Organizational Values. Pretty important, right? Well, only if they actually affect the way you do business. Enron had a set of organizational values. No, really. They did. Integrity, Communication, Respect, Excellence. They were even chiseled in marble in the main lobby of their corporate office. Unfortunately for Enron, these values were little more than words on the wall, and ultimately the business failed as they lost sight of what they believed.
When I joined Springthrough almost two years ago, I was deeply impressed with the way organizational values permeated throughout the organization. Leadership had identified seven core values (Integrity, Respect, Passion, Responsibility, Accountability, Action and Learning) and I consistently heard these addressed as decisions (both big and small) were made in the office day-to-day.
While I was excited that Springthrough’s values were more than words chiseled on a wall, I saw an opportunity to help spread the idea of these values to both the hiring and performance review process. This made a ton of sense to me… If these values truly are guiding how and why we do work, it’s probably a good idea to be very intentional to have both our hiring process and performance review process focus on the ability of individuals to live out these values day to day.
Before suggesting process changes, it was pretty important to define what these seven values really meant to us as an organization. While the values seemed basic, it was important to clarify what they meant specifically in the context of work for us. Springthrough COO, Joy Ducey, and I worked together to more clearly define our values. This is what we came up with:
- You consistently meet deadlines.
- You identify root causes and get beyond treating symptoms.
- You demonstrate consistently strong performance so team members can rely upon you.
- You ask for help or guidance if a deadline is in jeopardy.
- You exhibit bias-to-action and avoid analysis-paralysis.
- You focus on great results.
- You actively get work done.
- You effect and influence the work of others in a positive way.
- You are quick to admit mistakes.
- You consistently do things the right way without cutting corners or compromising quality.
- You openly communicate mistakes or bad news early on.
- You do the right thing knowing that nobody’s going to know whether you did it or not.
- You contribute effectively outside of your specialty.
- You seek to understand our business, strategy, market, clients, and partners.
- You proactively seek out opportunities to increase knowledge and develop new technical skills.
- You learn quickly and look for ways to apply what you've learned.
- You focus on solutions rather than problems.
- You are motivated to deliver an excellent experience to clients.
- You care about Springthrough’s success.
- You are tenacious.
- You only say things about fellow team members you will say to their face.
- You care enough about yourself to seek constant improvement.
- You value differing opinions and can respectfully engage in dialogue to solve a problem.
- You are non-political when you disagree with others.
- You model the Rare Responsible person.
- You seek what is best for Springthrough, rather than best for yourself or your group.
With the clearer definition of our values in place, it was time to rework the candidate interview process. Being a technology firm, the interview process historically was heavily focused on technical aptitude and didn’t address the values that are so important to individual and team success. I put together an interview guide that integrated both a technical evaluation and behavioral questions geared towards the organizational values. The structure is pretty simple. There are three behavioral interview questions listed under each value and you don’t move the candidate forward until you have a satisfactory answer. If that answer comes on the first question, that’s great and you move on to the next set of questions. If not, ask another question covering that same value. What happens though if someone is a home run from a technical standpoint but we don’t feel comfortable with how they connect with our organizational values? They don’t move forward as a candidate with us… And that’s not saying that person is a bad candidate, they just won’t be set up to be successful at Springthrough and we think it’s best to help them get connected with an organization that will be a better fit.
From there we focused on revamping our performance evaluation process. Once again, it wasn’t that the process was broken, but it didn’t necessarily focus on the values we believe are so important. Our performance evaluations consist of individual, manager and peer feedback. Each participant evaluates the employee on a scale of 1 to 4 on how well they have exhibited each individual value. While we continue to make tweaks and adjustments, we’ve experienced much more impactful feedback in this new structure.
Values. Are they just words chiseled on the wall or do they truly impact the way your company does business? If the former is your reality, it’s time to speak up because you have a huge opportunity to drive important change within your organization.