the values and standards – and plans for training and development framed by them.

Onboarding new team members:

I’m so excited about this bit. When a new team member starts, they currently meet with our general manager who gives an overview of the company and an introduction to our systems. To be honest, due to the crazy pace of change at the moment, our onboarding has been pretty poor in the past couple of months, especially for people who aren’t in service delivery.

We’ll be building a new onboarding process for new starters, and part of this will be a team-led induction into the values. Two or three team members will be asked to present the values to the new starter, so that the values become community-driven as we grow.

Client communication:

Our values are central to who we are as a business and we’ll putting a spotlight on them in our client comms – from proposals to reports.

We want the client experience to reflect the hard work, commitment and integrity of the work our team put in to achieving their results – so hopefully this values exercise will help us create a client experience framework as well.

So across the board it’s a lot to ask from one values exercise – but I’m seriously excited about it. I’ll update when it’s all underway!


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