Engaging our Team for the Next Generation of Company Values

Jessica Sklar by Jessica Sklar | October 7, 2021

In September, all of Curley Company gathered for our annual retreat, taking the time to connect and collaborate in-person. It was the first time we had all been together in many months, and our team looked forward to meeting new members and spending quality time together.

Our retreat centered not just on team bonding but a serious conversation of who we are as a company, taking stock of our current culture and values. This centered around a discussion of our company values – or house rules, as we like to call them. The 10 Curley House Rules are a key part of who we are and what we do each day. They hang on our wall in our office and are incorporated into our annual reviews, reminding us of the values that we hold as a company and we as team members strive to emulate them. But as Curley Company enters its 20th year – 20 years of expansion, growth, and new mindsets – it was time to reassess as a group and see what still resonated, what could be changed, and what gaps exist.

Getting Started

A conversation like this one takes prep work to achieve. To kick off the process, our Company Culture Committee met with senior leadership to discuss our goals and understood what a refreshed set of values would truly accomplish. What is the point? What are we trying to say? An exercise Curley frequently engages with clients is examining the ‘why’ – and we took the same approach ourselves. In these conversations, we dug a bit deeper. The most important result is building a company culture that is supportive and inclusive, allowing each employee to bring their authentic selves to work every day, and our values set the groundwork to begin.

We immediately understood that we need the entire team’s input on what inclusion means to them and what kind of company they’d like to work for. To understand the full picture, we created an anonymous survey to collect feedback from our staff. In it we asked our coworkers to rate each value on a scale of 1-10 and provide honest feedback on whether these values resonated with them. There was also room for any comments or concerns, giving a truly open forum for constructive criticism. After receiving the data, Culture Committee pored through all of the answers, identifying trends and underscoring commonalities. These insights would be the guideposts for our retreat discussion.

The Day Of

Before our conversation kicked off, all team members received a copy of the data collected – nothing was kept private or solely accessible by leadership. Instead, we wanted to ensure that everyone had access to the same information and had a full understanding of the results. After sharing the high-level insights and trends identified, it was time for small group discussion. We purposefully paired individuals together who don’t normally collaborate to bring out deeper discussion and encourage connection. Each pairing was randomly assigned two different values and was asked to use the data collected to take a good, hard look at each. Teams were encouraged to incorporate feedback collected to reshape each value and identify whether or not it correlated with our current company culture.

After reconvening and sharing our thoughts, it was fascinating to see the different ways groups approached the subject. Some went word by word, examining the emotions that each brought out, while others took a broader, overall sentiment on if it reflected our ideal workplace. We parsed through each one, reflecting on how the value could be adapted to better convey our culture at Curley. Our goal was not to have a new, definitive set of values ready to go, but rather to take the time to examine each one, setting us up for the next step in our process.

What’s Next

As the team spoke, we took copious notes of the thoughts, insights and observations shared, distilling them and creating a plan around what’s next. The process isn’t over, as we plan more discussion sessions and group work to find a set of values that match who are and where we strive to be.

But even when new signs are hanging on the wall, our work won’t be done. At its core, Curley Company is a dynamic group of people – and our values must continuously change and evolve, just as our people do. A constant process will keep all of us in check to ensure that our House Rules reflect who we are, what we believe in, and the type of agency we’d like to work at.

We’ll use these values as a framework for tackling other areas, helping us get more specific on how we can create a workplace that is more diverse, equitable and inclusive. As we go through the process, we know that our work is never finished, and we remain committed to engaging every single team member on how to create authentic values that anchor us to the culture we are, while continuously striving to where we’d like to be.