POSTED : March 24, 2016
BY : Linda Corisdeo

Strong cultures empower employees, encourage professional development, break down silos, keep a focus on the customer, encourage collaboration and provide a safe space for innovation. A strong work culture can impact business success on many levels.

But culture can be a difficult thing to build and even harder to change.

So where do you start? It all begins with an organization’s values. Values provide a common language throughout an organization that can influence everything, from hiring to leadership decisions to the way teams work together.

‘Why we work determines how well we work’

A recent article in Harvard Business Review states clearly, “After surveying over 20,000 workers around the world, analyzing 50 major companies, conducting scores of experiments, and scouring the landscape of academic research in a range of disciplines, we came to one conclusion: Why we work determines how well we work.”

“It’s not just about the end result, but how we get there that matters,” says Sarah Taylor, employee experience lead at PK. “When we’re all following the same creed and adding our own special touches along the way, the work is rewarding.”

And when work is rewarding, businesses see greater employee retention, satisfaction and productivity, which leads to happier customers.

Living your values

Values need to be more than just a document on a shared drive to be effective. They need to be ingrained in the way that teams work every day.

If you take a walk around the PK offices, you’ll see unicorns proudly displayed on desks. These are Uni awards that recognize team member who exemplify our core values.

All year long, employees nominate their peers to win Uni Awards in each core value category. We even developed a mobile app, Living the Values, that makes it easy to submit nominations in the moment. At the end of the year, employees review the nominations and vote to determine the winners. Then, the entire company comes together for an awards show-style event to honor the nominees and celebrate our eight values:

“The Uni Awards is a culmination of the many, many examples of how we all live the values each and every day,” Sarah says. “It gives us the opportunity to share the stories behind the nominations, which inspires people and makes them proud to be an important part of our culture.”

Why unicorns?

You may be wondering, why unicorns? In addition to being amazing, magical and hard to find, they have consistently turned up at key moments throughout PK history. For example, there were unicorns on the drink tickets for the celebration of our new building, leadership maintained a “Unicorn List” of employee feedback, and they were even considered as a possible design theme for our offices. So, when it came time to plan the values awards, unicorns quickly came to mind as a theme.

This year marked the third annual Uni Awards and our largest celebration to date, complete with unicorn décor, lunch for the entire company, and custom-flavored ice cream. Each award was presented by last year’s recipient, who spoke about what the value means to them before passing the torch to this year’s recipient.

When talking to staff about the Unis, it’s clear that the event brings our values to life in a fun and meaningful way.

“The Unis highlight that PK really cares about the employee experience,” says Eva Wong, project manager. “I was honored to win the ‘Own It’ category because there are so many people at the organization who embody this value.”

“I was blown away by the positivity and pride in the room,” says Human Resources Director Libby Schwarte. “Employees seemed genuinely engaged in a way that I had never before seen in a company meeting. It’s a fun and creative way to communicate, reinforce and celebrate the PK values.”

“Receiving a Uni made me feel appreciated and acknowledged,” says Content Strategist Laura Allen. “It sits on my desk as a visible reminder of our values and motivates me to continue to grow and take my work to the next level.”

The Harvard Business Review closes its article on culture’s impact on employee motivation with the following statement: “A great culture is not easy to build—it’s why high-performing cultures are such a powerful competitive advantage. Yet organizations that build great cultures are able to meet the demands of the fast-paced, customer-centric, digital world we live in.”

Start with your values, find ways to make them real for your employees, celebrate and reward them, and you’ll build a strong foundation for a positive work culture.

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