A few weeks ago, I wrote my first post about my tour at G Adventures Basecamp in Toronto. There was so much to share that I couldn’t put it all in one post, so here’s number two… all about Core Values!
I think strong, differentiated core values that are meaningful and clear build the foundation for strong culture. Your core values won’t fit with everyone – and that is okay – in fact, probably more than okay. If your core values are authentic and differentiated enough, they serve as a way to help the right people for your company feel a connection to it immediately, while others who may not fit in with your culture will be turned off.
The more time I spent at G Adventures, the more it was very apparent that their values are unique and strong, entrenched in everything they do. Here are some examples.
1. The Culture Book (and other SWAG)
Lots of companies have culture books now. But the one I got from G Adventures actually made me tear up on the train home from my Basecamp adventure. It is filled with stories from CEOs (the job title for employees who run the tours around the country), other employees and customers of G Adventures and how their job or their trip changed their lives. It exemplifies G Adventures’ purpose and values and is a great read. I was completely wowed when my friend Mei, who works in G’s Talent Services department, gave me the book, signed by Bruce Poon Tip.
Then I was overwhelmed by the other SWAG that Dave, the Mayor of G Adventures, gave me as we finished up our tour – t-shirts, a jacket, and a ball cap all to wear with pride. My favourite is the red “DO the right thing” T-shirt. I try to live this value in my own life, so it was perfect for me!
Perhaps if I wear these tees and hangout at Basecamp often enough, they’ll just assume I work there?
2. How G’s Core Values Were Developed
Originally, G Adventures had 7 core values, but they knew that with an organization like theirs, with more than 2000 employees around the world, they needed to simplify them and make them relevant for every culture. The Values weren’t created by Bruce, but rather were developed by people across the organization. In fact, they randomly drew names of people throughout the company and the world, and brought them together for meetings in Las Vegas to develop the framework for the new values. By hearing from people all over the world about what G Adventures meant to them, they were able to develop and agree to 5 core values that transcend the geography and global culture of their workforce:
- We LOVE changing people’s lives
- LEAD with service
- EMBRACE the bizarre
- DO the right thing
- CREATE happiness & community
3. Where the Core Values Live
These values are present everywhere. They are posted on the walls in the kitchen. They are on t-shirts (like one of the three I was given after my tour). They are also the focus of new hire training. During my tour, we had the opporutnity to peek in on “Premier training”, 3 days of training with a focus on the culture and values of G Adventures.
The spaces throughout the office also help to represent one of the core values. For example, the “bitchin’ kitchen” helps to “CREATE Happiness and Community”, with foozball tables, snacks to share, “beer o’clock” get togethers on Fridays, and culinary contests like a chili cook off, bacon-off and guac-off.
The values are also the focus of an annual video challenge across the company that is held every year. Check out one of my favourites for this year:
4. How the Core Values Guide Decisions
This is the most important key to a value-driven culture – actually using your Values to guide daily interactions and decisions, especially the important ones. There are several great stories in Looptail about how G Adventures’ Core Values really do guide decisions. One of them describes the reason that G implemented the lifetime deposit. One day, while discussing people who were prevented from traveling because of things that happen in their lives, the team talked about how the standard travel industry practice is that they lose their deposit. Someone said “That’s not DOING the right thing.” Bruce agreed, and the lifetime deposit was born.
Now, if you put down a deposit for a trip but can’t go for any reason, that deposit can be used any time in the future, for yourself or someone else, or donated to G Adventures’ charity, Planeterra. It never expires. Talk about living their values and doing the right thing!
How do your core values “show up” in your workplace? Are they lived or simply hanging on a wall? I’d love to hear your story!