If you visit the corporate websites of the top organizations in Southeast Asia and browse through their core values, the same ones will surely come up again and again: honesty, integrity, transparency, accountability, diversity, integrity, innovation, and so on.
These ideals sound great, but far too often they remain only in the sphere of our corporate communications. Employees may read about them once in a handbook or gloss over them on the wall they happen to be painted on, and their relationship with the company’s brand values will end there, forgotten beyond these short encounters.
As business leaders in Southeast Asia, we are also brand builders. We must ensure that the core values we want our company to be defined by, are embodied by everyone across the organization, from the CEO and senior leaders to the front-line staff and new hires. This task is not easy, and it’s also commonly misunderstood.
Most people would assume that the task of communicating company values should fall under the domain of human resources, who ought to cascade them to the rest of the organisation at some kind of summit or training. From what I’ve experienced as the Brand Marketing, Environment for Communications & Design Head or BED at TaskUs Philippines, is that core values are best embodied when it becomes an organisational-wide priority: Each department may have its own way of promoting them, but they are all designed to help us live up to our ideals.
With this idea in mind, I would like to share some of the strategies that my colleagues have practiced across the organisation. You may want to adopt some of them outright, or use them as inspiration for coming up with your own ways to ensure that your core values are upheld.
1. Make core values easy to remember
The logic here is simple: How can your team members practice your core values if they cannot even recall them? Knowing them may be easy enough if you only have two to three single-word values. But what if your values are more nuanced, as in the case of TaskUs?
Our Vice President of Culture, Isabel Bernal, devised a pneumonic to help team members remember all eight of our values:
- “Inspire others by believing in yourself,”
- “Teamwork makes the dream work,”
- “Do more with less,”
- “Continuous self-improvement,”
- “Always strive for excellence,”
- “Work hard, have fun,”
- “Exercise emotional intelligence” and
- “Be ridiculous.”
Or: “I Do WE ACT Be Ridiculous”
You may reorder your values, as Bernal did, to come up with a memorable pneumonic to help your team members.
2. Build your core values into your training
Ecommerce company, Zappos, famously makes all employees, even executives, handle customer service inquiries for a few weeks during their onboarding and training to experience the company’s dedication to its users.
At TaskUs, we tried our own spin on initiating brand values as early as a person’s first few weeks on the team. This was not a simple choice to accomplish. As a company that helps some of the most innovative tech firms in the world scale, our training team could have focused purely on developing the relevant functional expertise of our new hires. But we realized that things shouldn’t only be done, instead, it should be done the right way.
So we test for our core values during our training. For our “always strive for excellence” value, team members must set a quantifiable target or metric. Only when they pass this bar do they get credit for exemplifying the pursuit of excellence, and we test for the other seven values at this early stage with the same rigour.
3. Create organisational space to practice core values
From an organisational development standpoint, you need to make it easy for people to exercise your company’s values. For example, one of our core values is “be ridiculous” and integral to that is being creative and innovative enough to suggest ideas, no matter how daringly they would challenge the status quo.
But what good would this value be if we did not actually give our team members a forum in which to be ridiculous? At best, we would be counting on our team members to be outspoken all the time, and at worst, we could be called out for preaching something we don’t actually practice.
We thus give employees a space to be ridiculous across the company. In my department, for example, we have a huddle every month. The huddle is a low-pressure environment in which everyone is encouraged to voice out any of their marketing or brand-related ideas, no matter how off-the-wall.
Some of our best ideas have emerged from our huddles, such as the following video we released for Valentine’s Day of this year.
4. Keep everyone accountable to your core values
Your core values should not be an abstract ideal. They can and should be measurable targets, even beyond the safe environment of onboarding and training. One of the best ways to measure how you live up to your brand values is through your stakeholders and what they say about you online.
Since TaskUs is an organization full of young talent, we most commonly receive feedback from prospective, current, and former employees through Facebook reviews. As of this writing, our average rating is 4.4 stars (out of a possible 5) across 1,800+ reviews. While we appreciate the high accolades, sometimes the most telling reviews are those that are average (3 stars) to those that are poor (1 and 2 stars).
Our Vice President of Recruitment, Carmela Sias, checks our Facebook page twice daily for reviews that in some way fail to live up to our core values. She then takes a screenshot of the review, sends it to the appropriate team in question, and asks them to self-evaluate where they may have strayed, so they can determine how to move forward and get better in the future.
Keep in mind: She is in charge of recruitment, not of our core values. But therein lies the overarching strategy that ties together the best plan for living up to our brand values on a day in, day out basis: Each and every one of us must not only make a concerted effort to be a brand builder, but embrace the more difficult but crucial role of brand manager.
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