How Social Are Your Organisational Values?

Be Different

One of the most repeated laws of the social web is that people trust word of mouth recommendation via personal networks more than they do advertising or PR.

With that in mind , it’s odd that more organisations don’t harness one of the most powerful resources at their disposal-the people they employ.

If ,for example, you look across the UK public sector – there are only a handful of organisations who have a significant employee social media presence. This seems counterintuitive –  as the average employee is regarded as a more trustable brand advocate than the Chief Executive. (Source: Edelman Trust Barometer 2013)

One of the reasons we don’t see more employee social presence is that it doesn’t happen by accident. Organisations that are on the journey to being a social business have cultures that have been developed over time. Cultures that are reinforced every day , not just by the leadership , but with active collaboration from people at every tier of the business.

These are organisations where employees identify with and believe in the company values and are only too keen to promote them.

And some of the organisations who are doing the most exciting things on the social web have company values that actively encourage people to behave differently.

Let’s face it – most Mission Statements and Company Values are a complete waste of time. They exist as tacked up bits of paper on a wall rather than something that sits in the hearts and minds of people.

So I want to look at three organisations from very different industries who are doing things differently:



Zappos , the online shoe and clothing store, are known for their unique culture and values. Their CEO Tony Hsieh has said his company’s number one priority is the company culture. “Our whole belief is that if we get the culture right, then most of the other stuff, like delivering great customer service or building a long-term enduring brand or business, will just be a natural by-product of that.”

Here are the Zappos core values that are designed to be different:

Deliver WOW Through Service 

Embrace and Drive Change 

Create Fun and A Little Weirdness 

 Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded 

 Pursue Growth and Learning 

 Build Open and Honest Relationships With Communication 

Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit 

Do More With Less 

Be Passionate and Determined 

Be Humble

With the call to “create fun and a little weirdness”, Zappos are making it OK to have a unique social presence.



I love the service and the culture of Buffer, a service that helps you share to social networks.  You can feel the genuine enthusiasm for the organisation from the people who work there and what they tweet and blog about.

The Buffer team has jointly decided which words define the culture and put together this list of the 9 Buffer Values , a continual work in progress:

Always Choose Positivity and Happiness

Default to Transparency

Have a Focus on Self Improvement

Be a “no-ego” Doer

Listen First, Then Listen More

Have a Bias Towards Clarity

Make Time to Reflect

Live Smarter, Not Harder

Show Gratitude

Having dealt with Buffer on a number of occasions I can say their values are displayed both in 1:1 dealings and in their online social presence: Listen First , Then Listen More.



(Disclosure:  I work for Bromford and my handprint is on these values – but I think it’s worth sharing the story!)

Imagine screwing up your mission statement , vision and values and handing it over to internal colleagues to start all over again and pitch it direct to the CEO. That’s what Bromford did and it’s how they came up with their Bromford DNA.

Mainly developed in an intensive 90 minute session and presented to the Board without so much as a report being written – the Bromford approach sets outs an expectation that colleague and company behaviour should follow the Four B’s.

So to Be Bromford you should:

Be Different

Be Brave

Be Commercial

Be Good

The aim was to have something simple that colleagues could remember but also be something they could live by.

I think this post by my colleague Andy Johnson gives some of the best examples of how these values are being brought alive and built upon by colleagues. It’s a hashtag ready set of company values.

Although there is never going to be a “best way” to lead a social organisation – the key differentiator will be the way their service is delivered through people.

We should aim for values that set people free to be unique and memorable – during the 9-5 and beyond.

I’d love to hear other examples of great values you have seen or are developing.


8 thoughts on “How Social Are Your Organisational Values?

  1. Top stuff. My favourite example is the Valve New Employee handbook. It hammers home the culture from day one and has a friendly and inclusive tone without being patronising.

    If I walked into a new place of work and on day one was handed one of these I’d be a very happy bloke!

    Click to access Valve_Handbook_LowRes.pdf

    1. Really good shout Thom – The Valve Handbook has to be one the very best examples of setting out a culture and way of thinking from Day 1

  2. Great post, Paul – and thanks so much for the mention and reference to my post.

    A great example that I’ve come across of late is: Infusion Soft. ( With lines such as:

    We listen, we care, we serve.
    We do what we say we’ll do.
    We practice open, real communication.
    We face challenges with optimism.
    We check our egos at the door.

    …you can’t help but be a little interested, and excited, by them.

    (Make sure you watch their 5mins culture video too)

  3. Great post Paul. In three yrs I’ve seen how Bromfordsupport thinking has changed and the culture has grown. DNA tis vital to the culture and everyone has to buy into it. That’s what turns it from and die into a real livening abpnd breathing culture.

  4. So, culture sets the tone of the organisation eh? Perhaps those managers who think the top down approach to management is best, should refer to the “Hawthorne Experiment” which took place in 1932 (though it could have been 33) at an American Factory. The (shock horror) staff were given free reign to experiment to try to improve efficiency.
    Despite trying lots of different things – including turning down lighting, team-working, raising and lowering temperatures, productivity improved no matter what management did…

    Staff involvement
    Staff Buy-in
    Staff decision making
    LIstening to Staff
    etc etc etc…

    But that would mean management might feel like they were losing control, and that’s what they fear most. Like they’re not needed…

    1. W.S I might be being confused by the opening sentence but I don’t think we disagree here – cultures are reinforced every day with active collaboration from people at every tier of a business. Culture isn’t a managerial thing.

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