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December 7, 2020

Operationalizing Purpose & Culture for Tangible Results

Authored by: Barbara Turley, CEO - The Virtual Hub

Mirror Mirror on the wall. Who has the best company culture of us all?  

Company culture, purpose and core values all seem such ethereal concepts. Fancy words and ideas of who we think we are, who we say we are and who we hope our team and the market feels we are. Yet all the while we have that nagging imposter syndrome feeling.

Resonating?

tangible results

That’s why I’m really excited to share this part of our Scaling Up bootcamp story because it shows how our deep dive into our purpose, values and culture has been translating into tangible (unexpected) results for us. I was shocked myself when I saw the result of this work!

Going through the Scaling Up program exercises, as a team, to refine our company purpose and to identify the values we live and breath by has allowed us to operationalize those intangible concepts into behaviors everyone can see and understand.

Hello results!

Our Purpose and Values

In a previous post in this series, I dissected exactly how we “leveled up” our previous two-part purpose from eradicate overwhelm (for our clients) and provide dynamic careers (for our staff) to one holistic, new purpose of “unlocking dreams” - for clients, employees and even our company!

We are passionate about helping entrepreneurs to unlock the dream they had for their business when they started it.

Simultaneously, we are passionate about helping our employees to unlock their dreams for their careers and also their personal lives. 

The language remains simple, but can you see how our new company purpose has more ‘punch’? It’s bigger and more inspiring!

tangible results

From that purpose, we also created a big, measurable BHAG® (Big Hairy Audacious Goal), which is to unlock 5,000 dreams by 2030.

tangible results

To unlock 5,000 dreams by 2030 is our BHAG.

It’s our company’s dream that we would like our clients and our employees to help us to unlock while we help them to unlock their dreams too.

By adding the BHAG, not only did we create a more inspirational purpose, we created a more aspirational purpose because we have a specific goal we want to reach in order to realise our purpose and unlock our dream!

tangible results

Revealing Our Values

In my last post I shared with you how TVH came together as a team to peel back the layers of how we operate when we’re at our best and what values “on our best behavior” represents. And then….I left you hanging! But here they are, TVH’s new and improved core values!

  • We Collaborate for shared success!
  • We Support because people matter.
  • Energy & Enthusiasm are in our DNA.
  • We Find Solutions.
  • We take Fun seriously.
  • We Do the Right Thing. Always.
tangible results

How We Are Applying Our Values to Processes

As I’ve mentioned - and I’m sure you’ve experienced this, too, at some point in your career - most companies leave it to executive teams to craft values and mission statements, and then they’re engraved on lobby plaques and slipped into employee handbooks. Which is great!

Purpose and values should be communicated to everyone in the company. However, aside from being a lobby fixture and an initial employee onboarding step, many companies don’t use their purpose, mission and values to lead and operate the company day to day. 

That’s the missing piece for many, many companies.

tangible results

When you have clear values that are relevant to and reflective of your business (versus sound-good platitudes that could belong to any business), the entire company can leverage them as they perform their duties and make decisions.

The purpose, mission and values can also be infused into everyday processes to ensure everything you do is aligned with both business culture and strategy. 

In short, purpose, mission and values create a powerful guiding light for you and your team. That is, they become the filter through which you and your team can evaluate everything you do and make better, more aligned decisions more easily. 

I want to share a couple of examples of how we’ve already applied our new purpose, mission and values into our systems to support our strategy and culture.

tangible results

Our Culture Crisis Purpose, Mission and Values Improve Recruiting and Hiring

As we were working through the Scaling Up exercises around our business foundation and our People (the first of the four pillars of the program), it occurred to us that we have a very good client avatar - we know pretty clearly the types of companies and business owners that are a good fit for our business.

In fact, our entire website and online marketing efforts operate like an indepth attraction strategy for this ‘perfect fit’ client. More importantly, it acts like a repulsion strategy to those we are not a good fit for! It’s a bit like a profile on a Tinder-like dating app for business! 

We are already doing well on attracting the right clients, so we’re confident that our new and improved purpose and values are only going to attract more of the right people and increase our sales conversions.

Every one of our clients has a dream for the business they are building. We cannot realise it for them but we can unlock it by showing them the “how” of scale - systems, processes & cost effective teams - aka Delegation Mastery! 

tangible results

Where We Were Missing the Right Avatar

On the other hand, when we considered what our ‘Tinder-like’ profile might look like for attracting the right employees, we realized ours was akin to one with a dodgy selfie, a vague bio, and not a lot more! 

What we were putting out there for recruiting didn’t always bring in the type of candidates we were looking for because we didn’t have a very good, documented employee avatar - a clear description of the types of individuals who come to TVH and succeed and grow with us.

We knew it when the person walked through the door but our online presence did not speak to that avatar. It did not magnetically attract them.

It also meant the profile didn’t act as a filter that would allow people who were a poor fit for us to self-select out, as our client attraction efforts did. 

tangible results

The People pillar of Scaling Up emphasizes having “the right butts in the right seats,” yet our hiring and recruiting processes weren’t reliably drawing in the right butts! We were able to bake a pretty nice looking cake but sometimes it didn’t taste so good. The ingredients we were putting in were sometimes ‘off’! 

Working on our foundation (i.e., Purpose, mission and values) within the Scaling Up program gave us what we needed to do to strengthen our People pillar.

It gave us what we needed to attract the right ingredients so the cake doesn’t just look good. It tastes delightful too. Each and every time!

Connecting Culture to Recruiting and Hiring

First, we recognized that shining a bright light on our purpose and core values was a must.

If we are to succeed in fulfilling our purpose of ‘unlocking dreams’ - and realise our BHAG of ‘unlocking 5000 dreams by 2030’ - our virtual assistants and other staff must be the kind of people who believe in the purpose, embody our values and the whole thing magnetically resonates with them personally. 

So, how did we take those concepts and bring them to life in our processes and decision-making?

tangible results
tangible results

Promote the Employee Avatar

Social media benefits your business in a ton of ways, including establishing your company’s leadership and expertise, generating leads, and building brand awareness. In addition to those benefits (which are primarily client-focused), it provides insight into your internal culture. One of the first things we did in our efforts to magnetize potential candidates was to look at our content through a different lens.

Instead of focusing all of our efforts on what would be helpful and appeal to our clients, we put effort into considering how our content could influence potential new hires. We developed a separate brand identity in The Philippines, complete with local website, social media channels and internal ‘employee brand champions’ team.

We began infusing our localised social media posts with content reflective of our values and messages that illuminated our purpose of “Unlocking Dreams’ for our team. But this was just step one for drawing in the right eye balls to our social media, website and ultimately our job offers, and, of course, deterring the “wrong” ones. 

Next, we sought to gamify our attraction strategy to draw our current employees into the effort. The Scaling Up Methodology has gamification and fun as a major element in the success of the People pillar. We launched an online TV show called TVH TV (check it out here on our YouTube Channel) where we interviewed some of our people and created mini documentaries on the ‘inside’ of TVH. 

Then, we launched a paid employee referral program so every employee can become like an affiliate seller of our brand and join in the success of new hires, while also getting their friends and family a great job.

The People pillar of Scaling Up emphasizes having “the right butts in the right seats,” yet our hiring and recruiting processes weren’t reliably drawing in the right butts! We were able to bake a pretty nice looking cake but sometimes it didn’t taste so good. The ingredients we were putting in were sometimes ‘off’! 

The final icing on the cake though was when we launched an affiliate ‘race to year end’ competition with a grand cash prize for the person with the highest number of employee referrals. This is running with weekly leader boards and hype inside of our internal Facebook Groups and everyone is jumping on board.

The Importance of Cultural Fit 

I want to pause here and explain how I’ve come to learn that it’s essential to hire people who are a good cultural fit. I had already known this from years of experience, but it’s been made even more obvious by the Scaling Up program and the results we’re getting now. (Results I’ll share with you shortly!)

You’ve heard the mantra hire for attitude and train for skill, right? Well, the key part is hiring for the attitude that aligns with your culture. That is, I’d clarify that mantra to hire for values and train for skill.

In the past, when we’ve hired a highly-skilled virtual assistant who wasn’t the best fit with our values, it seldom worked out. They’d looked great on paper, but we’d soon find ourselves needing to replace them, or them replacing us for the next shiny thing that entices them away. 

On the other hand, we’ve also hired VAs in the past who had a great attitude and great intellect but needed a lot of extra initial training and handholding. Initially, it would seem like we’d made a bad choice, but in the long run, the folks who arrived lacking skill but who fit into our culture ended up being fabulous VAs to our clients!

In short, a trainable candidate who fits our values will always beat out a highly-skilled applicant who isn’t a match for our values and our culture.

"In short, a trainable candidate who fits our values will always beat out a highly-skilled applicant who isn’t a match for our values and our culture."

How Culture Drives Better Decision Making 

In our desire to use our purpose and values to drive the business, we have already had surprising opportunities to put them into action, reinforcing our commitment to them with our team. 

We’ve had several uncharted circumstances come up, where we didn’t have a precedent for decision making. Instead of getting stuck in our decision making or endlessly debating our options with diverse and opposing opinions, we started saying, “Let’s go to the values.”

We learned, too, that a given situation might apply to more than one value, which meant we’d need to get creative about honoring multiple values at the same time. It wasn’t necessarily the easiest thing to do, but it was a blessing.

Having to think through how we could hold up two or more values at a time to arrive at an effective decision has led us to feeling more confident about those decisions.

Values Decision Making in Action - A Case Study 

Of course, this weird year has given us ample opportunities to face novel situations that require decisions for which we have no existing framework for! This story perfectly illustrates how we leveraged our new values and came up with a solution that worked with everyone, despite the fact that the circumstances pitted two of the values against each other!

Here’s what happened.

As in many countries around the world, people who were unemployed due to COVID received support money from the government of the Philippines. The funds were distributed via direct deposit into bank accounts. 

The government accidentally sent money to each and every one of our employees who were still in jobs with no impact to their salaries at all. By the time it came to our attention our employees had already received these payments by mistake.

Some of our employees had already spent at least a portion of the money. We needed to decide what to do about it. For one, it took a weight off of my shoulders because I didn’t have to figure out everything on my own. (Have I mentioned my decision and resilience fatigue?!) Also, it’s allowed me to be vulnerable with my team.

Not in an uber-personal blubbering mess way! But by showing your team that you don’t have all the answers and that you and they are interdependent, demonstrates your respect for them.

Who knows if the government would ever have figured it out and asked our people for their money back, so we could have ignored the issue as ‘not our problem.’ At the same time, if the government later noticed and did want the funds to be returned, that would place our team members in a difficult situation.

Plus, the money was meant as a support package for the millions of people who had lost their jobs or been put on forced unpaid leave during the pandemic. Those people really desperately needed the money. The government’s error became our problem, and we didn’t know what to do about it.

Go to the Values 

We were genuinely stumped about how to handle the situation until we said, “Okay, let’s go to the values”. Here they are again to refresh your memory.

  • We Collaborate for shared success!
  • We Support because people matter.
  • Energy & Enthusiasm are in our DNA.
  • We Find Solutions.
  • We take Fun seriously.
  • We Do the Right Thing. Always 

The first thing that jumped off the list at us was that last one: We do the right thing. Always. Uh oh. The money ended up with people who weren’t supposed to get it - which also possibly meant that others who were supposed to get it were in need.

So, if we did nothing and chalked it up to the government’s problem, that would not be doing the right thing. We committed to doing the right thing - Always! - so we needed to get the funds back to the government. 

The next hurdle was the money wasn’t in our hands, so we couldn’t just give it right back. The funds were in the bank accounts of our people or had already been spent. Those who’d spent part or all of the funds didn’t have the full amount to return to the government, at least not without causing themselves a short-term financial problem.

Because we knew we had to do the right thing, we could have simply deducted the amount to go back to the government from payroll in order to clean up the problem. But we weren’t comfortable with doing that because of the pressure it might place on some of our team during an already tough time, even though the employees in question “should have known” the money wasn’t intended for them.

(Please keep in mind that we’re talking mostly about people who are under 25 years old. Money appeared in the bank! They spent it! Gosh ….. Even I would have spent it!)

We again returned to the values. Notice two more that apply to this scenario:  

  • We Support because people matter.   
  • We Find Solutions.   

We didn’t want to deduct the money from payroll and leave our team members in a financial mess (We Support Because People Matter), but the money had to go back (We Do the Right Thing. Always). So, we fell back on the value ‘We Find Solutions’.   

Our final solution then was to ensure the money all got back to the government, without taking it back all at once from employees who’d spent it. We contacted the government and let them know what went wrong and that we were taking action to ensure all the funds would be returned.

What remained in our employee’s accounts was sent back to the government by the employees themselves, but we also made arrangements with the team members who didn’t have it all to send back to have it taken out of their pay in several increments over time. All the money would be returned over time to ease the stress of it.    

In this situation, we started out completely clueless about what we should do. However, as soon as we turned to the values, our plan of action came into focus. THAT is the power of values when you don’t just pick ‘em and slap them on the wall. Selecting and committing to values translates into more effective actions and sounder decisions! 

Results We’ve Achieved 

While it’s great that the values make our lives easier by helping us make decisions, especially when we find ourselves in new territory, it’s even better than we’re already seeing bottomline results from committing to values. In leveraging our values to revise our recruiting and hiring practices, we’ve achieved three key results.

  1. Our success rate for hiring has gone up 150% Yes, simply clarifying our values and using them to inform our processes has already more than doubled our hiring success rate!
  2. Our attrition rate also dropped significantly. The average attrition rate for businesses that share our industry and geography is 25-30%. Our attrition rate had been on the rise, but it’s now stabilized again at just 8%!
  3. Our culture started rocking again. After years of building a great culture at TVH, it went up in smoke the moment we moved to remote work. But now it’s baa-aack… and getting stronger by the day.

Just like this year has taxed us as individuals in terms of decision-making, resilience, and even mental health, our culture had undergone a similar unraveling. It was weirded out - bad. Then, almost as suddenly as it had gone sideways - SNAP! - the culture reawakened.

One day, our culture was depressed and buried under the covers, and the next she hopped out of bed, slugged some coffee, added some lipstick and a messy bun, and got back to work!

How The Virtual Hub Got Its Groove Back

The three, most immediate results that have come out of our Scaling Up experience described above have replenished the energy and momentum that early 2020 had drained from us as a team.

These quick, early results provided a win we could latch onto in the midst of this year’s struggles and the boost we needed to rise up and keep fighting another day. In short, it’s given us our mojo back and we’re ready to meet the next set of challenges, whatever they may be. 

And it’s so exciting because we’ve only just scratched the surface of Scaling Up! Only the foundation (purpose, BHAG and values) and the first of the four pillars (People) have been tackled to date! Imagine what we’re going to achieve as we continue to refine our recruiting and hiring processes, as well as to move through the remaining pillars - Strategy, Execution, and Cash! 

For now, we’re going to wrap up this chapter of our Scaling Up - or “bootcamp” - journey. However, I intend to come back around to share more “golden nuggets” and wins achieved as The Virtual Hub consumes and applies the additional pillars of the program. Our team knows it’s a marathon and not a sprint, we’re committed to the long-haul, and we hope you’ll stick around to hear about our stops down the road on this quest!


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