Be specific with your values if you want to stand out

In: BlogDate: Aug 11, 2021By: Billy Burgess

Dom Monkhouse developed the UK divisions of the web-hosting businesses, Rackspace and Peer 1. His primary goal has always been to boost an organisation’s total revenue, which depends on having an engaged workplace. He also believes companies need to be explicit about their values in order to stand out.

In this three-minute clip from the 2017 Happy Workplaces CEO Conference, Dom explains why this is so essential and why not doing so means an organisation will just end up being beige.

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Be specific with your values if you want to stand out

I’m going to talk about Henry’s book, The Happy Manifesto. I was lucky enough to be an early proof-reader – I think I still have the original copy in Word. I’m going to share stories around freedom within clear guidelines and then I’m going to talk a little bit about recruitment and recruit for attitude, train for skill. 

One of the other things I did recently, there was an article on Medium and a guy who read 60 books in a year, and he said he thought he’d try and read 70 next year. It made me wonder how many I’d read in 2016. I didn’t count the ones on the shelf that I actually physically bought, I just looked on Audible and Kindle and I’d done 101. So I haven't set myself a goal this year of reading more, but I get through a load of stuff. So lots of the things I’ll share with you, I’ve stolen from other people's books.

This is why I think the Happy Manifesto and building an engaged workplace are so important. My goal has always been to grow the revenue of an organisation – from scratch to something, £25-30 million, whatever it may be – or fix and organisation, or consult with clients as I do now and help them grow their business. This is what I think is up for grabs – it’s about 40%. If in an organisation if you give about 60% of your effort you won’t get fired, that’s probably OK, and if you can get people to be engaged then you get an extra 40%. The Sunday Times Best Place to Work, having spoken to them some years ago, they said, “if you can get staff to feel engaged they’ll work 30% longer hours for 5% less pay and be happier than the people who aren’t engaged.” So as a business owner, I look at that and go, why would I not want 40% free discretionary effort? So what do I do about it? You don’t just buy them an ice cream or give them a pool table, you have to be authentic about that, you can’t make people do it, they have to want to do it. 

Some of the stuff is around this; core of culture vs artefacts of culture. So I’ve gone into some organisations and this, what do people do when you’re not looking stuff, underneath the waterline of the iceberg of culture. Above it is what people tell you as a business and then there’s the stuff that you can pick up as a vibe and there’s how people react. I think you can find some of that out even from interviewing people. Some of this will be, “How do you want your organisation to be?” not how it is. So quite often I’ll sit down and talk to people about values and they’ll say “integrity,” and you can’t have integrity as a value. Not that you shouldn't have it, it’s just that nobody could pick the opposite of that as a competitive value. So you couldn’t go to market and say, “We are the company with no integrity” so don't go to market and say you are the company with integrity, or honesty or teamwork or efficiency, because none of your competitors are going to say anything different. You end up just being beige. You end up just sounding and looking like everybody else.

By Dom’s calculations, if employees put in 60% of effort, it’s enough to not get fired. So just imagine the benefits of a wholly engaged staff with everyone putting in a further 40%. 

“The Sunday Times Best Place to Work, having spoken to them some years ago, they said, ‘if you can get staff to feel engaged they’ll work 30% longer hours for 5% less pay and be happier than the people who aren’t engaged.’” Dom says.

He set about devising ways to encourage this extra 40%, realising that authenticity was key. “You can’t make people do it, they have to want to do it,” he says.

Another significant discovery was to be explicit about company values. “Quite often I’ll sit down and talk to people about values and they’ll say ‘integrity’, and you can’t have integrity as a value. Not that you shouldn't have integrity, it’s just that nobody could pick the opposite of that as a competitive value.

"You couldn’t go to market and say, ‘We are the company with no integrity,’ so don't say you are the company with integrity – or honesty or teamwork or efficiency – because none of your competitors are going to say anything different.

"You end up being beige. You end up just sounding and looking like everybody else.” 

Related resources

  • Click here to see more videos from the 2017 Happy Workplaces CEO conference

  • Learning Nuggets from Dom Monkhouse, a two minute video from the Happy Workplaces Conference 2014

  • The Happy Manifesto by Henry Stewart – click here to get your free eBook, full of great ideas for creating a happy workplace

  • Happy Workplaces Have Lower Costs, a blog by Henry Stewart about how happy workplaces not only earn more, but have significantly lower costs

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About Dominic

Dom has built the UK arms of two hosting businesses –Rackspace and Peer1 Hosting – from scratch to £30 million turnover. Both have won awards for customer service and for being great workplaces. “I come to work each day prepared to be fired, to find people to help, to only work with the best, and to do any job that gets the project moving. Remember: it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission.”

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