How to create company values that are useful

Brightec values imagery

Our values are the basis for how we conduct ourselves, make decisions and grow as a team.

In the last five years, we’ve doubled the size of our team. We have evolved from our start-up vibes to a well-established business. It would therefore be a mistake to think our values don’t need to grow with us.

We have always intended to occasionally reassess our values with deliberate purpose; we are not writing a new set of values. Instead, these values are the next iteration of us articulating our DNA and refining how we talk about ourselves.

quote mark

"This is the next iteration in us getting better at articulating our DNA and refining how we talk about ourselves."

Our team, like every other, has been through a large amount of upheaval over the last few years. Since lockdown, we’ve hired new team members, taken on new clients, trialled various ways of hybrid and remote working, left an office, rented another and renovated a new studio. So now, feeling settled in our new home, it feels appropriate to reassess our values and make tweaks to accurately reflect who and how our team is now.

A bit of history

We last redefined our values in 2017 during an away day at Tilton House. We used the insights from team activities to refine the rewording of our existing values heavily and created a set of 10. We split these into two categories; beliefs we hold as a team and 'we are' statements that reflect our collective personality.

Brightec beliefs

Making things better: We don't settle for OK, we're committed to making people's lives better through our work. This commitment informs every part of how we work.

Open for business: We strive for transparency and believe in sharing our knowledge and expertise with the wider business and development communities. It's this drive for continuous improvement that makes us leaders in our field.

Freedom to create: We believe in trust and freedom for our team. This space allows us to flourish creatively as individuals and as a group.

Happy and profitable: We believe that having a happy, fulfilled team and respect for everybody's lives makes us more productive and profitable.

Collective responsibility: Every team member has a part to play. Understanding every area of the business helps us make better decisions, empathise with users and create outstanding products.

Brightec personality - we are:

Confidently humble: Respectful debate, insatiable curiosity and deep knowledge combine to make us quietly confident that we are leaders at what we do.

Considerately passionate: We care about our craft, each other and the world. We want to change things for the better, and strive to put people and our ethical beliefs at the heart of everything we do.

Progressively driven: We are always looking for new and better ways to work, and we are always ready to question the status quo.

Simply complex: We don't shy away from complex technologies or products, but we always maintain our ability to relate to people and collaborate with simplicity.

Lovers of life: Above all other things, we value the joy in both life and work.

Making use of our values

The Brightec values are super important to us; who we are and how we do business. Over the years, we have developed some key ways in which they’ve become embedded into our team and culture.

VOTW: As part of our Monday morning meetings, we would give “value of the week” presentations where we articulated and discussed a value, its application and examples that embodied it.

Kudos: Our kudos board is often a conversation starter with visitors to the studio. Our values are represented on it so the team can acknowledge those who demonstrate them well.

Blogs: The blogs we publish regularly feature our values, from explicit references such as being considerately passionate to helping explain why we do certain things.

Values that never get old

We firmly believe that our values are 'living'. With new team members and a new studio to work from, the second quarter of 2022 offered a natural opportunity to grow and develop our values to reflect the next phase of Brightec.

When I instigated this ‘values MOT’ (after gulping down a double espresso), I created a list of assessing activities to undertake. I wanted to attempt to methodically digest our existing - and past - values, analyse Kudos scoring and conduct interviews with a selection of the team to ascertain the leading values. I then hoped to use this data to help define the next iteration of our values.

Looking at where we had come from, how our current values were being used and where we wanted to take them, I identified a few basic questions about our values:

  1. Do we have too many?

  2. How are we using our values?

  3. Which values are 'sticky'?

  4. What values are we definitely keeping?

  5. How do we cut out what we don't need?

  6. How do we take the team on this journey at our current scale?

  7. How do we then use and articulate our values?

Getting started

To start the process, I wanted to analyse how our values have been used on our kudos board. As a team, we eat breakfast every Monday morning; it speaks of putting family attributes and employee well-being at the centre of what we do. During this meeting, we use our kudos board to actively and regularly give encouragement and reiterate our values.

It isn’t just our incessant need to create a spreadsheet for everything; capturing which values have been given as kudos and to whom, has given fantastic and straightforward insights.

A pie chart displaying what the Kudos percentage for each value.

Three values had significantly more usage than any others:

  • Lovers of Life

  • Making Things Better

  • Collective Responsibility

With the first two having a much higher usage than the third..

Kudos value totals displayed as a bar chart.

This data suggests 'Lovers of Life' and 'Making Things Better' had entered our social dialect; they indeed were at the heart of Brightec. With 'Collective Responsibility' often used, and 'Open for Business' used more than the others.

Analysing our kudos was a helpful data point, but it needed to be framed within the team's thoughts.

Collective responsibility

The team has grown to the point that the kinds of activities we did back in 2017 are harder to do together, so we needed a new way of getting the team's input. After chatting through some ideas with Rob, I decided to hold 15-minute sessions with individuals in the team, looking at which values each person felt were most important to the team.

These sessions involved a basic miro board where team members would move post-it notes with the current values onto a dart board, showing how important they felt those values were to Brightec. Those moved to the middle were really core to us, and others moved further toward the periphery.

A grid displaying Brightec's values.

To ensure that I interviewed a good cross-section of the team, I created a histogram of team members based on their years at brightec vs seniority to ensure I interviewed a good cross-section of the team, picking a couple of people from each 'band'.

A scatter graph depicting the distribution of values when looking at staff seniority and years at Brightec.

The honest and candid feedback was a testament to the ten members of the team who took part and were invaluable (excuse the pun) in understanding how the team interpreted the values.

Taking notes of comments the team made during the interviews, I could see how different team members interpreted the values, along with a significant variance in people's sentiments towards individual values. Some values resonate strongly with individuals that another person would be completely indifferent toward.

Although the verbal comments were most beneficial, another significant data point was the placement of values on the board itself. I made a basic scoring system by assigning a number to the placement. This allowed me to ascertain which values had been placed higher than others.

When using this system, two values stand out:

  • Happy and Profitable

  • Making Things Better

But the team has four more high-ranking ones:

  • Lovers of Life

  • Collective Responsibility

  • Confidently Humble

  • Considerately Passionate

    Values Activity totals displayed as a percentage in the form of a pie chart.
Activity Value Totals displayed in the form of a bar chart.

Our main takeaways

Merging of Values

From talking with the team, it became clear that both 'Lovers of Life' and 'Happy and Profitable' have too much crossover to be used effectively. They need to merge to allow us to feel confident that we can apply the value well and articulate its meaning.

The same is valid to a certain extent for 'Making Things Better' and 'Progressively Driven'. Both values talk about our love for continuous improvement, but they can be too interchangeable to be truly useful.

Number and Priority of Values

Listening to the team articulate their thoughts on our values, it became clear there were too many for individuals to feel confident that they knew them.

Several values have stuck with the team and continue to be used regularly. Others were rarely used or remembered and thus featured low on the list of priorities.

Armed with the knowledge we needed to slightly reduce the number of values to a more manageable number, the research also identified a need to prioritise our values. For example, a core set that the whole team should know and understand, plus a second set that is important to us but requires less pressure to memorise.

We settled on:

Brightec Core Values - Three statements known by every team member that influence every part of our business.

Brightec Heroes - Values that influence different initiatives and help articulate what we see as important.

Brightec core values

These three core values show who we are and want to be. They reflect how we strive to interact with each other, our work and the world.

Happy and profitable

We are a team who loves life. We believe that having a happy, fulfilled team and valuing everybody's lives makes us more productive and profitable.

The statement for this value has changed to incorporate part of 'Lovers of Life' and moved from simple respect to a deeper valuing of people's lives.

Making things better

We are always looking for new and better practices, and we are always ready to question the status quo. We don't settle for OK.

This value has changed to incorporate the statements we see as crucial from our previous value, 'Progressively Driven'. I wanted to include more about continuous improvement and less about our external influence.

Collective responsibility

We believe in working together, for each other. We value our personal connections that help us make better decisions, empathise with users, and create outstanding products.

The first part of this statement is a direct quote from the values activity. It beautifully encapsulates an overriding desire to be a great team and togetherness.

Brightec heroes

The Brightec heroes statements influence what we want to pursue as a team or our interactions with our clients, our team or other businesses.

Confidently Humble

Respectful debate, insatiable curiosity and deep knowledge combine to make us quietly confident that we are leaders at what we do.

This value is unchanged as it still speaks so well to the personality of Brightec. We strive to be experts and have great ways of working, but not be shouty about it or show pride in it. In our internal interactions, we want to be humble with expressing our different opinions and respectful of others.

Inspirational Companions

We strive for transparency and believe in sharing our knowledge and expertise to influence people positively. We want to inspire people to be better for their teams, users and themselves.

This new value replaces 'Open for Business'. Instead, it talks about our desire to influence others, be good for people, and share what we learn. We’ve deliberately moved this away from being associated with business development, as that is not what we originally intended.

The application of this value will vary depending on the person and the role. I.e. for some, this will be about ensuring that we set the best example of how to interact in slack or blog post writing. For others, this is about how the company is represented in networking groups and events,

Considerately Passionate

We are passionate about our craft desiring to create great products and do a superb job. But we also strive to put people and our ethical beliefs at the heart of everything.

This value has had a minor update to the statement to better articulate the duality of passion and consideration.

Freedom to create

We believe in trust and freedom for our team. This space allows us to flourish creatively as individuals and as a group.

This value is unchanged and is most clearly seen in our commitment to R&D and the trust we put in our team.

What’s the difference?

It would be tempting to over-define the difference between these two sets of values. How they are applied will change throughout their lifetime, but here are some broad thoughts.

  1. The core values are essential and non-negotiable.

  2. The heroes are appropriate for some team members but may apply differently to different people.

  3. Individuals can broadly achieve the heroes. The core values can only be achieved as a collective.

Developing the latest iteration

The slow pace of this process to review the values has been deliberate. Conducting the activities over a few months was helpful to ensure that the latest iteration isn't a response to a specific time or situation. Instead, we could sit with the information and mull it over, verifying that any outcomes are fit for purpose.

The keen-eyed will notice that we said a fond farewell to a few of our previous values:

  • Progressively Driven

  • Simply Complex

  • Lovers of Life

These were important to us, but we can articulate them within the others better.

Now we have some work to do embedding this new iteration of our values, deliberately and constructively working on how the team can embody, remember and apply these values.

We’ll undertake three main activities to help embed these values:

  1. We’ll reinstate the Value of the Week presentations to slowly familiarise them with the team and our culture.

  2. We’ll create illustrations to reflect our values visually.

  3. We’ll redesign our t-shirts, notebooks and other merch to reflect our new core values.

We have already taken the whole team through this values project's process, findings and outcomes. Although lengthy, it ensured everyone had the same understanding of where we have come from and are going.

Until next time

It truly feels that this latest iteration stands to accurately reflect who Brightec are and support us through the coming years. But we will change, adapt and continuously improve as a team, so we fully expect to revisit our values in the future.

For now, though, I hope that sharing this journey of defining the latest articulation of our values is an excellent reflection of us being an Inspirational Companion.

A grid displaying Brightec's Core Values and Brightec's Heroes.

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