Employees and Core Values: One Practice Each Day

Excerpt from “The 31 Practices: Release the power of your organization’s VALUES every day” by Dr. Alison Whybrow and Alan Williams (LID Publishing, 2013).

When resources are limited, it’s easy for the development budget to be stripped back to the core technical, knowledge-based components and for soft skill development to be viewed as a luxury. The focus quickly becomes doing more, with less attention on “how” things are being achieved. But what if you could create a platform enabling key soft skills to be learned on the job? What if you could align employee behaviour with business values, creating a core culture that enhanced engagement, performance, and customer experience? Such ambitions might seem distant from the daily business reality and yet it is the day-to-day practices and habits of every employee that makes an organization what it is.

In the foreword of “The 31 Practices: Release the power of your organization’s VALUES every day,” Richard Barrett, chairman and founder of the Barrett Values Centre and author of “The Values-driven Organization: Unleashing Human Potential for Performance and Profit,” comments that by collectively focusing on what you want to be as a business, the principles by which you want to deliver, and the behaviors associated with success, the corporate soul is unleashed. “Your organization becomes all it can become because everyone is heading in the same direction and living with the same vision and values.”

His comments relate to the 31 Practices, a whole system methodology aligning the day-to-day behaviors of employees with core business values and purpose.  

“31 Practices” works by engaging all employees to define what the core values look like in day-to-day terms, and together, creating a set of 31 Practices (one for each day of the month). The impact of daily practices is gathered through stories and hard data. Based on learning theory, the process of creating, testing, performing, reflecting, and refining is at the heart of embedding and sustaining these ongoing habits. Due to the simplicity of one practice each day, people entering the workplace, even temporarily, learn how to “be” with ease.

31 Practices: A Case Study

A mixed-use property development consisting of designer outlets, bars and restaurants, leisure and entertainment facilities, a marina, hotel and car parking is an example of a typical virtual business environment. In this case, the landlord’s business team operates together with the employees of different service partners (security, cleaning, and technical services) to deliver the customer experience. From a customer perspective, everyone is seen as part of the landlord organization. “31 Practices” was adopted in 2011.

  • Workshops were held with cross-sections of employees, including management and service providers together, to develop the “31Practices.” This co-creation meant all staff identified with the Practices.
  • A team of eight “Customer Service Champions” (training team) led the day-to-day deployment.
  • Briefing sessions for all staff were led by the Champions team, encouraging two-way communication from the outset. The workshops were organized for small groups throughout the day to make it easy to attend regardless of people’s hours of work.  The program was launched with a celebratory lunch and dinner, and carry cards were issued as part of the uniform standard.
  • Daily reinforcement took place in several ways, such as a Practice of the Day e-mail and a flip-over calendar of Practices in the restroom.
  • Nominations were requested detailing what team members had done to bring the different Practices to life, to highlight the “day-to-day” rather than just the heroics and allow everyone to participate. The nominations were posted publicly and centrally. The best nominations were shortlisted at the end of the month, and the Customer Service Champions selected the month’s winner. The impact of this process alone was to bring the service partners together as one team. The winner of the previous month was invited to join the voting for the next month. Winners were awarded a certificate and gift card. A newsletter provided details of why the winner had been chosen and described all the other shortlisted nominations. In effect, this built the “heritage” of the organization through stories and positively reinforced what “good” looked like.
  • Daily feedback meant that the program was kept at the forefront of people’s minds, and this “on-the-job” approach gave a greater understanding of colleagues’ roles. The Customer Service Champions worked together to learn from their experiences and ensure momentum was maintained.

Daily focus, together with a significant amount of planning, administrative process management, and ongoing monitoring helped the 31 Practices to be successful.

The Impact

Customer service is an intrinsic part of the landlord’s brand, driving customer retention, which, in turn, drives sales. The 2011 exit poll showed customers had 89 percent satisfaction with their experience. Visit time increased, and despite a difficult economic climate, 2011/2012 sales increased by 10 percent from the previous year.

Some 845 31 Practices nominations were made during 11 months, with at least one winner from each of the service partner companies.  

One hundred percent of staff attended workshops to gain an understanding of the program and what was required of them; 95 percent attended either the launch lunch or dinner.

Employee Engagement Survey results highlighted that the level of engagement was 11 points above the Towers Watson High Performance Norm. When asked if they felt able to impact customer satisfaction within their role, the answer was +33 compared to the Group. In addition, the team’s result of “feeling energized to go the extra mile” was +27 compared to the High Performance Norm.

More than 80 new ideas were suggested through the program, two of which were winners for their respective month.

Finally, in addition to the measures above, positive feedback came through mystery shopper visits, and positive customer feedback entries increased from give to 59.

This case study example highlights how effective the 31 Practices method is in translating business core values into day-to-day behavior and the impact that can be achieved by giving ownership to operational teams and a focus on “on-the-job training” supported by a robust recognition program and operational platform.

Of course, daily attention is required—like any new habit, the shift doesn’t happen overnight.

Excerpt from “The 31 Practices: Release the power of your organization’s VALUES every day” by Dr. Alison Whybrow and Alan Williams (LID Publishing, 2013). For more information, visit http://www.amazon.com/The-31-Practices-Release-Organizations/dp/1907794352

Alan Williams is the managing director of Servicebrand Global, a consultancy that specializes in customer service. Dr. Alison Whybrow is a chartered and registered psychologist.