Surrey-based cloud services firm Fordway created its values when the company first started up, but they had never been formally defined. When the business changed model and direction five years later, its main value – “do the right thing” – meant something different to each employee.
Managing director Richard Blanford wanted the team to collectively determine which behaviours made them successful – and what was holding them back – to make sure their next set of values were meaningful. To ensure staff buy-in he made the decision to step back and trust employees to come up with the values that would define the business.
A mix of individual interviews and group workshops were facilitated by Fordway’s head of business support and an external consultant to get feedback on what staff felt the core values should be.
The next step was to embed the values in the day-to-day practices of the company. Fordway included the values in everyone’s individual development plans, internal staff reviews and feedback processes. It meant that when individual performance was reviewed, managers and staff would need to provide factual evidence of how they had delivered against the set values and behaviours.
A year after first addressing its values’ lack of clarity, Fordway has seen a massive improvement in discussions with potential customers. As Blanford explained, large companies which have already gone through the process of defining values are clear about what these stand for – and want to do business with others which act in a similar way. Despite the commitment of time and resource, Blanford believes the process has been a critical part of positioning Fordway for future growth.
“Values have to become ‘the way we do things around here’,” he said. “They should empower staff to have more confidence in making decisions for themselves, because they know they won’t be criticised for it.”