Recently, I received a very unusual gift—a case of Cokes. Anyone who knows me already knows that among my many vices in life, Coke Zero™ is at the top of the list. What was unusual about the gift was that it was customized with my name, “Share a Coke Zero with Andrew Pryor.” It was clear that the gifter had put a lot of thought into the present and it was fun! What made the gift even more special was that it also contained bottles customized for our unofficial ECi mascot, CODEY. The gift actually came from a new vendor partner that I had been working closely with for the past five months. As the vendor got to know me, he also got to know ECi and heard the stories of how we use a little dog (CODEY) as our mascot to promote our Reward and Recognition Program, HIGH5, and to promote our core values.
In 2015, ECi had eight core values that few employees knew and no one (literally, no one) could name all eight. ECi is a company built from acquisitions and at the time contained multiple cultures, each dating back to the original business we had acquired. As we looked forward to shaping one global culture, we began with our core values. Core values define a company; they are the building blocks for how employees work together, treat each other and, more importantly, how they treat their customers. Over a three month period, we conducted internal research by asking our employees and leaders a series of questions:
- Can you name the core values?
- What do they mean to you?
- How is ECi perceived as an employer?
- What do employees want from ECi?
- What makes us special?
In the end, we had hundreds of responses to our simple questions sitting in front of us but how do you take all that feedback and build a culture? We started with the premise that happy employees deliver great customer experiences. The feedback in our hands told us what our employees wanted from ECi’s new global culture—common themes emerged such as innovation, commitment, performance and teamwork. As we looked at the comments we asked, “Do these themes create a culture that best serves our employees and our customers?” From those conversations we introduced four new core values that we hoped would drive employee loyalty, productivity and customer satisfaction:
Own the Outcome
With full intent, we were able to form the acronym CODE. As a software company, we thought that was REALLY AWESOME! CODE is also an easy way for employees to remember the very simple message of our core values:
Crave Greatness describes ECi’s relentless pursuit for innovation.
Own the Outcome reminds us of our commitment to be accountable for our actions and lack of action.
Deliver Awesome proclaims the power of performance if we love what we do.
Embrace Community declares that teamwork is built from trust, passion and a desire to make a difference in our work community as well as the cities where we live.
As a way to reinforce our new values, we introduced a reward system which ties behaviors directly to each of the CODE values. We call the program HIGH5. Every month, we give each employee a $10 budget to recognize their peers for the great things they are doing to demonstrate our core values. ECi employees go to our intranet portal, HIGH5, and publically recognize colleagues who go above and beyond in support of our customers and each other. Every recognition is tied to a core value and the more HIGH5s an employee receives, the more dollars they have to spend on fun things like gift cards, electronics, and even a trip to dive with sharks (yes, it happened).
As we began planning the launch of HIGH5, we found a photo of a little dog actually giving a high-five. It was a silly but unforgettable photo so we used it to publicize the launch in January 2016. Employees all over the globe sent emails about how humorous they found the photo. In February, we found a second photo of the little dog holding a box of heart-shaped candies; we used that photo as a way to promote the program and remind employees that they now owned recognition. The feedback poured in, “Andrew where did you find that photo? Love the dog!” or “Can’t wait to see the dog on spring break.” In March, the little dog was dressed in an Irish top hat. Before long, everyone was asking me the little dog’s name? We decided to hold a contest to name our unofficial mascot. I had hoped to receive 5–10 responses. To my surprise, over 50% of our employees submitted names (hundreds of responses)! The most popular name by far was CODEY (a play on the core values). I knew at that point, we had a mascot and that our new core values were at the heart of ECi.
In its first year, HIGH5 was a huge success with over 44,000 peer-to-peer recognitions, each tied to a specific core value. Along the way, CODEY sent reminders to the staff as he went to the Olympics, celebrated work anniversaries and, of course, dressed as Santa in December. He also became a spokesperson for our benefits programs (he wears glasses for our Vision Benefits). More importantly, CODEY became a symbol of something I did not expect—that our employees found the informality of our communications refreshing and wanted our core values and culture to be fun. While CODEY does not represent the brand of ECi, which is grounded in service, quality and innovation, he represents the heart of ECi - the grass-roots feedback that our employees want to work in an environment that is enjoyable and does not take itself too seriously. At ECi, our core values have grown beyond being just words; they are now about a spirit of camaraderie and its impact on employee engagement, performance and customer satisfaction. Oh, and don’t forget the little dog who reminds us to take time daily to recognize others and to have fun along the way.
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