X Rated employers: For adults only.

Rant: Companies should be treating their employees as adults.  I think that people, generally, are smart and intelligent. Which is why I tend to cringe at the horribly cliched, tried and true values and mission statements that are floating around at the moment. Read any corporate web page/annual report/csr report. Boilerplate. We care about customer service. We strive for a greener world. We strive for equality in the workplace. We aim to be the best we can be. 


Yuk. Does anybody actually work to these? Can someone tell me the last time they we’re staring down the funnel, known as their computer, cranking out some piece of work because they ‘cared abut customer service.’ I believe people are adults. That they want to work for good companies, and that the culture of those companies dictates the values and mission statements.

Lets be clear here. I’m a fan of the concept of values and internal mission statements. I think they are crucial in creating an innovative, creative culture. But lets stop with the idea that value statements must test well with the companies customers. The values of a company/division/department should jive with the people (get ready for a shock here) THAT ARE THERE! A truly good values statement should be simple (but not simplistic), and carry with it a clear message about how ‘stuff happens.’ It should signal loud and clear “this is who we are, and this is what we do, and this is how.” It should treat the people that work there, as adults.  

As luck would have it, I’ve found a few examples.

Apple: Yes, everyones favourite brand also creates a great atmosphere and vibe for it’s employees. Check out this link here to see why (yes, another fastcompany article – sorry!) or this book, which has just been released for the down-low. I’ve added it to my wishlist.

The Body Shop: Has represented the non-fluffed, real values, real outcomes side of the green movement for years and years. Check out their very cool Values blog here to read more. These guys care – which is amazingly refreshing.

Ergo Consulting: Yeah, a bit small for these comparisons – and yes, I worked there for a year + a little. But their ‘Participation Behaviours’ ruled the roost. No ridiculous KPI’s. Just good, passionate ways they wanted to go about their business. They are something else – check out the website here and their nascent blog, here.

IDEO: The culture dictates the values. If you don’t conform to the culture, you’ll leave. Simple. Respect. Read this HBR article, Building an Innovation factory,  here.

St Lukes: Everyone is a shareholder. Everyone owns the business, and so everyone cares. These guys are amazing, and don’t need a boiler-plate values and mission statement. They live and breathe their values everyday, unprompted.  If you haven’t already, you MUST read Simple Minds, the book documenting their founding. Check the website here.

Please, next time you’re having the “values” discussion, demand something real that you will actually want to work for. DON’T let customers impressions get in the way here. Just do it!

2 thoughts on “X Rated employers: For adults only.

  1. I agree with a lot of your comments Steve re excluding the mission/vision statement from customer eyes. But why can you see this at Apple etc. Aren’t they also guilty of subtlely advertising to the market? Saying, we are good to our staff who feel so good that they do a better job for you our customer. This sort of thing should be hidden entirely if the organisation is genuine. I have been involved in two processes of this nature. With one l actually ran it. It worked well in both cases in that it effectively ended with a service agreement from Finance (where l worked in both cases) to the rest of the organsation. It had measureable objectives agreed by all and Finance staff felt empowered by the process. It also gave them a process to raise issues separate from normal management/subordinate discussions and created authority/responsibility for those who sought it. A big thing then when staff empowerment was in its infancy. The other departments had an avenue to raise issues if the service agreement wasn’t being followed. The service agreements remained within the organisation. We (Finance) had a vision for the service we created for our internal customers. Though l have to say there would have been no value or interest from the wider community on this. The organisations were not retail orientated.

  2. Thanks Doug for the comment,

    I suppose Apple is a special case in this particular area, which is why I have highlighted them. They have such a strong idea of their internal culture and missions that they can’t help but let this seep out into the market.

    This internal value is thrown out to the market without much translation..ie – it’s not dumbed down, or changed to be more publically friendly. The famour, “we be pirates” value’s statement from Apple comes to mind as an example of an internal value that was created for internal uses, but then inspired the apple-ites so much that they proudly shouted it out in public any time they could, to the delight of the Apple customers.

    I think you raise another very interesting topic, which is concerned with vision and missions for those people dealing with internal customers. Thanks very much for your comments on your experiences, I found them fascinating!

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