“Values are personal and reflect the vibe around the company”
Start-ups and growth companies, especially in IT and technology, are the talk of the day, not only because of their innovations and expertise but also because of their wildly varying practices. Competition for the best employees is fierce, and new recruits are enticed with just the right combination of company culture, facilities and appreciation for blending a varied life style with work activities. In a matter of ten years, OptoFidelity has grown from a shop with no more than a few engineers to an international technology powerhouse that employs 120 people. The continuous growth and changes haven’t always followed a systematic plan, and in late 2016 the company finally began building a unified culture – an operational methodology that would truly reflect OptoFidelity’s sensibilities. Values were chosen as the construction material. We tackled the challenge head on, defining values as our internal code, as the shared rules and procedures that would guide internal communications and decision-making in all matters big and small. Then again, our offices are pretty cool too.
In our opinion, values – the rulebook we follow in our day-to-day activities – form just the right glue to bind together a great many elements of our organization’s operations. Generally speaking, values specify the style and manner of conduct. Values serve as a basis for leadership and the kind of efforts we value. Values help us communicate and mobilize strategies. Values guide decision-making – particularly in challenging situations. Values and their wording bolster our unique company spirit, which we feel is something to nurture and cherish.
In addition to this, the aim is for our values to create an internal guideline for our employees – something that unites us and provides a framework for what we all are together. Our values illustrate and define what we can be and what we truly value, without any roles or pretenses. At the same time, values guide us toward self-guided operations and the development of the company and its company culture through our own efforts.
The work around values has been on-going for a year now, and their practical feasibility has been tested. At times, however, some have questioned whether it’s really necessary to “go on and on about values all the time.” To which the answer is “Yes, it is.” If we want values to define and shape our daily activities, they must be a constant part of our discussions. This is also the conclusion drawn by researcher Jarmo Puustinen, who wrote his doctoral dissertation on the image of the police (link to recent dissertation). Moreover, changing what we talk about and how changes the world around us. By discussing values, we can find the common thread for our values in our day-to-day routines or enable them to be used as a basis for decision-making. In this way, the values can became rooted as a natural part of our culture and behaviour.
In the value process, it is also important to define the language we use to talk about values. For example, courage as a positive force is a good value, but the word is somewhat abstract and open to interpretation. If the definition of courage is “to go boldly where no one has gone before,” we have a better sense of what the concept means to us, specifically.
Values in practice? Why don’t we let the values speak for themselves:
Get Things Done – If you have all the information necessary for making a decision, DO IT. It’s often better to apologise later than to spend time asking for a permission
Optomize People Around You – We believe We are successful because we work as a team. The most important thing we can achieve is to make our colleagues shine.
What Would MacGyver Do? – We measure success by how thoroughly and efficiently we can solve our customer’s problems. We believe that everything can be done better, more efficiently or smarter. MacGyver never ran away from a live explosive without defusing it, and we’re not going to be any different.
Go Boldly Where No One Has Gone Before – We want to be blazing the trail, not just following it. We focus on boldly experimenting and doing things that have not been done before. Our strategy is called ”doing things”, and it’s kind of fun doing the impossible!
Love Technology and enjoys playing with it – Nearly 100 engineers, could it be otherwise? We are the best at what we do because we simply LOVE technology, equipment and gadgets. We are true tech geeks and proud of it.
“The values are important and using them in our daily routines is extremely important in order to keep up the spirit and feel of the company”
In the same context, we decided to change our manner of speaking to be more in line with the Optomize People Around You value. Especially in an engineer-dominated company such as ours, that tends to thrive on problems, it is a good idea to make a conscious effort to steer speech away from this focus toward a solution-oriented approach and practice constructive interaction, being considerate of others and diversity, and listening. Alongside our own value workout, Simo Routarinne has provided us with a much-needed shake-up for the summer season.
In the practical implementation of values, it’s quite natural for some values to jibe better with certain people than with others. Some differences in value adoption are also rooted in the phases in which specific people have entered the company. For new employees, values are a natural part of the new environment. Old employees have much more to unlearn when genuine practical changes are expected on the day-to-day level. Still, it has been nice to see that many of the values have taken on exactly the lives we hoped they would. “Get things done” is an easy line to throw to yourself or someone else when you run the risk of excessive dawdling on a decision or schedule. “Love technology” is a given in a working environment that mainly consists of engineers. The orientation toward problem solving and bold creativeness has been solidified through the “what would MacGyver do” thinking. Perhaps the most positive development has been the increase in people thanking each other for help and successes as a result of the “optomize people around you” way of thinking.
When we moved to entirely new premises in the end of April 2017, the process of change and the planning of the facilities were also guided by values. Instead of building the premises around a transitory trend, we wanted to hold true to our basic pillars. Although “get things done” was the most useful mantra for the project team of the project, which was implemented on a tight schedule, the values live on in our office and remind us of the things we cherish.
As the cherry on top, the values and their visibility in our new office contribute to building the OptoFidelity brand and our image as an employer. This is who we are and how we operate. We believe that our values illustrate the company’s operations better than any slogan ever could.
With great enthusiasm,
Culture Architect, HR Lead Pia Räihä & MarCom Idealist, Marketing and Communication Manager Maria Uurto