Problems at our Core
At a fundamental level, core values are the guiding principles that unite a community around a shared set of behaviors for achieving common goals. And yet, threading them into a company’s culture for driving desired business outcomes takes more than just adding flashy words next to a company product or embedding them in the header of a new hire’s offer letter.
The original Alvaria core values were Urgency, Accountability, and Results. These words were meant to convey a promise of stability and superior customer service to our partners and clients. But from an employee’s perspective these words left much to be desired.
In fact, when we asked employees in our 2022 Employee Experience Survey about adding one new core value, we received nearly 1,000 suggestions out of roughly 1,200 participants. The ideas ranged from “Act with Integrity” to “Customer Satisfaction.”
It became apparent through our findings that our company’s original core values were failing to address both the personal and professional behaviors desired by our community. These values were meant to inspire the idea of driving success, and yet, we were experiencing anything but that culturally. Why?
Some of the areas we identified as problematic was the level of buy-in during the inception of these core values. Our employees weren’t part of the process. More than 1,200 people were simply told to act with urgency, accountability and results. Additionally, these core values weren’t tied to anything of substance like recognition programs or performance evaluations to convey that working by our core values equaled success in the business. Our values lacked definition, examples and reiteration from leadership and frontline managers.
Our community didn’t need to add a single new core value, we needed to start from scratch. And that is what we’ve just done. We’ve started addressing the problems at our core and are striving to build something better.
Our Core Perspective and Approach
Successfully implemented core values inspire people to think and behave a certain way. They are cardinal directions on how to react to internal and external situations. If the Alvaria community was going to find the right ones, it was going to take a more people-focused approach than the first time around.
As always, we knew our new core values would need to align with our company’s strategy. What is Alvaria setting out to accomplish? What behaviors would help us get there no matter what proverbial road we took?
We started by asking our leadership team to identify 20+ unique behaviors that would pair well with our vision and strategy.
From there, we formed three focus groups of employees. These groups included individuals with varying lengths of tenure, multiple global locations, and many different departments. We asked them to identify the behaviors they liked, and why. Asking the “why” was crucial because some of the proposed values elicited the opposite emotion despite what industry standards show. While some of the employees in our community approved of the suggested core value Obsess Over Customer Satisfaction, the majority found the wording to be “creepy.” This didn’t mean they didn’t want our customers to be thrilled with Alvaria’s products, but the behavior of obsession didn’t inspire the driving action.
As our focus groups weighed in it became more evident that we weren’t going to get buy-in with buzz words and catchy industry terms. In the end, we paired the list down from 20+ possible core values to 10.
The entire community of 1,300 employees were then invited to vote for their favorite three. Each possible option was sorted into one of three specific core values: Our Golden Standard core value, defined as the value we promise to uphold above all else. Our Customer Standard core value, defined as the value we promise to uphold on behalf of our clients and partners. And Our Employee Standard core value, defined as the value we promise to uphold for our community.
This process took nearly all Q4 2022 to organize because we purposefully sought out as much input as possible. We wanted our core values to resonate with our community and for these new values to feel authentic to who we are. In the end, the following were the resounding winners:
- We Act with Integrity (Golden Standard)
- We Deliver with Excellence (Customer Standard)
- We Collaborate to Succeed (Employee Standard)
With a foundation of three new core values, the next step was to define their correlating behaviors, provide examples of seeing these values in action and creating meaningful competencies that could be tied to future performance evaluations.
Our Core Foundation
With the new core values recently announced, we now look towards the process of integrating them into our culture. While our work is forever a work-in-progress, it feels safe to declare that after a long stretch of growing pains we are working in the right direction. Our core values are now more than ever aligned to who we want to be as a community and how we strive to work together with our customers.