Why Your Core Values Shouldn’t Be Corporate Jargon
Tom O'Connor, CEO of Version 1
At Version 1, we say that we are a ‘Core Values Driven Company’ – we hire people who share our values, and we reward those who display and foster them.
But what does it even mean to be a Core Values-led organisation? To me, it means that our people can be entrepreneurs within our organisation, who are trusted and empowered to make the ‘right decisions’. I will tell you why in this post, but to understand what Core Values mean to us – we need first to address the elephant in the room; that many view Core Values as corporate jargon.
Core Values have a reputation for being a ‘nice list’ on a corporate website, a list that can sometimes be far removed from the day-to-day interactions of the business, or a standard few bullet points about being ethical and having integrity – something added to a company’s website once, but never revisited.
Practically every organisation today has a set of Core Values that ideally should inform how the company operates daily. The goal of articulating the Core Values is to inspire and instruct the day-to-day behaviours of everyone who works at your company. However, this is not always the case, and many Core Values don’t capture what is unique about the company, or can’t be translated directly to the day-to-day – resulting in a disconnect between how the company sees itself and what drives its people.
To be ‘Core Values driven’ isn’t ‘easy’ – you can’t develop a list that you will be proud of and forget about it – not if you want to scale your organisation while maintaining what makes you great at the heart of your company.
Core Values in Our DNA
Time and time again, when our employees and our customers are asked about what makes Version 1 so different to them – we hear about the Core Values they see in action – this is not accidental. It is through years of unwavering commitment to our Core Values – we do not compromise when it comes to the inherent values of our people, and our Core Values start in our people’s inherent personalities, they are in their DNA.
Often, people choose a career for all the wrong reasons, and find their responses to the workplace are incompatible with their true values. We are highly aware of this and when we hire, we explore our people’s motives, values and attitudes in line with our Core Values – this way, we learn not only if they will be a fit for us, but ultimately, if Version 1 is going to be compatible with their true drivers and motivators throughout their career.
To get Version 1 to the point of consciously articulating our specific Core Values, it took a lot of looking inwards at what had been working for us and what we felt made Version 1 special.
Defining Our Core Values
A decade ago, the Version 1 management team sat down together to brainstorm about our Core Values, including myself. Our then HR Director asked us, “If aliens came down to earth, who is the person from the company that you would send out to talk to them?”
Most of the group answered Ken MacMahon, a key executive at the time (and our current Head of Oracle Integration, ERP). We were then asked, “What are the characteristics that made you choose Ken?” After a further hour and a half, we had our Core Values.
Our Six Core Values
- Honesty and Integrity
- Personal Commitment
- No Ego
- Customer First
What do Core Values Offer Our People?
Living the Core Values is not only the secret to Version 1’s success and longevity, but it also is attributed to our consultants’ success at Version 1. Living our Core Values give consultants the freedom to be entrepreneurs within Version 1 and we deliberately select, empower and trust people who embody our Core Values and foster them every day.
The best thing, in my opinion that comes from our Core Values, is the independence that they offer our people, particularly when faced with challenging decisions. Our Core Values offer the reassurance and reinforcement to refer to in times of difficult decisions, particularly where following these instincts may involve ‘going against the grain’.
What Does This Look Like in Action?
- Our consultant Angela in London asks herself, should I choose this technology platform, or that technology platform for the customer? She doesn’t need to make guesses herself, our ‘Customer First’ value reminds her to put the technology that is best for the customer forward as the right decision to make. It doesn’t matter if personal choice or preference might be swaying the decision, considering all the facts with the customer in mind is what drives this consultant forward.
- Our consultant Richard in Belfast thinks to himself, “I don’t think I have much time today to help my colleague with the work I committed to yesterday.” Although it would ultimately be ‘fine’ if Richard can’t help out his colleague – it really isn’t in our people’s DNA to let someone down on a personal commitment that was made. Our people are inherently dependable and wouldn’t want to be seen to go back on a Personal Commitment.
- Consultant Marianne in Dublin is investigating a customer issue. She fixes the immediate problem but demonstrating her commitment to Excellence she takes a ‘no stone unturned’ approach and invests the extra time to identify the root cause of what has been a recurring issue for the customer and implement an appropriate solution.
What Do Core Values Offer Our Business?
So, why do we believe that we live our Core Values, and that they are more than corporate jargon to Version 1? It all comes down to the Version 1 Difference, our balanced approach to achieving Customer Success, Empowered People and a Strong Organisation – one that is measured every quarter and keeps our customers with us year on year. We operate to a sustained quarterly rhythm. Each quarter, across our Customers, our People and our Organisation, we set specific goals and survey satisfaction. If our impact flags in any quarter, or satisfaction dips, our teams react immediately with specific actions. Over time this outcome focused approach is guaranteed to make a real difference for our customers and builds strong, long term relationships.
Achieving equal success every quarter for our customers, our people and our organisation is what makes Version 1 unique, but it’s not easy. This is why is why our Core Values can’t be corporate jargon, why they are not ‘nice to haves’ and why they need to be part of our DNA. Our success depends on every person in Version 1 sharing the same DNA and behaviours at heart, as every single decision we make is governed by these Core Values.
If you are familiar with Version 1, you will know that these values can be seen deeply engrained in our day-to-day operations internally, at our customers’ businesses externally, in our personal interactions, at board level and in our offices, regardless of how much Version 1 has scaled. Most importantly, our customers will tell you this when we are not in the room.
Conclusion: Why Your Core Values Shouldn’t Be Corporate Jargon
With the company’s Core Values as a guide, I honestly believe you are enabling your people to be entrepreneurial within a large organisation, no matter how much you grow. By living our Core Values, our people can skip the frustration or confusion of wondering whether they are making the right decisions and jump straight to problem-solving.
In the absence of Core Values, rules and policies are amplified tenfold – just in case something detrimental happens due to employees not making the ‘right’ choice. This can stifle Innovation and is an extremely difficult way to ‘police’ your organisation if you are to scale and grow in the future.
Your Core Values shouldn’t be corporate jargon, because when it comes down to it, where there are no policies, no experience of this problem, or no-one to advise of a route forward. Core Values act as a compass for your people, guiding them to ultimately feel that they made the right decision. Opinions can always differ, but once you are trusting your instinct and the Core Values, you can feel confident that you are doing the right thing.
The DNA of Version 1
This year, as we passed our 1000th employee milestone, we decided that it was time to share our culture guide, The DNA of Version 1. The range and capability of technology today is truly amazing but, without great people, nothing happens. Those with the ability to see what is really needed, the tenacity to jump all the hurdles and remain customer focused – they are the ones that make the real difference, and that is why the DNA of our people is so unique. Time and time again our customers reference their unwavering confidence in our values, and in our people. This isn’t a coincidence, and if you want to learn more about what it is like to be a Version 1 employee, or what it is like to work with us as a customer, discover our DNA.