Note from Rachel: For the past few months, we’ve had the opportunity to welcome our latest intern, Sidney Harden. Her internship was part of the final requirements in order to obtain her degree from Brigham Young University. As we did with our previous intern, Lindsay Newton, we thought it would be fun to talk about the internship experience from her perspective as well as my own.
A whopping 90 percent of American companies have established a set of clearly defined corporate values. Values are established throughout the course of the business as a result of the accumulated successes and drawbacks, and they are intended to affect decision-making processes, perceptions of the work environment, and interactions with clients. In fact, a growing body of research shows that value-driven companies who “walk the talk” enjoy better performance as well as customer satisfaction.
However, having corporate values and knowing (let alone adhering to) corporate values are entirely different things. Take a moment and think about your own company’s values.
- Can you recite them?
- How often do you feel you apply your company’s values to your everyday work?
If you struggled to answer these questions, don’t worry…you’re not alone.
Only one in ten HR leaders say that 80 percent or more of their employees can recite their company’s core values. Furthermore, in 2016, Gallup reported that only 23 percent of employees strongly agree that they can apply their organization’s values to their work every day, and only 27 percent say that they “believe in” their organization’s values. I myself have struggled to remember value statements in previous jobs, despite the daily reminders in the form of strategically placed posters around the common areas.
Company Values Should Have Meaning
However, for a service-based business like a social media agency, core values are not merely obligatory “feel-good statements”; they literally are an agency’s unique value proposition. Therefore, it is critical for employees to incorporate and advocate these values throughout all aspects of the business. During my internship with #Strella Social Media, I have internalized #Strella’s core values and taken them to heart. While working at #Strella, I became familiar with the following values:
Commitment to excellence. We limit the number of customers we work with so that we can deliver premier quality to those who are dedicated to our partnership.
Service. We offer customizable, personalized service with outcomes that are important to the customer.
Relationships. Social media is built on relationships, and as such, we treat online marketing as an extension of a business brand by fostering and strengthening those relationships.
Communication. We proactively communicate the status of deliverables; our customers, vendors, and the internal team always know where we are with a project and what’s expected of our working relationship.
After six months at #Strella Social Media, I have come to learn that accountability and reflection are vital to internalizing these principles. According to Immordino-Yang, a professor of education, psychology, and neuroscience at the University of Southern California, inward reflection impacts the way we “build memories, make meaning and transfer that learning into new contexts.” Outward attention is essential for carrying out tasks; however, the reflection and consolidation that accompany reflection is crucial to attaining these values and applying them to our interactions.
Company Values Should Drive Performance
At #Strella Social Media, these abstract concepts are transformed into our daily behaviors. Rather than merely reciting words, we are held accountable for our ability to adhere to these values on both an individual level and as a team through the following methods:
Quality Control. If an employee’s work is struggling, #Strella management holds a brief check-in to discuss drawbacks and future progress. Every leader knows that generic feedback is only going to frustrate and confuse a poor-performing employee. Instead, we hear specific feedback about what our employer wants us to change and the specific values we can improve in. By framing performance concerns in this way, employees are more likely to reflect on their employer’s feedback with their core values in mind.
Quarterly Check-in Meetings. At #Strella Social Media, each team member is held accountable for their own performance as well as their interactions with the team. During quarterly check-in meetings, we are asked to assess ourselves against each of the four values and give ourselves a ranking out of 10 on our own performance. We then set goals and discuss our successes and shortcomings, framed around these core values. Again, being held accountable to these standards helps keep these principles at the forefront of our minds.
Monthly Team Meetings. Every month, we have the chance to reflect on the team’s adherence to #Strella’s core values, too. We take turns bringing up concerns and needs in the context of the four values and consider where we can make improvements. Through group reflection, we are able to hold the team as a whole accountable for adherence to these goals. By having our values as the focus of team interactions, the team members are more likely to internalize them and apply them to their interactions with each other and the clients.
Monthly Surveys. We also fill out monthly team surveys, which ask our opinion on how the team and leadership are adhering to the core values. Notice that not only are we held accountable to the company’s standards, but we are invited to hold the leadership accountable, too.
Shared values in a service-based industry are crucial to a business’s success. They help employees make informed decisions, unify the company culture, and empower them to represent your brand accurately. When your team members are held accountable and are given opportunities to reflect on your core values, these values end up dictating every decision and interaction in your business. Like I said, at #Strella Social Media these values permeate every aspect of the business and are adhered to closely by our entire team.
Sidney was a student worker for a client in Utah, which is how we met. I found her to be extremely articulate and well-versed in social media. When she informed us of the need to fulfill the requirements of her internship, we jumped at the chance.
In her portion of this post, Sidney spoke about core values. Our value of relationships is central, and I believe Sidney learned a lot about the meaning of forging strong relationships in business and in life. We have such a unique company at #Strella, particularly because we are virtual – our contractors and clients are remote. Because we are unable to physically work with these folks on a daily basis, it’s even more important that we foster those relationships.
I was fortunate to have the opportunity to meet Sidney – and our client – when we visited Utah, last year. There is something really special about meeting folks who you already work with. In fact, we just gathered a large part of our team in New York City this past week. One gal, from Texas, stayed with us for the week. Another gal, from Canada, flew in to meet all of us in the city. The best part? I felt like I already knew them so well, even though we were physically meeting for the first time. That’s relationship-building in a virtual world. And, that’s what we do!
As Sidney travels, over the next few months, she will meet a lot of people along the way. Any of these folks could be an asset as she builds her network. Using what she’s learned with us, I know she will cultivate those relationships – and, I am certain she will have a very successful career!
Good luck, Sidney, and to everyone graduating this year!