Values are principles you live and work by every day, but have you thought about how they translate to your workplace? Learn why values are important and how to create a set of values for your company.
We all know what's important in our lives, what makes us happy and fulfilled. That's not something that's randomly chosen, it's based on what we believe in, what we value in life – our values!
They (should) determine your priorities, and, deep down, they’re probably the measures you use to determine if your life is turning out the way you want it to. When the things you do and the way you behave match your values, life is usually good – you’re satisfied and content. For example, if one of my values is personal development, which for me means to be able to constantly learn about myself, understand and improve myself, I'll make decisions based on it and look for environments that support my value.
Why companies need values
When you ask Degordians what they like the most about the company, 99% of them will tell you it's the people and the working atmosphere. That's a confirmation that people and the company should match as much as possible and their cultures should complement each other. People should be the reason why others like to work in a company. Not the office, not the management – the people! That's true for Degordian, and should be true for any other company.
If you take a look at some high-tech companies that bursted onto the scene in the last decade, they all emphasize the importance of building a culture based on values. When it comes to organizational values, they are important beliefs or ideals shared by the members of a culture about what's desirable or undesirable. An excellent example of building a culture based on values is Zappos, one of the biggest online shoe and clothing shops in the U.S. If you research Zappos, you'll realize that Tony Hsieh speaks of Zappos' values in his books and talks. Their employees know the company values by heart and the entire company is perceived as a desirable employer and partner because of the organizational culture they've created. At the end of the day, that culture and a good product brings profit and clients.
This might seem very intangible, but it's actually not. Zappos and many similar companies found a match between what the company believes in and what the people that work for the company believe in. This means that most of the people that work for Zappos have similar personal values as the company and therefore their commitment, engagement and happiness is probably more significant in Zappos than some other companies they would work for.
Again, I'll take myself and my value as an example. If I have a chance to nourish my value (personal development) in a company that values personal development I'll be a much more productive and happier worker, right?
Identifying your values isn't easy. For us, it all started with identifying our mission – a statement that explains who we are and what we believe in. This is a process we won’t go through in this blog, but feel free to contact us if you have any questions.
At the end of the process, we had our mission: Our mission is to create meaningful experiences infused with emotion and executed with excellence. Experiences that engage, inspire and make you curious.
Now, I'd like to share with you the process as well as the materials we used to create Degordian's values. Hopefully, they'll inspire you to start defining your own values!
How we created Degordian's values
We decided to organize a workshop during our annual team building and asked Degordians to help us. We wanted to hear what people in Degordian value and why do they like working for the company. You can see a detailed workshop outline by downloading the document called Creating Degordian Values_session outline at the end of this blog post. We divided the workshop into four blocks.
First block – Introduction
During the introduction part, we presented the goal of the workshop, talked about personal and organizational values, and their importance for the organization. We told Degordians what this workshop will look like and what's the expected output. You can see the introduction part in the presentation called Creating Degordian Values.
Second block – Interview in pairs
The second block was called ‘Interview in pairs’. Every person had to identify the time when he or she was the happiest at Degordian, and connect that situation with a value from a list we prepared. The values list was very important since we had the workshop with 100 people, so we used the list to guide them through the entire process. The list consisted of 21 values that were abstracted from 50 values our CEOs generated through an interview about the company's mission. In short, during the mission interview, we asked our CEOs what Degordian's values should be. The output was a huge list of values which had to be categorized and abstracted to a shorter list – the one with 21 values that were each described with a couple of sentences.
The output of the second block (‘Interview in pairs’) were two values per each pair. This process of defining values should always connect the time when you were most fulfilled and satisfied, and that's why we decided to hear about the happiest time in Degordian from each team member. You can find the instructions we used for this block in a document called Creating Degordian Values_interview in pairs.
Third block – Group session
The workshop continued with block 3 called ‘Group session’. Again, teams were defined beforehand and given specific instructions. During this block, teams had to present their conclusions from block 2 and answer questions which led them to identify one value that described Degordian the best. This is where we wanted to see teamwork. In the previous block, the most important thing was for each team member to share what he or she values in Degordian, and in this one we wanted them connect their thoughts and feelings as a group. Teams held discussions and concluded with something they believe encompasses each group member's connection to Degordian, the key value. The instructions for block 3 are in document called Creating Degordian Values_group session.
Once they defined the main value, they had to express it on a flipchart and present it to everyone. The output of those group presentation were 9 flipcharts. Each flipchart represented one value. Luckily for us, Degordians proved to be a very homogeneous group as 5 teams presented the same value and 4 teams presented another. Basically, we had two key values right after the workshop! For us, that proved we're on the right track with the entire process.
Fourth block – Questionnaire
The final part of the workshop was a questionnaire. In it, those 21 values were presented in the form of a list, and each participant of the workshop had to rank the values from 1 to 21. With this, Degordians gave us another confirmation about their preferred values, besides the interview and group sessions.
Our workshop was successfully carried out and we were satisfied. Two months after the workshop, we had processed all the information and finalized our values!
Five core values of Degordian!
Togetherness & teamwork
Personal bonds we foremost cherish with each other, and secondly with our clients and partners, are built on mutual support, acceptance, respect and understanding. We alone shape a loving and cooperative environment where every success we achieve is a team success.
Because we love what we do, our work truly is more than a job. From this love comes the dedication, devotion and enthusiasm that drives us to always go that extra mile and to never settle on anything less than outstanding.
Positivity and playfulness
As serious as we are about our work, we're never too somber to forget how important it is to let loose and have fun. It's that playful character and optimism that fuels our creative minds and reminds us that we're surrounded with friends who will always laugh with us.
Achievement and expertise
Because we're passionate about what we do, we all strive to be outstanding in our day-to-day work, and for our commitment to be recognized through individual and team accomplishments. We cherish when we're acknowledged by our peers and thrive when honored as experts.
Personal and professional development
We step outside our comfort zones to challenge our habits and grow. With continuous learning and sharing our knowledge, we better ourselves as people and experts, and actively contribute to our individual and collective progress.
When I look back on the whole process, there are a few things that could have been done differently:
If you take a look at the group session document, you'll see a question in the end ‘Is there a value that hasn't been mentioned in your group discussion and isn't in the value list that you think should represent Degordian in the future?’. What I found out from the research and workshop preparation is that it's very important that values represent both the present and the future. Also, this is something that should be connected to the long-term vision and strategy of the company.
For example, if Degordian would like to nourish the family spirit in every office (currently, we have 4) and expand even more across the globe, maybe it would also be important to value diversity because we plan to be a global digital marketing agency. I would suggest all companies to define their vision, mission and long-term strategy – where they want to go in the long run. And then include the future aspect into the process of defining values.
Another thing we would have done differently is the ranking in the questionnaire. At the end of the workshop, people had to rank abstracted values with numbers from 1 to 21. Since it was the end of the workshop and people were already tired, it was hard to rank to 21. What I suggest is to have the list of values and make the ranking from 1 to 10. Also, it would probably be better to have the ranking part in the beginning of the workshop while people are more concentrated.
What comes after defining the values
There's a lot to do! Implementing values into the everyday life of a company is a long-term process. First, it should be promoted and lived by your CEOs and people who lead the company. They should be the ambassadors who communicate your values to their teams – while working on projects, while working in teams, while giving feedback. That's where the desired culture starts to develop. Second, they should be physically present in your office and promoted internally and externally. They should be out there. And third, they should be incorporated into company activities – people should be selected and educated based on those values, development programs should be designed around them values, rewarded and promoted. Values should be something everyone in the company wears with pride.
In Degordian, we have merely started implementing our values. Some things are still unknown. Some take time and support from the whole team. But there's one thing I am sure of, if we continue developing our team based on our values, we'll contribute to the creation of an organizational culture that's the best for Degordian and the people who like to work here.
What are your experiences with creating values in your company? Feel free to share your thoughts.