Merriam Webster defines culture as, “the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution or organization.” For this piece, let’s focus on a particular aspect of culture: shared “core” values. As an HR professional, you may look at your company's priorities and realize that culture hasn't been one. However, by prioritizing culture and specifically by defining core values, you can make a tremendous impact on your organization internally and externally. Externally, core values clarify the identity of the company, leading to a competitive advantage with both talent and customers. A study by Gallup showed that companies “...could see 33% higher revenue by creating a culture that attracts star talent.” Internally, the benefits are endless. Companies with strong core values tend to have happier employees, higher productivity, and more significant profits. Most importantly for HR professionals, supporting a positive company culture can lead to a more engaged team with lower turnover. 47% percent of people seeking a new job cite company culture as the main reason for doing so.At Cockroach Labs, we take culture very seriously. We believe that our core values provide a framework for how we get things done and navigate our day-to-day. We know that how we accomplish our company goals and how we interact with one another should reflect the behaviors that support our core values.When I started at Cockroach Labs in December 2015, we had five founder-defined core values. We put the engagement platform, CultureAmp, in place to ensure we were listening to whether they continued to resonate with employees as we scaled. In May 2017, at around 40 employees, we wanted to do a deeper dive to understand if our core values still represented our team. Our company organization had diversified, and since we prioritize culture, it was essential to see if our values still represented our culture.
Steps to Evolve Your Company’s Core Values
Step 1: Listen
HR professionals shouldn’t define core values in a vacuum. They should provide a framework to guide the discussion about values with the employees who are meant to embody them. Once you have everyone in the room, your job is to listen. Since we had grown from three founders to 40 employees, we knew it was the right time to re-evaluate our values. We also decided to set a few goals for our values as they were being redefined:Goals for our values- Be actionable- Be memorable- Apply to everyone at Cockroach LabsTo facilitate the discussion, we designed a workshop that leveraged employees' results from a behavioral test, Insights Discovery, to talk about cognitive and behavioral diversity while thinking constructively about our values. Insights Discovery organizes people into a color wheel, so we had employees organize by their leading color and discuss what the values meant to them. We chose to organize the workshop in this way so that we could better ensure that we were hearing from different parts of the organization and not just one person or team. From there, we came together and explored which values bubbled to the top and where there was overlap. It was easy to identify who felt strongly about the values during the workshop, and I continued the discussions in smaller groups until we got to a point where we felt our values reflected who we are a business. 2015 Cockroach Labs Values1. Do it Right2. Reach High3. Balance4. Transparency5. Respect2017 Cockroach Labs Values1. Aim High and Build to Last2. Establish Balance3. Be Transparent about Both Highs and Lows4. RespectThe adjustments to the values were not dramatic, but they evolved into ones that truly resonated with the team. By spending time listening to your employees, you can ensure that your core values are ones that everyone can adopt and apply.
Step 2: Practice
It’s essential to find ways you can integrate your company’s core values into daily processes or programs. HR Professionals alone cannot be responsible for this work. Everyone must be active participants and bring your values to life. Here is the question that we ask when looking at opportunities to bring our values to life:Where do we practice our values and which initiatives support them?1. Communication- Internal- External- Platforms/Tools2. Organizationally- Processes (e.g. decision making)- Programs- Platforms/ToolsHere is an example of Establish Balance:1. Communication- Internal: How to work with me2. Organizationally- Employee Programs:- Flex Fridays- Flexible Work Hours- Flexible Time Off- Parental Leave Program (includes Family Fridays, which is 80% work for 3 months after returning from 3 months parental leave)
Step 3: Evolve
If you look back at your 10-year-old self, you may retain some of the same behaviors, but overall, you have probably evolved. Your company’s values are expected to change as well! Earlier this year, we grew our Revenue organization significantly. We found that our value to Aim High and Build to Last no longer fully captured what we represented across our teams, and we needed to allow that value the chance to evolve.2017 Value: Aim High and Build to LastThe world is moving faster than ever. We strive to build technology that keeps pace by breaking boundaries and challenging the status quo. We value curiosity, creativity, and ambition in particular.2019 Value: Commit to ExcellenceWe commit to providing solutions that demonstrate a singular focus on excellence. We take pride in what we do – aim to reach high, break boundaries, and build to last – because striving to do our best work is its own reward.The above change is an example of a slight variation that we made with CEO input. We were able to include the ethos of what the old value represented while creating a more inclusive one for our future. Your company culture is a living, breathing entity, influenced by several moving parts. Just like your 10-year-old self, your core values are expected to change. Hopefully, this article has provided some encouragement on why values are critical and tools on how to start the conversation!Question for the Elpha community: How is culture prioritized at your company? Which value at your company would you change if you were offered that kind of input?--As the Chief People Officer at Cockroach Labs, Lindsay focuses on attracting, developing, and retaining the best possible talent for Cockroach Labs. She was first exposed to the world of startups at Google Ventures (GV), placing executives in engineering and product management at the 150+ portfolio companies. Most recently, she served on the management team at Yext as the Vice President of People Operations, where she was responsible for growing the company from 168 to over 440 employees across the United States, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. When she is not at work, you can find her exploring the culinary delights of New York and attempting to recreate them at home.