This is one of several posts talking about the values that embody us both as an organisation and as a group of people. To see other posts in this series, click here.
Recognising the value in our people has always come easy for SIPHON – our two founding directors, Steve Harris and Rob Smith are both genuinely nice people and so treating their staff well and trying to do the best by them came naturally. With that ethos ingrained from day 1, as the company grew everyone came to embrace and reflect that recognition and so when it came for us to write down our values, “People” naturally featured at the very top of the list. So when I came across this snippet of conversation had between two fictitious CxO level managers, it resonated well with this post:
CFO (to CEO): What happens if we invest in developing our people and they leave us?
CEO (to CFO): What happens if we don’t, and they stay?
This, I thought, neatly embodied the struggle that a lot of organisations seem to go through – on the one hand, the financial cost of staff and their training is not insignificant and often not something that has an immediate or tangible return. In this age of austerity, we often hear that training budgets are one of the things that get cut. But the CEO here gets it – investing in your people will provide returns to your business over and over again. You are not only making a direct contribution to that member of staff, increasing their skills which you hope will be reflected in that individuals contribution, but by engendering a culture where investment in your people is the norm you advertise your company as the kind of company that values and invests in people. That sort of reputation is very valuable – both for customers and for potential employees.
For SIPHON, however, we don’t want to just value our people and so the wording of our value statement for our people was very specific:
Our People are our strength
We all commit to develop and maintain a culture and environment that supports empowerment, recognition and personal development
We recognise not only the value that our people bring to the organisation, but we recognise that they, in fact, are the strength of our organisation. They are the steel and concrete that give this structure its strength and without them, we would fall.
But the key thing that came out of this statement was very powerful for us – we wanted to ensure that not only was this behaviour something that people consciously engaged in, but rather we wanted to ingrain this into our culture. We wanted managers and leaders within the organisation to value our staff as part of something so fundamental that it would be interwoven into everything that we do.
A few years on from the session where we pored over the wording, we can see the benefits of this very specific wording throughout our organisation every day. Our people feel supported and so are confident in their daily lives which is reflected in the conversations they have with customers and suppliers. Our training is tailored to each individual, providing them with opportunities to expand their horizons and try new things without fearing rejection.
The managers in SIPHON recognise that as a company we ask a lot of our people. We are a company at the cutting edge of technology and it requires constant effort to keep ahead of the technology so that we can advise, sell, deploy and help our customers keep a technological advantage on their competitors. We also know that our people are both our strength and our adaptability, without their unique set of skills we wouldn’t be the dynamic, fast-moving company we are today.
It was this recognition, coupled with a desire to help shape the future of our industry, that led us to our current Apprenticeship Programme. Together with local colleges, SIPHON is able to provide apprenticeships that give budding young engineers the skills they need to develop into the next generation of people that will lead this industry.
Whilst all this sounds great, we also recognise that we aren’t perfect – there’s always room for improvement. We strive to ensure that feedback is acted on and the results made clear to the contributor. We actively seek this feedback from our staff in many forms. All of this provides input into our continuous improvement plans – which I’ll talk about in my next post.