Bringing Core Values to life
Avanza Bank Holding was founded in 1999 with the aim of carving out a niche within the banking industry and challenging the dominance of traditional banks. From the outset, the company has strived to offer a more customer-oriented experience than the average bank, ditching corporate suits for casual attire and making a commitment to preserving the aura of a small bank.
In 2005, Avanza compiled a list of company values – referred to as ‘guiding stars’. These were developed from the bottom up, with the employees influencing the decisions rather than the company’s executives. The guiding stars are as follows:
– We help our colleagues to help our customers
– We take responsibility
– We challenge and we think new
Though deviating from traditional banking was a risk it proved to be a successful strategy, with Avanza experiencing great success. As the company grew, the board became increasingly keen to ensure that the Avanza’s values and unique culture were preserved and strengthened over the years to come. Research showed that while newer recruits were aware of the basic principles of the guiding stars, they were largely unsure of how to apply them in their daily working lives.
In order to further ingrain Avanza’s values and maintain the company’s one-of-a-kind bond between employees, it was decided that the guiding stars should be relaunched. This would ensure that everybody was pulling in the same direction and allow the company to preserve its identity for years to come. It was here that Green Hat People were consulted, with a view to exploring how gamification could serve to unite the staff in working towards a common goal.
It was decided that the company’s values could not be relaunched successfully in the form of a one-off event. Instilling and maintaining a solid culture would require long-term implementation over an extended period, with constant upkeep to ensure that employees would never lose touch with the guiding stars.
With Avanza’s focus on the customer paramount and many of the 400-500 employees required to work directly with customers, shutting down for a full day to discuss company culture was not an option. Instead, five meetings were held with the staff split into groups.
The employees were surveyed to ascertain their views on the company’s values. The results showed that while almost all employees knew of the guiding stars and could recite them, many were unsure of the actual meaning behind them. This influenced the next steps taken by the company, as they now understood that they did not need to teach the values but simply implement them better.
After initial workshops, which included a mix of question and answer sessions, quizzes and hypothetical dilemmas, Avanza continued to provide booster activities for the staff over the next three weeks. These included, among others:
– Eating lunch with a colleague never previously spoken to
– Attempting to give an ‘elevator pitch’ for one of the guiding stars
– Pop-up activities at random times, such as working together to put together a pool table or send anonymous praise to a colleague.
– Taking and sharing photographs which demonstrate how the guiding stars can influence daily activities.
Employees would receive points for completing the tasks, which would be displayed on screens in offices so everyone could track their scores.
These activities were influenced heavily by the results of the survey and subsequent workshops, meaning they were tailor-made to address the perceived loss of company culture. The aim was for 2500 activities to be completed – however, the final number completed was 4217. At the end of the initial process, an awards ceremony was held with prizes given out to those who scored the most points.
One employee, who had 20 years of previous banking experience prior to joining Avanza, remarked that it was “amazing how management uses corporate culture as a business driving component.”
The survey given at the start of the process was once again circulated amongst staff in order to examine the lasting impact on the company’s values. One question – ‘How comfortable are you describing the values to colleagues?’ – saw its average score jump from 3.5 to 4.5/5. Another – ‘How well do you understand the behaviours expected of you?’ – increased from 3.9 to 4.6. This shows a vastly improved understanding of the guiding stars by the majority of employees, proving the experiment once and for all to be a major success.
An additional outcome was that employees came to realise that the guiding stars had been initially devised by their peers. Previously, many had assumed that these were simply guidelines being imposed by management. This increased understanding of the guiding stars meant that employees appreciated and took ownership of these values in a more significant way.