In the hospitality industry, people are at the core of everything we do. If we’re not serving our people with a commitment to the values that give our organization its heart, we’re doing a disservice not just to our employees, but to every guest who walks through our doors.
People are the backbone of organizational culture. The values of our people define our culture. By defining one’s core values, we are protecting, building, and strengthening culture. Culture is proving to be one of, if not, the biggest driver to success.
After spending over a year defining SSA’s cultural values, with the help of our friends and partners at Behavioral Essentials, we have learned a lot! Here’s a breakdown of what we’ve learned along the way:
1. Don't DIY (seriously though)
Formalizing your company values is an incredibly in-depth and often personal undertaking and it’s not something an organization can simply put together on their own. Working with an expert like Behavioral Essentials who truly understands the importance of behaviors, values, and processes is integral in developing impactful company values. While some aspects are things you can do yourself (doing an internal audit, putting together focus groups) the process is best chaperoned by an organization that knows what they’re doing and can help guide you through the process.
2. The more perspectives, the better.
Once you have an expert to guide your process, we recommend getting started by getting all the existing organizational (formal and informal) information in one place. By gathering feedback from a variety of sources, you can cover the entire spectrum of stakeholder perspectives. Everything from how employees feel about working for your organization to past consumer or guest feedback, to the existing mission statement should be evaluated and considered. This highlights strengths to build upon and areas needing attention, ensuring the values you establish are rooted in reality. It also gives you an idea of areas of improvement, or major discussion topics based on feedback.
3. This is not a quick process, don’t rush it.
This isn’t a quick item to check off an organization to-do list. It can take months (in our case, over a year!) and can be an all-encompassing (and sometimes emotionally draining) experience. But trust this process, it’s worth it to take your time for each step and allow the long runway for the ultimate satisfying reward: values that encapsulate your business and represent the true ethos of your company.
4. Do better than corporate cliches
There’s a reason corporate cliches exist. They’re easy-to-use, easy-to-find sayings, in essence, big words without much meaning. We encourage you to do better than that. Utilizing generic corporate ideologies might seem like a quick way to establish values until you can do the real work but it’s a hollow approach that detracts from the authenticity of your organization. You want your values to mean something to you, and that kind of approach isn’t found in generic stock statements.
5. Test out your values before they become written in stone
Your first edition of company values needs to get several eyes on it to make sure it’s the right approach. Conduct internal focus groups to ensure initial values resonate with individual groups within your organization. For example, SSA released a “draft” version of values to the entire company to facilitate feedback and ensure everyone could see themselves within them. It’s important to continue keeping your greater company in the loop so there is a collective feeling of pride once your official values are rolled out publicly.
6. Application across your organization is key.
Once you have an official sign-off on your values, announce them across your organization from initial onboarding activities with new team members to company all-hands for the entire business. List them externally and share them with your partners as well as in a place where your guests can clearly see them. The more you vocalize and find ways to integrate into every aspect of your organization, the easier it will be to make it a part of your culture and hold everyone to the same standard.
Understanding not just the “what” and “why” of your values but also the “how” will ensure reenforcement of your values through application and action. By weaving these values into every aspect of your business, they move from being just words on paper to lived experiences, shaping the culture, aligning your team, and enhancing both employee and guest experiences.
A Task Worth Completing
Establishing your core values isn’t just a foundational activity; it’s an ongoing commitment to giving your organization purpose and giving your culture meaning. In the world of cultural attractions, where experiences are paramount, these values shape each story, each interaction, and each memory made. We believe it’s a task worth completing because it serves as a cultural foundation for today and a compass for your legacy tomorrow.