Values that drive Continuous Improvement

Cultural values are often the domain of human resource professionals and large corporations, but Derek Hill of Advanced Technology Services takes a look at his own company’s corporate values and discusses how they have used the values to drive continuous improvement throughout the organisation and provided great value for their growing customer base.

“In today’s environment a company can not survive on just a strong brand, success is built on actions, authenticity and the ability to deliver value for your customer. I strongly believe that we shouldn’t just give lip service to our company values, creating a strong company culture enables an organisation to create a common identity, one which supports and drives growth internally and externally.  Customers want to buy more than a brand name, they want to know they are dealing with an ethical and reliable company, and also one that is going to continually strive to improve.

ATS works alongside some of the world’s largest manufacturers so our employees have to adapt to working in a wide range of organisations and environments.  As employees are located onsite within customer factories it important for us to have a strong identity and a company culture that employees can relate too.   Continuous improvement is top of the agenda in all manufacturing environments, challenging what you do and how you do is part of day to day life – so it was important for us to develop a set of values that focussed on this as an overriding objective.

As an organisation we identified eight values, they are: Live Safety; Delight Customers; Develop People; Enhance Processes; Drive Innovation; Nurture Relationships; Demonstrate Leadership; and Deliver Results.

Values can be interpreted and can change over time, so to ensure our management team were aligned we recently spent some time looking at each value and what they meant to us as individuals and as a company.  Take for example Live Safety, this is our most important value, not simply because we work with heavy machinery and in potentially dangerous environments, but because as a business it is the right thing to do. Poor health and safety costs money, but more than that it can cost lives.  To us Live Safety means that all employees consider their own and others health and safety as a priority 24/7, which is as much about what you do within working hours as well as outside of it. It is also about accountability and aiming for a zero incidents within the workplace.  We focus on identifying potential hazards and have an incentive and recognition scheme in place so people are encouraged to pick up on any potential health and safety issue.  We also make sure Safety is at the top of the agenda in every training, performance review and meeting within the business

We also talk about Delighting our Customers, what this means to us is encouraging all employees to exceed our customers expectations on a daily basis, being ready and supportive, and always asking “What else can I do?”.  This is a tough challenge as maintenance teams are generally called on when their are problems or failures in production. Keeping a positive outlook and being responsive to changing customer demands is what makes our teams so successful.

Developing People is not only a cultural value it is key to our survival and growth. There is a major shortage of skilled maintenance technicians not just in the UK but internationally. To attract and retain great employees we need to ensure that they are valued, inspired and motivated. To do this we have to ensure every individual is valued, supported and has a training and progression plan that is suitable for them personally.

Challenging all of our employees to continually question what they are doing and look for improvements is how we drive innovation and this encourages us to look for new tools and techniques to improve what we are doing and how we are doing it.

Nurturing relationships is an important cornerstone of our company as our employees are faced with challenges daily and our ability to communicate both internally and with our customers is critical. To encourage this we focus on building trust with others and being empathetic to all the people we work with.

Demonstrating leadership is about being authentic, working in a way that engenders respect and loyalty. It is about every individual working in a way that is best practice. It is about engaging with others and living, breathing and doing what we say we are going to.

Finally but not least our focus on Delivering Results ensures we focus on making a quantifiable difference every day as individuals and as a company. I really do believe that every person that goes to work wants to make a difference and by promoting and celebrating success we encourage everyone to improve.

We have quite strong growth ambitions, but we want to ensure we are always seen as an authentic business, one that people want to work with and for. The focus on values is not a tough choice it is critical to create a common purpose and ensure we all perform ethically, wherever we are working.  It also provides a structure within which continuous improvement is achieved.

Cultural values may be clichéd but they are still a formidable tool for companies, particularly those that are growing fast (or want to grow fast) to create an environment in which people want to work, they provide structure and a way to focus growth and drive improvements. “