Revisiting Company Values in Light of 2020’s Events

By Rick Murray, Managing Partner, and Sarah Babbitt, VP, Agency Marketing

Many companies scrambled in 2020. They adapted to remote work and drastically different client/customer needs. It was an all-out, all-hands-on-deck effort to do that well.

Many also looked internally, building strong employee communications. However, those were likely focused on immediate needs: new protocols, policies, COVID-19 resources, etc.

Now, with so much change and a new year on the horizon, businesses must once again look internally — to their cultures and the company values that uphold it.

Evaluating Whether Company Values Have Changed

There’s no denying that 2020 has taken a toll on company cultures everywhere. Over the past eight months, the dynamics of working as a team and with customers have changed, arguably forever. This has left many companies’ values incongruent with today’s world.

It was true of ours. Company culture has been one of SHIFT’s differentiators since our 2003 founding. A strong set of values — the “SHIFT Seven” — tied together our people’s widely ranging backgrounds, interests and aspirations under a common goal: to do amazing work that helps clients succeed. And we consistently worked our butts off (celebrating and laughing) through good times and bad in the only way we knew how — together. 

However, it became increasingly apparent in early 2020 that our priorities — as individuals and as a business — had changed. Not only due to our own changed behaviors, but also our 2016 acquisition by AVENIR GLOBAL.

In other words, the SHIFT Seven didn’t capture us any longer.

Building New Corporate Values with Employee POV

We used a straightforward but effective process to listen to what was most important to our team. During approximately 10 facilitated employee listening sessions, each with a mix of staff across offices and practices, we asked every SHIFTer to weigh in with their thoughts on the following questions:

  • What’s important to you?
  • What do you believe is important to our clients?
  • What do you believe is important to our mutual success?

The input we received was remarkable in its unanimity. One word kept coming up as the underlying sentiment in every session: Care. We synthesized the input into the following descriptor for what SHIFT is and SHIFTers are today

SHIFT C/A/R/E/S: SHIFTers all have one thing in common. We care deeply for the success and wellbeing of our people, our clients, our business and the work we put our name on. Our values are the expression of that caring spirit and way of being:

  • C/ourageous (in walking new paths) – We are driven to think big and forge new ground. We fearlessly propose new ideas, knowing we have the resourcefulness to bring our visions to life and unleash amazing work. We’re not afraid to have tough, honest conversations with colleagues and clients alike. And we’re quick to own up to mistakes and seize them as teachable moments that make us better in the long run.
  • A/ccountable (in setting and achieving goals) – We set our bar high and adhere to an unwavering trust in ourselves and each other to step up, lean in and get the job done. We take great pride in creating and delivering work that meets the standard of quality for the SHIFT name.
  • R/elentless (in getting the results) – We don’t settle. It’s not in our DNA. We dig deeper, push harder, reach higher and do whatever it takes to exceed expectations and get the results. Our will to win is simply a state of mind. ­
  • E/ncouraging (of opinions and individuality) – We embrace individuality and value the unique experiences, skills and perspectives that each of us bring to work every day. We believe freethink, not groupthink, is what fuels creativity and growth. And we recognize that a culture that is diverse, inclusive and welcoming creates a stronger, greater whole.
  • S/elfless (in collaborating with others) – We get a charge from helping and supporting one another. We go the extra mile for clients—and each other. We are compassionate, and we
    know we can count on all of that in return.

In our company values overhaul, every voice was heard; every idea mattered. The result? We are all now unified, focused and more determined than ever to move powerfully forward regardless of what the world throws at us.  

All data points to the fact that company values are central to any business’ ability to nurture culture in a decentralized, distributed work environment. Now may very well be the time for your company to revisit its values, too.

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