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Core Values as a Cultural Bridge

By, Miranda Barrett, CAE, PMP
Factum Global Associate Consultant
Picture your typical business gathering of two hundred leaders in a hotel ballroom. Round tables, water pitchers, a stage with flip charts and a PowerPoint. You’ve probably been in a room just like that many times.
The CEO is delivering a speech to the leadership team of Americans and Filipinos. But suddenly everyone is up and moving, running around the room to share heartfelt hugs, even with tears in their eyes. What is going on?
What is going on?
If you ask the executive team of Peak Support, it’s all about the core values.
The United States and the Philippines have significant cultural differences. The U.S. is a more individualistic society, while the Philippines is more collectivist. Individualistic cultures value personal achievements and independence, whereas collectivist cultures emphasize the importance of the group and maintaining harmonious relationships. These cultural differences can lead to misunderstandings and conflicts, especially in the workplace. That’s where core values can serve as a bridge.
Core values are the guiding principles that define an organization’s culture, behavior, and decision-making. In today’s globalized economy, businesses are increasingly collaborating with people across diverse cultural backgrounds. Resolving cultural differences is critical to creating a cohesive and productive workplace. Core values can play a vital role in achieving this goal.
For the Massachusetts-based company Peak Support, strong core values allow them to function as a highly-aligned team of nearly two thousand people across multiple countries, with most employees in the Philippines.  Like many companies with a large Filipino workforce, Peak Support provides business process outsourcing (BPO), customer support, and sales operations to businesses. They believe their alignment around company values is the secret ingredient that has allowed for rapid growth without a negative impact on their customer-focused culture.
In February of 2023, Peak Support gathered 200 leaders in Manila to unveil updated core values. That presentation marked the end of a three-year process of intensive surveys, interviews, and leadership meetings capturing feedback at every level. They dug deeply into what attributes they wanted to be cloned across the company while ensuring all cultural viewpoints were represented.

“We really wanted the core values to be relatable to all team members…”

“…It’s important that anyone can understand what they mean and live by them, no matter where they are located or how long they have been with the company.”

Bianca Lazaro, VP of Operations and one of Peak Support’s founding leaders.

At the February gathering, several topics were covered, but the new core values were the star of the show. Team leaders took the stage to talk about what each new value means to them, and how they live those values in their lives. “Aim for Wow!” resonated as a challenge for employees to go the extra mile with customers. “Be Yourself” was cited as attendees compared tattoos and discussed the importance of diversity and inclusivity. “Improve Continuously” promotes an internal environment of personal and professional development, and external client service improvements.

Looking at each of Peak Support’s values through the lens of U.S. –  Philippines cultural differences, it’s easy to spot how they also serve as a cultural bridge. For example, “Act, even when scared” encourages employees who might be culturally predisposed to wait for specific instructions to feel empowered and take action for the good of the customer.

Peak Support also pioneered a work model they call “WFH+” (Work From Home Plus), where people are primarily remote but also get together to work in-person occasionally.

“It’s really important to me that we all spend time together whenever we can.”

Jonathan Steiman, CEO

Peak Support holds this gathering annually, bringing together its top executives from the U.S. and all over the Philippines. The logistics of gathering everyone together are no small feat but they believe in the value of bringing everyone together.

The Filipino attendees were nearly as jetlagged as the Americans, being used to working on U.S. business hours, but the positive energy in the room more than compensated for it. “For me, the core value ‘Be yourself’ means a lot to me personally,” said one team member. “I feel like the company is celebrating what’s unique and special about us all, not trying to make us the same. I never want to work anywhere else and I’ll always ‘Aim for Wow!’”

For the CEO Jonathan Steiman, the core values are a daily reminder of purpose and direction. “If I ever feel unfocused or low-energy, all I have to do is look at our mission and values. My role is to empower the team and make sure we keep innovating and delivering beyond our clients’ expectations. I know that every employee feels the same way, regardless of their role or where they’re located.”

Miranda Barrett, CAE, PMP is the founder of Capacity to Scale, a boutique consulting firm that provides short-term strategic support and insight to entrepreneurs. Miranda is an Associate Consultant with Factum Global.

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April 26, 2023