Editor’s Note: Julie Mendel is a Senior Product Manager specializing in continuing education for financial services firms at WebCE, a top 100 finalist in the 2017 Best Companies to Work for in Texas. Through the company’s strategic growth initiative, she took on the role of creating an employee-centric culture for the organization. Relying on lessons learned from previous employers and extensive research on communicating with multiple generations in the same environment, she is helping shift the way employees connect to the company. Julie is also the President of the Writer’s Guild of Texas.
(April 6, 2017) – WebCE is a small online education and training company located in Dallas, Texas. We employ approximately 70 people, 40% of which are part of the Millennial Generation. The remaining 60% is a combination of Generation Xers, Baby Boomers, and a handful from the up and coming Generation Z.
When we moved to a new office building, we incorporated many improvements including an open office environment and a breakroom that provides individual dishes, utensils, and serving dishes for employee events. We designed a lounge with bean bag chairs and video games, tables for board games, a pinball machine, and a sitting area to simply rest. We even have a virtual receptionist.
All of our offices are the same size, varying only when the structure of the building required it. The tropical-themed conference rooms have names like “Bahamas,” “Jamaica,” “Aruba,” and “Grand Cayman.” In addition to more traditional workstations, we have some employees who work at standing workstations and others who prefer to sit on yoga-style balls during their workday. We have a generous benefit package, casual dress code, and flexible work hours. In essence, we had a corporate culture where people were happy to be and turnover was low-to-average for a company whose staff is largely Millennials. The problem? Happy employees are not necessarily engaged employees. We needed a plan to improve our level of employee engagement.
We pulled together the leaders within our company to create the plan. (It’s important to note that because we are a small company, not all “leaders” are managers.) This meant that 20+ employees were included in the development stage. We created five teams to cover the areas we believed needed constant attention:
- Employee Engagement
We followed this up with a lot of meetings that ultimately made us realize we had skipped a bunch of steps. While we had identified the need to shift our culture from a corporate to an employee focus, we didn’t have a common way to filter the recommendations for the shift or to measure any actions we were going to take. Back to the drawing board.
Our President wrote the vision statement while the rest of us worked through defining our company values. This was an essential piece of the process. The company values are at the core of everything we do—from the way we treat our customers, vendors, and each other to the way we filter information to make decisions. We knew we had to get it right. We filtered a lot of keywords down to single statements, then pared those single statements down to phrases, and those phrases became our core values.
Identifying our core values was a giant step in shifting our culture. While we believed we were living by these values, we are now able to state with clarity how decisions are made and that our employees live and breathe the same value system. Here are our values and what they mean to us:
Foster Customer Love – We know our customers appreciate our products and that our exceptional customer service differentiates us from our competition. Making sure our customers know how much we appreciate them and showing that appreciation through verbal and electronic communications is essential.
Treat Professionals as Professionals – Like our customers, we are professionals in the financial services industry. This is our spin on The Platinum Rule. We always treat the people we work with, internally and externally, respectfully.
Exceed the Expected – Taking one extra step means going the extra mile in our eyes. Our customers and vendors expect us to be professional, respectful, and courteous, while resolving any issues that exist between our products, services, and customers. Doing something as simple as placing an order for a customer or asking if there is anything else we can do for them makes all the difference!
Do Good and Do it Well – Always put your best foot forward.
Forge Solutions, Create Connections – Sometimes we don’t have the exact solution for a situation, but we have the right people and the right resources. If we can connect them to improve the customer experience, we do.
Be the Trusted Source – Many of our services and products are compliance-driven. We strive to provide the best information, in the simplest format, to create the best customer experience.
We have each of our values in its own frame hanging in our main corridor. This serves as a reminder to every employee, every day they are in the office. We took these values a step further and created a quarterly, peer-nominated award for our staff. The requirement is when you catch a coworker being awesome, you tie their actions to one or more of our values and submit the nomination. The executive team then selects a winner quarterly. It is not an easy task!
As a result of our efforts, our employees now incorporate the values into decision-making processes. Every decision now has a purpose behind it, tied to one or more corporate values. Our employees are more engaged in conversations, they’re asking more questions, they want to know how decisions tie back to the our values, they want to know why we do things, and they contribute more to the overall success of our organization.
For some organizations, identifying corporate values is a breeze. For us, the struggle was real! However, it was step one in our cultural shift. What are your corporate values? Can you state them without looking them up? Do your actions exemplify your values?