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Value added?

Company values look great on paper and tick the boxes when things are going well. But do they stand up to scrutiny during the tough times? Mike Sewell gives his marks out of 10 for how CPL is living its values during the Covid crisis.

CPL’s employee list includes dozens of journalists. And journalists can be a cynical bunch.

So when we launched a ‘company narrative’ a few years ago – and started using terms such as ‘purpose’, ‘mission’, ‘vision’ and ‘values’ – there were plenty of raised eyebrows.

As a former hack myself, I’m wary about the overuse of corporate jargon. I’m also paranoid I sometimes sound worryingly like Ian Fletcher from the BBC comedy W1A, not least during the past few weeks on company video calls. (Take a look at this link if you don’t know what I’m talking about.)

But I’m also fully convinced of the benefits of spelling out and continually revisiting what you stand for and how you behave as a company.

As a result, I thought it would be useful to consider if we at CPL have genuinely been ‘living’ our five company values during the Covid crisis. Because, let’s face it, they are unlikely to be more important than right now.

The list of values is below – and I’ve awarded a mark out of 10 for how I feel we are doing against each one.

  1. Excellent. We are committed to excellent customer service; and we expect clients and suppliers to respect and value that commitment 

I’d give ourselves a nine for this. The way everyone adapted quickly to working from home – and still continued to deliver for our customers – has been exemplary. During lockdown, we have also taken on new clients and offered new services for the first time, including temporarily seconding two of our staff members to our clients’ teams. For their part, our clients and suppliers have reacted positively, imaginatively and supportively, reinforcing again the benefits of building partnerships for the long term.

  1. Supportive. We provide a supportive working environment where our people are trusted and challenged to improve their own and their clients’ performance.

The word ‘supportive’ definitely deserves some scrutiny considering we have put some employees on furlough and reduced the hours and wages of others, while still asking them to do at least the same amount of work. But judging by the positive response of CPL people over the past few months, hopefully we have done a good job in explaining the reasons for these actions. And certainly we are putting new levels of trust in our teams as they work from home, often for the first time, and while juggling new technology, home schooling and a whole host of other challenges. There have been loads of benefits too – and these give us plenty of food for thought as we consider what those two words “working environment” might mean in the future. My mark for this is eight; the results of a snapshot employee survey we are currently running will tell me if I’ve got that score right.

  1. Bold. We are prepared to challenge assumptions, take risks and learn from our mistakes.

We were bold in making some decisions quickly. These included switching to home working well before lockdown, clarifying our revised financial forecasts and communicating the cost-cutting measures that were needed as a result. We have embraced a whole lot of technology including video calls, screen sharing and chat functionality. But the fact it took a pandemic to make us all do so suggests to me that we could be better at “challenging assumptions”, so this value gets a six. A question for the future is whether we will be prepared to “take risks” in rethinking how our agency and service offer might look in a post-Covid world. CPL has changed a lot in the past five years; if we are to thrive in future, we will probably need to look very different again in five years’ time. 

  1. Transparent. We are open and transparent with each other and our stakeholders.

I feel we’ve done well so far in this area, particularly in communicating regularly with employees about our financial performance and outlook, so I would give ourselves a nine. But with things changing all the time, plenty of uncertainty about the future and so many competing financial priorities to address over the next few months, I hope we can rise to the challenge of continuing to be open and transparent where we can be, even through tough times. 

  1. Connected. We all feel personally connected to the vision and goals of CPL and its customers.

I’m going with an eight for this. Covid has changed our short-term goals. Until March, our priority was to generate sufficient profit to complete a management buyout on schedule in early 2021. Now, with some revenues significantly reduced, we must ensure we’re in the right shape to survive in the short term and thrive again after that. I’m sure our employees understand this goal and I hope they also realise it’s a difficult balancing act to get right. A question for my team and me is whether we truly understand the goals of our customers. These are likely to have changed significantly in the past few weeks and they might never be quite the same again. If CPL is to thrive in the long term, we need to understand their aims and continue to deliver against our mission and purpose: “to create and deliver content marketing strategies that help people belong”.

So 40 out of 50 is my score for how we have  ‘lived our values’ during the Covid crisis.

Not bad, but plenty of room for some EBIs. That’s Even Better Ifs in the jargon. 

Ian Fletcher eat your heart out!

 

Mike Sewell
is managing director
at CPL

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