Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Why Is Compassion So Rarely Listed as a Corporate Value?

There’s a generic list of values we see over and over when companies articulate their culture. If I had a nickel for every time the words Integrity, Honesty or Respect showed up in corporate values, I’d have a whole bunch of nickels.

In the wake of Harvey, I keep thinking about the value of Compassion. I’ve watched with interest the huge disaster relief efforts of  H-E-B, the Texas-based supermarket. They provide concrete help in disaster areas. Sometimes that can be as simple as giving away bags of ice, but it also involves deploying their mobile kitchens to feed first responders and displaced storm victims, sometimes for days at a time.

How would the value of Compassion drive business? Some might say it’s too altruistic to be useful in a competitive marketplace. But in the case of H-E-B, customer loyalty is built over and over by these compassionate acts, offered when people are at their most vulnerable. That’s the kind of loyalty that will trump milk being priced a little lower at some other store.

Actually, compassion seems a logical strategy for building customer relationships. If companies were to include Compassion as a value, that might be the permission employees need to be kind  — to each other, to customers and to the community at large.

There’s been a lot of emphasis in recent years on running companies lean and mean. The economic downturn created the need for efficiency and cost-cutting and anything else businesses could do to remain competitive.

Compassion calls for the opposite of being competitive. It encourages the view that we’re all in this together, and that helping our neighbors is the way we’ll get through.

People buy from brands they trust. Treating people with compassion is a powerful means to gaining that trust. Maybe Compassion deserves a spot on that list of most-common corporate values.

Interested in evolving your corporate values? Tribe can help.

Nick Miller

Employee Engagement: Training & Development can lead to higher employee retention

Professional development programs can be a key element in employee retention. From a company perspective, training and development programs are meant to improve overall performance. But a well-designed program can do just as much for the employee. By providing employees an avenue through which to build upon their skills, it shows them the company has a vested interest in them as individuals, decreasing the likelihood that they’ll take those talents elsewhere.

The type of individual to partake in career development programs is one who welcomes more engagement. Take advantage of this desire to learn. By engaging this group in a meaningful way, they are likely to communicate these opportunities to employees that may not seek them out on their own. It’s a win-win situation for both the company and the employee base by increasing engagement levels. An engaged workforce is a happy workforce, and this too decreases the turnover rate.

Of course, it’s also important to ensure that training programs themselves are engaging. It will be hard for an employee to see the benefits of training if the material isn’t meaningful, or if the presentation is boring or poorly organized. The first step is to make the training materials and format appealing and motivating, while not coming across as cheesy or self-serving.

Communicate the “why.” Employees need to know that the time taken away from their regularly scheduled jobs is for a purpose. If they know up front what the training will entail and how it will improve their day-to-day operation or advance their career, they will be much more likely to see it as an opportunity rather than an obligation.

Bake in your corporate vision and values. The opportunity to get your brightest workers in one room with the hunger for learning doesn’t happen every day. Take advantage by reinforcing what is most important to your organization. By illustrating their role in the big picture, you are creating internal brand ambassadors, whether they know it or not. This too will increase engagement, and thus increase retention.

Structure your program to create a feedback loop. These are the leaders in your workforce, and they are a valuable source of information. Tap into this wealth by providing them a channel to express their opinions, not just on the development program, but the operations of your company. Show them that their voices are important and act on their suggestions. If they understand that their perspectives are valued, it will only benefit the organization.

Need help developing an engaging training program? Tribe can help.

Nick Miller

Employee Engagement: Communicating corporate values

Start by identifying values that are easy to understand and remember. It is a formidable task to take a leader’s vision for the company and narrow it down to a few words employees should use to guide their efforts. On the flip side, if you want employees to truly adopt the company’s values, they need to be able to remember them and easily discuss their meanings. At Tribe, we recommend no more than three to five values written in language a third grader would understand.

Target recurring occasions and communications to acquaint and connect your workforce to your values. Values shouldn’t live exclusively on the poster on the break room wall. When planning any communications calendar, think of opportunities to incorporate the values into existing internal communication pieces, company events or programs. Rotate your values as the themes of your newsletter content or publish value-focused blogs and leadership videos. We especially like desktop tchotchkes such as Legos that reinforce values while also giving employees something to tinker with while working. The more instances your workforce happens upon corporate values, the better.

Designate values champions throughout the organization. Review your organization chart and identify middle-level managers in each department who have a passion for and exemplify the values. Charge them with ensuring the values are included in internal communication pieces, events and programs. Ask them to recognize other employees who are using or living the values and highlight those associates as heroes of the business. Involve your champions in the gap evaluation process of the values and reward them for the extra work and commitment they are giving to the company.

Integrate the values into your hiring and employee evaluation process. It is easy to say that your values are integral to your company’s success but to show employees the true importance you place on them, they should be included in the hiring and evaluation process. Include values-based questions during the interview as well as a checklist for hiring managers to use to ensure a prospect exemplifies them. A pre-boarding package that introduces values prior to an employee’s start date allows them to feel familiar with the values before their first hour is logged. It can also communicate that company values are of equal importance as other included elements, such as corporate policy. Incorporating your values into your evaluation process will both fortify the significance of values and offer supervisors the opportunity to coach an individual on how they can better employ those values within their work.

Looking to communicate corporate values to your employees? Tribe can help.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Making Your Vision and Values Actionable for Employees

iStock_000056231554_MediumIf your company has communicated its vision and values to employees, you’re way ahead of the game. Outlining what the company is trying to achieve and articulating the values intended to guide the business is a huge step.

But just because you’ve shared the words doesn’t mean you’ve finished the job. To truly create alignment between employees actions and the company vision, you need to go further.

The next step is to help employees understand how they, as individuals, can help make that vision a reality. Do they know what part they play? Do they see the connection between what they do every day and the business goals of the company? Do the values seem relevant to them?

One of the best ways to achieve this is through concrete examples. Instead of telling employees what they should do, try showing them what it looks like to live the values and support the vision.

For instance, if you have an internal magazine, incorporate several employee spotlights in each issue. Take three or four real employees and interview them about how they see their job supporting the vision, and how they put the company values to work in their day-to-day work. Include photography, so other employees get to see people like them, in roles like their own, being treated like heroes.

One benefit of this sort of communication is giving recognition. Employees who approach their work with an eye to how it contributes to the overall success of the company certainly deserve all the recognition they can get.

The other benefit, and perhaps the more important one, is modeling the desired behavior for employees throughout the company. When you let employees tell their stories, giving specific examples of times they’ve applied the values in their work, or explaining in down-to-earth terms how they see their work contributing to the vision, it helps other employees get it. It enables them to take the lofty language that is common to company visions and values and apply it to real-world situations.

That’s when the magic happens. When employees make that connection between what they do at work and something bigger than themselves, that’s when you get alignment. When you’ve got alignment between how employees are working and where the company wants to go, you improve on measures that really count. Engagement, productivity, retention, profitability and of course, the bottom line.

Interested in building your alignment? Tribe can help.



Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Corporate values are just words on a poster until you make them relevant to employees’ lives

Whether you call them core values, beliefs or guiding principles, they won’t be relevant to employees until you make them so. On their own, the language of corporate values can seem a little esoteric. Employees may view them as abstract concepts that have little to do with their day-to-day work.

To make your company values meaningful to employees, you have to breathe life into them. You need to shine a light through that language in a way that illuminates how they apply not just in business, but in your particular business.

The words that appear in corporate values have different meanings depending on the culture. (Oddly, a lot of values start with the letters “in,” i.e. integrity, innovation, inspire.)

Innovation, for instance, probably means something different at J.P Morgan than it does at Google. What does it look like when employees in your company show respect? What decisions are they making that exemplify integrity? How are they being fast and lean? Or showing an entrepreneurial spirit? Whatever the words you use for your values, help employees understand how to put those values to work.

One tactical element of that is helping employees see how those values are actionable. For instance, channels of communications might incorporate stories and photos or videos of employees who demonstrated one of the values through some specific behavior, decision or action. These sorts of employee stories do more than just offer recognition to those who are doing it right. They also model that behavior for other employees, helping them understand how those values might play out in their own jobs.

It also helps to have company leadership talk about how they live the values. When announcing a decision or new initiative, part of that discussion might be how that development is related to, or based on, one of the values. That helps employees see that those at the top actually use the values in their own work. And it demonstrates the sort of concrete results that grow out of those values.

Ideally, the values become part of an ongoing conversation that never ends. They’ll be brought up in meetings when groups are collaborating on solutions. They’ll be discussed in performance reviews. They’ll be the voices in the back of employees’ minds when they’re trying to figure out how to handle countless situations.

Are you working to make the company values more relevant to employees? Tribe can help.


Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Who determines the company values: management or employees?

This is a question we don’t hear often enough at Tribe. For most clients we’ve worked with, the assumption is that leadership will decide what the values are and then communicate them to employees.

What we prefer to do is start by talking with employees about what they feel the company stands for. As we often say, these are the people who live and breathe the brand every day, so it’s  useful to understand what they believe they represent. If they’re the face of the company, what do they think that looks like?

Often, we find an interesting consensus across a wide cross-section of employees.In our Discovery work, we include employees in various locations and business units, a range of job functions, and a mix of generations and seniority in the company.

For a manufacturing company, we had employee after employee tell us the company’s most consistent value was to “do the right thing.” In a financial services company, the golden rule came up again and again. For a company in the automotive industry, it was about providing solutions.

Values feel most relevant to employees when they’re truly indigenous to the company. Although an agency can help articulate and refine those values, it’s best not to just make them up out of thin air.

That’s not to say that leadership can’t help drive the company values. Management may choose to emphasize certain existing values that have been identified by the employees, and to downplay others. Generally, Tribe will recommend including one or two values that support the company vision, but may be aspirational at the moment. If you want to shift the culture, adding the appropriate values is a good place to start.


Insight Two: Lack of Communication Interpreted as Lack of Respect

This is the second of seven weekly posts sharing insights from a national study on communicating with frontline and field employees. Tribe recently fielded quantitative and qualitative research with non-desk employees in companies with 1,000 or more employees. The complete white paper is available for download on the Tribe site.

Right or wrong, non-desk employees equate the level of corporate communication they receive with a lack of respect from senior leadership. They don’t see the issues in being able to send direct communication to employees without access to a computer. Instead, the common reaction is for them to think senior leadership is withholding information because they believe frontline and field employees are not important enough.

They want to know how they’re impacting the business. Regardless of level, employees are going to be more engaged and motivated if they feel they’re truly making a difference. Non-desk workers rarely hear the “why” behind the decision and simply do what is asked of them without fully understanding the rationale or how it can help drive business.

Often, these non-desk workers will undervalue their contributions to the company. Because they’re not receiving communication explaining the who, what, when and why behind a business decision, they can underestimate their role. Only 22 percent of respondents in our survey said they consider their job to be an important element of the company vision. Given that this group of employees is typically interacting with the customer, that number is alarmingly low.

There’s also a strong correlation between regular corporate communication and trust in management. We found that the more corporate communication an employee receives, the more likely they’ll be to trust the sender’s message. Of the minority who do receive frequent corporate communication, 73 percent felt that the information is typically “upfront and honest.” Conversely, more than three-quarters of the group who said they “hardly ever” receive communication from corporate either “take all corporate communications with a grain of salt” or “feel they tend to only communicate the good news.”

All employees want to feel valued and respected. When asked if they feel connected with the rest of the company beyond their immediate team, only 10 percent responded “very much so.” The easiest way to show respect to non-desk workers is by keeping them in the loop on corporate communication so they feel connected and engaged with more than just their peers.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Companies with Compelling Visions Attract and Retain Star Talent

A recent post by Tim Williams of Ignition Group is directed at ad agencies, but it also raises an important point for large employers in any industry. The post is titled “One Agency, Indivisible,” and it refers to studies that show a causal relationship between agencies with strong ideals and strong financial performance.

This dovetails with what we know about companies with a compelling vision and the underlying values to support that vision. No matter how much you pay employees, how many perks and benefits you offer, nothing tops people finding meaning in their work. (For more on how that impacts retention, you might want to see an earlier Good Company blog titled “For Retention, Loving the Work Itself Trumps Anything Else in the EVP.”)

A compelling vision that provides meaningful work is not just for non-profits. But it does have to be something more inspiring than the vision of selling more widgets. How does selling more widgets make it a better world? How does it improve human lives?

When a company can offer employees a meaningful reason to come to work every day, that engages employees in a way that attracts star talent and retains the talent you already have. But as Williams says towards the end of his blog, “Countries march into battle motivated by firmly held beliefs. If you model a set of meaningful, differentiating principles, the people in your firm will be willing to do the same.”

In other words, employees have to see their management bringing the vision and the values to life  in the day-to-day business. When you have that, then you have the  potential for harnessing the best work of the best people in pursuit of that vision.



Internalizing Your Corporate Values

Ensure your values are easy to understand and remember. It is a daunting task to take a leader’s vision for the company and narrow it down to a few things you want employees to use in making decisions.  On the flip side, if you want employees to use them, they need to be able to remember them. At Tribe, we recommend no more than three to five values written in language a third grader would understand.

Identify recurring occasions and communications to connect employees with the values. Values need to live outside of the poster on the break room wall. During planning meetings, think of opportunities to incorporate the values into existing internal communication pieces, company events or programs.  This could include a company event where the values are reinforced and celebrated to an on-going column in your corporate newsletter.

Designate values champions throughout the organization. Review your organization chart and identify middle-level managers in each department that have a passion and exemplify the values. Charge them with ensuring the values are included in internal communication pieces, events and programs. Ask them to recognize other employees that are using or living the values. Involve them in the reevaluation process of the values and reward them for the extra work and commitment they are giving to the company.

Integrate the values into your hiring and employee evaluation process. It is easy to say that your values are integral to your company’s success but to show employees the true importance you place on them, they need to be included in the hiring and evaluation process. A values based hiring process will ensure prospects will be able to live the values once they start. Include values based questions during the interview as well as a checklist for hiring managers to use to ensure the person exemplifies them. In the same token, incorporate your values into your evaluation process whether that is through a values overlay piece or modify the existing system.

Have a great example or methodology of how to help employees internalize your values?  We would love to hear from you!

Evaluating Your Corporate Values

Developing your values is only the first step. An important job of any corporation is to define values that are reflective of your culture and what your company will not compromise to achieve your goals. Identifying values is only half the battle, as your organization grows and changes, your values should be continually assessed.

Size of the company does matter. The size of your company does impact how often you should evaluate your values.  For a smaller company that is experiencing a lot of growth and change, Tribe would recommend assessing your values every two to three years. For larger, more established companies, we recommend looking at the values every five years.

Assess your values if your company is experiencing a large change. Large changes such as a leadership shift, merger or acquisition are a good time to take a look at your values. A large swing in the economy is another opportunity. These large changes may alter your corporate objectives or how you work to achieve them, which could create a need for revised values.

Listen to customer and employee feedback. By reviewing employee surveys and customer reviews with your values in mind, you may realize that your values don’t match your customer’s and employee’s perceptions.  If what you say and what your employees believe isn’t aligning, you may need to take a closer look. Are your values a true reflection of who you are and who you want to be?

Does the idea of evaluating your values give you a headache?  Call Tribe, we would be happy to help.