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What does your company stand for? If a customer asked several of your employees that question, would they each answer differently?
Does your company have a clear set of values that each employee knows and understands? If so, congratulations. You’re ahead of the curve. If not, imagine what could happen if they did?
Every day, employees have to make decisions based on their understanding of the goals and values of the company. In a very small company, the owner may be available to lead those decisions. But as companies grow, the vision and values have to be passed down the line. Clearly communicating those values is critical to a consistent experience for your customer.
Take, for example, an international hotel chain that promotes itself publicly as providing “the finest personal service and facilities in the world.”
This company has dozens of locations in as many countries. If this core value is not engrained in each employee, what will the customer’s experience be? Certainly less than “the finest.”
But this chain does put this stated value into practice. Its employees are trained from the very start that the experience for the hotel guest is of utmost importance, and employees are empowered to make it happen.
In one situation, a guest at one of this chain’s hotels broke her glasses and called the front desk to see if she could borrow a small screwdriver. The front desk attendant, seeking to provide the finest personal service, went beyond what was requested and sent a maintenance worker up to the woman’s room to fix her glasses. Wow!
A much smaller company can practice this concept as well. A locally owned construction company in the Southeast says “fairness to staff and customers” is one of its core values.
During the recession, the company realized that it needed to cut costs. The owner asked each person on the team to take a 10 percent salary cut with the promise that the current salary would be reinstated as soon as the company was again profitable.
The owner also took a cut in pay. The company practices open-book management, so the employees were able to rally to find other ways to improve company performance.
Nearly a year later, the company had pulled together and weathered the storm. The bottom line was healthy again. As promised, the owner reinstated the salaries, but she didn’t stop there.
She repaid every employee the wages they had forfeited during the company’s troubled times. Her theory – it was the “fair” thing to do. The employees had “loaned” her that money to help pull the company out. She would never have considered not returning it to them.
Now, that’s values in action.
Whether your company’s values are clearly stated or not, they exist. They may be positive or negative, but every employee has some sense of what they believe is important to the company. It would serve you well to discover what they believe those core values to be.
A discussion or anonymous survey might provide you with some interesting information that could help you clarify the values your company projects at present.
If the values are to your liking, document them and share them with your team. Develop training processes to support them. Live them in everything you do as a company.
If they are not to your liking, talk with your team about what you’d like for the company to become. Decide together what the core values should be, and work toward making that a reality.
Once your team members are clear on what is important, they will make better decisions, provide more consistent service and help your company achieve its goals.