Define your core values today to weather the storms of tomorrow
Macro changes - like a pandemic, shifting labor markets and rising interest rates - are completely out of our control. Without a solid foundation, changing market conditions can sink a business.
How does an organization maintain its footing in such an environment? What fundamental truths and bedrock principles can transcend market conditions?
Perhaps no area has sparked more conversation on LinkedIn than remote and hybrid work. The top-performing post on remote work, "Elon Musk says remote workers are just pretending to work. Turns out he's (sorta) right" was shared 677,694 times.
Over the last three years, the very nature of work has come into question. Opinions surrounding what is best for staff, management, clients and individual organizations can be polarizing. How does a business leader determine what is best for their company?
Before the pandemic, we valued a work-life balance at Simon/Myers. Wednesdays and Fridays were often work-from-home days. When March 2020 hit, our infrastructure was already in place. Our team slid almost seamlessly into fully remote work. But our digital tools and existing processes were not the keys to success.
We hire based on three core characteristics: Egoless collaboration, intellectual curiosity and the S/M trajectory. These traits are foundational to our culture. As such, the team continued working, knowing what was expected of them and had each other's back.
In the next year, we expanded rapidly, growing by over 25%. We were fortunate to hire brilliant people - who, due to the nature of the pandemic, worked fully remote. We continued to lean on and express our core values as we did so. Despite all this, our productivity dropped, collaboration suffered and as a result, turnover increased.
Turns out that saying what we value doesn't translate. Instead, these values manifest when we work side by side, grab a meal together or attend a happy hour. Egoless collaboration is a wonderful term, but you don't really experience it through Slack messages. And you don't collaborate with an organization. You collaborate with a person, a co-worker - a friend.
Brand values don't exist in a vacuum. They are the sum of the people on your team. And they can certainly be expressed in virtual ways, but we discovered they are solidified in person.
Today, we lean on the same values as the market continues to shift, but now we know the value of being together. We have a new core value: community. Being together just a couple days per week makes all the difference.
I suggest you ask yourself, what does your company stand for? If your company values aren't well-defined and understood across the organization, dive in now before the next big macro change arrives.
If you are unsure of where to start, there are several good books on this topic. I recently read "Traction" by Gino Wickman. Wickman outlines a process of working with your leadership team to identify your core values. He recommends between 5 and 15 in total.
Once established, your core values will guide your hiring and retention of staff. They will let everyone know what is expected of them. And for the leaders of an organization, they will provide a solid foundation for decision-making when the world around us shifts, once again.
• Lou Simon is the Principal/Founder of Simon/Myers, a marketing agency with offices in Wheaton and Chicago.