TEAM VALUES – BELIEVING IN PASSIONATE PEOPLE
What your people say about you as a business really counts in terms of market perception. In fact, they are potentially your greatest advocates, conveying what is great about you and what they see as the kind of people you are – your team values – to thousands of people every day.
Every business understands the importance of its brand. The image it presents to the marketplace and the dreams it sells to its target market are fundamental to its success. Most businesses set aside a significant proportion of their budget to invest in developing and presenting this image, which inevitably changes over time.
One growing business did this, but took some additional steps as well. Ecosurety is an environmental compliance services provider. Formerly known as Budget Pack, it spent a large sum of money on corporate branding. But it didn’t stop there; ecosurety looked within itself as well as externally.
“It’s a hugely exciting change,” says managing director James Potten about the rebranding. “Becoming ecosurety helps us to tell everyone precisely who we are and all that we can do. Why have we done this ? Because since our launch in 2003 we have changed a great deal. We are a dramatically different business today, with services that build on our roots in waste compliance and take us into other areas too.”
Chairman Steve Clark adds: “It’s a great fit with our ethos and approach, but we also work in partnership with our members and help them embrace sustainability on their own terms. It’s essential to our business values.”
The branding consultants that James and Steve used followed best practice and involved the whole workforce in discussions about the precise meaning of these brand values. Informed by these discussions, three headline values were expressed : Protect, Inspire, Perform. The specific implications of each of these – for sales, marketing and customer service – was then explored and agreed with the whole team. Also carefully defined were a number of Truths about the way ecosurety does business. So far so good as far as the external face of the business is concerned, but the work progressed further.
“If we are to make promises to our customers, and make them stick in a meaningful way” says James Potten “why would we not do so for our own team values as well ? That’s why we thought Investors in People would be a natural part of our strategy.”
As well as the usual consultation sessions with senior management, initial diagnostic and report, briefings at management meetings and presentations at team meetings, ecosurety asked me, as its Investors in People specialist, to provide something extra.
From the beginning of our relationship I could see how serious they are about the business benefits of being the best employer they could be. As one employee explained : “I can genuinely say I look forward to coming into work every day” and there is a deep sense of openness and trust. There was an enormous amount of excellent management practice but there were gaps :
- Previously, the team values and business plan had been “created in only a semi-inclusive way”
- Learning and development was not planned and evaluated against specific business priorities
- Manager capabilities were not yet effectively analysed and built into the performance management system
The management team, supported by HR Manager Jackie Smith, developed and implemented solutions to address the last two issues. The extra step was then taken to make the values central to the way everyone works together.
As a trained facilitator, I was asked to run a workshop for the whole team. Using Protect Inspire Perform as the starting point, three mixed discussion groups “satellited” around three discussion points :
- In our own words what do we believe is important as a place to work, considering the way we should treat each other and work together ? How can we define our ethos in terms of a shared commitment to the team values ?
- What specific commitments should we make to our colleagues and our manager ? What do we have a right to expect from each other ?
- How can managers support our team values in the way they manage ? What specific commitments should managers make to the people that work in their teams ?
I then took the flipcharts and turned them into a simple one-page document that became known as Our Belief In Our Team. James Potten signed this document, it was published and the content of it then integrated within people policy in areas such as :
- learning and development
- performance management
- management training
It was a fantastic event” says Jackie Smith. “Even if the document listed things we were already doing, the passion with which everyone got involved was amazing. And since then, nobody has had a problem with pointing out to their colleagues if their behaviour has contravened the published beliefs or team values.”
Since Our Belief In Our Team was issued, ecosurety has made great strides. End-of-year results exceeded expectations, customer feedback on the rebranding has been excellent, staff retention is well above average, growth plans are ahead of forecast and Silver-level Investors in People accreditation has been achieved at first assessment. Speaking of which, some of the award assessor’s comments are worth noting here :
“It is rare to meet such a thoughtful and reflective company”
“against a backdrop of a rapidly expanding company with challenging targets, you have managed to maintain an ethos of mutual respect and support in so many different ways”
“People felt they were actively encouraged to contribute ideas and, most importantly, that these ideas mattered and counted”
“There is a whole organisation ethos despite the re-structure into distinct teams”
“The culture that you have engendered is one of such maturity and trust that feedback both from managers to team members but also upwards is accepted and valued”
The increased employability deal
The business payback on all this goes further. On the one hand, every Investors in People employer knows the deal, and accepts that the learning and development opportunities it provides make each employee more valuable on the job market. On the other, as the famous joke goes, “imagine if we don’t train them and they stay.”
What has happened in ecosurety’s case is that the workforce believes in and feels part of what ecosurety is aiming to achieve, not just because of the positive effect on the planet but because of how they really do care about whether the business succeeds or fails.
The passion of the team has communicated itself to the customers. Satisfaction levels are very high and rising. New business referrals from existing customers are up. As they say, “there’s no better advert than a passionate employee.” Without the need for too much in the way of artificial incentives, everyone in the team, customer-facing or not, acts as an evangelist everywhere they go. As a result, the sky’s the limit as far as growth is concerned.
As James Potten says : “We’ve always been very busy, concerned with meeting and exceeding our customers’ needs and continuously changing and improving at the same time. It’s been tough, but the time and investment we’ve put into our own people and the team values means we have a really solid and structured basis that underpins everything we do and gives us confidence for the future.”
If you haven’t already held discussions with your people about how your brand values apply within your team, you should consider doing so. These sessions can involve more than it might appear, so do think about using an independent facilitator. You can also arrange some brief workshops on basic selling techniques for non-sales staff to equip them for conversations outside work.
Let’s leave the last word to ecosurety employees : “We are the business.”
Update 23 March 2016 : Following an intensive programme – which involved my running a series of in-house steering group meetings, managers’ workshops and whole team events – ecosurety achieves Gold ! See here https://www.ecosurety.com/ecohub/news/ecosurety-achieves-gold-standard-for-people-management/