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One of the best ways we can bring values to life for employees is to show concrete examples of what it looks like to put those values to work. In many companies today, we’re seeing fantastic examples of their values manifested as creative and kind solutions to the unprecedented challenges businesses are experiencing now.
At Tribe, we work with national and global brands on culture and related issues. We often say that the true corporate values are the principles the company adheres to, even in times of high stress. The coronavirus era will continue to provide a perfect storm of high stress to test how deeply the values are engrained in our corporate cultures.
The Values That Birth Creativity
One of the best things about a crisis is that it often demands a different approach — and that’s an opportunity for creativity. Depending on the industry and the culture of the company, creativity might be the result of a value expressed in terms like innovation, passion or curiosity. It could be the output of agility or adaptability or the value of being open to change.
We’ve seen it recently in apparel companies like Hanesbrands and American Giant, both of which are retrofitting manufacturing facilities to produce medical masks, and with manufacturers from Dyson to Tesla pivoting to ventilators. It’s happening with luxury brands such as the conglomerate LVMH, which is putting perfume production lines to work making hand sanitizer that they’ll then give to hospitals for free.
Kindness As A Corporate Approach
Difficult times also can foster surprising acts of kindness, which we’ve seen across industries recently. CVS led the pack in waiving delivery fees for prescriptions, which reflects its values of caring, collaboration and innovation. Atlanta-based Serta Simmons is giving 10,000 mattresses to New York hospitals, which can be seen as an outward reflection of the Simmons cultural goal of “working independently to better the group as a whole.” And U-Haul is offering 30 days of free storage for college students who had to move out of their dorms in a hurry. That seems a nice outcome of their vision, part of which reads, “We work to meet the needs of the people today without diminishing the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
Taking Care Of Employees
This unusual time is also a test for all those companies that claim to have a people-first culture. Whether it’s called servant leadership or phrased in terms of employees being the company’s most important asset, it expresses an intention that can guide the company through tough challenges that may result in job elimination and other painful cost-cutting measures.
That sort of culture can also result in concrete measures that honor the importance of employees to the company’s success. Recently, for example, numerous grocery retailers have raised hourly pay for their people. Whole Foods, in a move that could be seen as follow-through on their promise to promote team member growth and happiness, announced a $2 per hour increase in mid-March (although they’ve been faced with team member concerns about safety more recently). The union organization United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) announced a few days later that it had negotiated the same increase for employees of Safeway.
Walmart and other large retailers have introduced paid sick leave for hourly workers and other measures to help get employees through this crisis, with what one Walmart executive called “first-of-our-kind benefits,” that perhaps are driven by their value of “Act with Integrity.” Darden, the parent company of Olive Garden, Longhorn Steakhouse, Seasons 52 and other restaurant chains, is also providing paid sick leave for all hourly workers. One of Darden’s values is “Respect and Caring,” and sick leave is one way to show employees both.
Culture Reflected In The Stories Employees Tell
One of my favorite examples of this sort of kindness and creativity is the reaction to a Depression-era crisis by a century-old flooring manufacturer headquartered in a small town in New Jersey. This former client of ours has experienced more than one fire in their long history, but the one in October of 1931 was particularly devastating.
Employees had worked late at the plant that Saturday night to fill a large order. About an hour after they left, a fire broke out. Despite the sprinkler system, two fire trucks equipped to pump water from the nearby reservoir, and firefighters remaining on the scene all night, the next morning all that was left of the main building was a pile of rubble.
The owners of the company put all 85 employees to work Monday morning clearing the debris. When they selected a contractor to rebuild, they insisted on hiring their own employees, rather than the contractors’ usual team, to work on the construction.
More than 50 years later, when we worked with this client to evolve some of their internal brand language, we held focus groups with employees from New Jersey to North Carolina to Georgia. The story of how the company reacted to that fire was mentioned in at least half of those groups. And the value that emerged, again and again, across function, seniority and geography, from forklift operators to the CEO, was this, almost verbatim, every single time: Do the right thing.
Go to Source
Author: Elizabeth Baskin, CommunityVoice
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