Ever since it was founded ten years ago, Undabot has had an unwritten set of fundamental beliefs that helped our team connect and work toward a common business goal - these were the values we have been living by.
In 2023, we celebrated the ten-year founding anniversary, and we embarked on a journey of refining our company values. In this blog, we will walk you through our process of refining Undabot values, provide advice on how to do it effectively, and more importantly - why do it.
First up, what are organizational values?
Organizational values are not just a set of buzzwords or a marketing gimmick. They have a profound impact on an organization's success and serve as the moral compass and guiding principles that shape an organization's culture, steer decision making, and influence the behavior of its employees.
If authentic, embedded and shared properly, organizational values are the heartbeat of a company, defining its identity and setting the tone for its interactions with employees, clients, and wider audience.
While many companies fret that their core values might become nothing more than superficial slogans adorning office walls, we encountered no such predicament.
Recognizing the importance of preserving the authenticity of our unwritten values, we embarked on a thoughtful journey to document, clarify, and articulate them.
This process wasn't an isolated endeavor; our employees, being integral to our identity, were actively involved every step of the way. Their genuine connection to these values ensured that, far from being mere slogans, they resonate deeply within our organization, shaping our daily practices and fostering a meaningful workplace culture.
We live our values in everyday work. To begin with, they’re the principles all our teams follow. Values are also integral to the selection process as guidelines for what it means to choose candidates that are a cultural fit. And they inspire the benefits that we introduced over the years to support our team in their desired path of growth.
Road to refining Undabot values
Step 1. Decide on the approach
At the heart of our journey to refine organizational values lay a fundamental question: who should take the helm in steering this expedition? Typically, there are two overarching approaches to consider:
- The top-down approach: Founders and leadership take charge in identifying and defining core values.
- The bottom-up approach: We harness the collective wisdom and experience of our employees, allowing them to shape company values.
In Undabot people are the be-all and end-all of what we do, so we chose the bottom-up path and put the power in the hands of our people who have been quietly embodying the unspoken values.
Step 2: Gather employee insights
Foremost, it is important to establish basic definitions to ensure that people know what we’re talking about and what we're trying to accomplish. Therefore, we prepared a questionnaire in which we explained what company values are and asked our employees to indicate which values from the list are characteristic of Undabot.
Next, we asked them to write down five values that they find most important, elaborate on the significance of these values in their own words, and detail how these values manifest in Undabot. For example, how they or others express that value or ways they might act or express that value in the future.
In total 41 employees representing various teams, including Backend, Frontend, Android, iOS, Design, PM, QA, Sales, Technology, and Finance, participated in the questionnaire
Step 3. Identify common themes
The responses in the questionnaire underwent a comprehensive analysis, encompassing both qualitative and quantitative assessments. A close look at values that employees found most important - those that make Undabot unique and motivate our employees to stay - brought to light the values that had quietly been shaping our company culture: People First, Teamwork, Transparency, Work-life Balance, Quality and Continuous Improvement.
Step 4. Understand your values
To gain a deeper understanding of the questionnaire results and what truly distinguishes Undabot, we facilitated a workshop involving employees from different departments, backgrounds, and seniority. During this workshop, participants were encouraged to openly exchange their thoughts regarding the values highlighted in the questionnaire findings.
In the workshop, we explored the following topics:
- Meaning - What does this value mean to you?
We looked into what each value means at both the conceptual and personal level. This was an important first step to making sure we were on the same page.
- Relevance - Why is this value important to Undabot?
Articulating the relevance can be the "ah-ha" moment for people when they understand why values exist. In our case, communication and willingness to help one another are highly relevant for us as a company working on custom solutions in agile teams.
- Mutuality - What is required from others to keep this value alive?
When you look at a value it should tell you two things - what can you expect from the company and what the company expects from you. Individuals may act in a way that is aligned with their values, but if they don’t receive the right support from those around them, they will never stick. For example, we don't believe in burning the midnight oil and losing sight of life outside of work. Therefore, our work-life balance policy respects your free time through careful project planning and no notifications and emails after hours.
All innovative ideas that arose during the workshop were documented, enabling us to breathe life into our values by contextualizing them within the unique reality in which we operate.
Step 5. Craft the ‘commandments’
Once we’ve identified core values and prioritized them, it was time to turn them into something meaningful. We meticulously crafted succinct definitions for each value listed on our website: Careers Undabot
If you decide to work on uncovering your company's values, make sure you create clear, concise definitions for each value, and use language that is easily understood and relatable. We believe we have been successful in that endeavor - but we’ll let you be the judge of that.
Step 6. Go for the grand unveiling
From internal announcement channels to our company webpage, we've left no stone unturned in our quest to ensure that every employee not only comprehends our values but also recognises their importance.
The announcement was shared through our internal communication platform - Slack, fostering immediate dialogue and feedback within our team. Simultaneously, our intranet served as a central hub for detailed insights, providing employees with a comprehensive overview of our values.
Complementing these internal platforms, our newly redesigned web page had prominently featured our values, extending our commitment to transparency beyond our internal circles and inviting external stakeholders to join us in advocating these guiding principles.
To broaden our communication beyond written exchanges, particularly in our remote work environment, we organized team-building activities, outdoor events, and volunteer initiatives that embody and strengthen our company values but also promote camaraderie.
Step 7. Bring your values to life
Now, how do we turn these values into more than mere words? We integrated our values in everyday work processes, such as performance evaluations, education, seniority frameworks, benefits and all other important steps in the employee life cycle. This ensures that the values become an integral part of daily operations.
For example, since Improvement is one of our values, during 2023 alone we invested over 6200 hours in training and development of our employees, more than ever before.
Put company values in writing
At the end of this journey, one may ask oneself - why did you bother to go through all this trouble to refine and write your organizational values if they worked so far?
Defining Undabot values in writing was not just a symbolic act or an opportunity for the HR Team to say - Hey, here’s a questionnaire! We had a strategic goal.
Although Undabot has had an unwritten set of values that guided daily operations since day one, we had grown significantly over the years so we wanted to make sure that we were on the same page with regards to understanding our core principles.
By transparently communicating what is important to us as a company, we ensure that all team members and everyone joining Undabot share a common understanding of our values which in turn, enhances teamwork, cultivates a positive work environment, and ultimately contributes to our collective success.
Clearly defined organizational values that are written down serve as a tangible reminder of what Undabot stands for and what we strive to achieve. By articulating and sharing these values, we created a foundation upon which Undabot can thrive and grow while staying true to its core principles.
After all, it's not just about defining values; it's about living them, day in and day out. And that's exactly what we intend to do!