How culture and values support individual and business growth –
Biolumina’s focus on culture and values determines who they are as an organization, the work they do and what their future looks like. During May’s STORYcast, CEO Kirsten A. Kantak and EVP, Managing Partner, Strategy Brenda Aske, discuss the importance of culture and values with MM+M Editor-in-Chief Larry Dobrow.
A culture of curiosity
How culture and values support individual and business growth
Biolumina, the “anti-cancer agency” focused on oncology and independent of clients, is an organization driven by a strong sense of culture and clearly defined values.
During the May Storycast, Biolumina President and CEO Kirsten Kantak and Executive Vice President and Chief Strategy Partner Brenda Aske, RPh, discussed their deep-rooted philosophy with Steve Madden, GM , Haymarket Business Media Group.
Culture: a source of strength
The subject of culture is an important and often mentioned concern for organizations, but it can mean something different for everyone.
Kantak defines culture as “the social order of the organization. It is a system that defines how we treat each other, how we treat our clients and how we treat our agency partners. She clarified, stating that culture “is extremely important because not only does it attract people to the organization, but it also contributes to their personal growth as well as the growth of the business.”
Aske agreed that “culture is a source of strength and a fuel for talent,” and cited data that supports the importance of culture in an organization. “PwC’s 2021 Global Culture Survey showed that 85% of respondents said culture in an organization was important, 88% said it enabled successful organizational change and 81% said it was a source of competitive advantage.”
Conversely, she pointed out,harvard business review says nearly half of people looking for a new job cite company culture as the main reason for wanting to leave. These data support Aske’s and Kantak’s common perspective that “culture is the greatest umbrella over strategy, and it determines the beliefs, behaviors and environment in which we want to live and learn – it is the engine of a successful business”.
Kantak noted that Biolumina’s strong culture correlates with high engagement scores. Tabulated twice a year, Biolumina’s engagement scores have been “off the charts when it comes to standards,” Kantak said. “They also have great retention rates, which is so important.”
Regarding how culture affects business strategies and strategic vision, “Biolumina can only be successful if there is a common understanding of how our individual elements feed into the bigger picture,” Kantak added. That’s why when she and Aske joined the company in 2015, “we stepped back to make sure the agency would be driven by curiosity.”
Curiosity, as Kantak and Aske said, is central to their culture. They highlighted the strong correlation between curiosity and intelligence, success and happiness. “In addition to innovation, curiosity helps drive creativity,” which not only includes “beautiful campaigns, but also organizational solutions.”
Values: the principles that guide behavior
Values is another such term, noted Madden, often mentioned; rarely well defined.
At Biolumina, “values are the principles by which we guide behavior,” Kantak said. The three main values to which Biolumina subscribes are “open mind, brave heart and ready hands”. She went on to explain them as follows:
“Open-mindedness is about respecting and embracing diverse opinions, perspectives, and backgrounds.”
“A brave heart is being brave enough to stand up for your views, but more importantly brave enough to keep an open mind to different perspectives and be able to build something together.”
“Hands Ready is about tapping into the idea of curiosity and taking the time to teach and learn every day. Most importantly, make sure you’re nice and express your gratitude.
Practice, they say, makes perfect. So part of inculcating those values, Kantak said, “is talking about them continually. There’s an element of, if you talk about it, it becomes real. So Biolumina talks about values. We give it a name, we measure ourselves against it. We use it to guide and assess behavior as part of our performance system.
There are also “structured tools in place like thank you cards,” Aske said. “We have what we call ‘Happy Conflict Cards’,” which, as she explained, “allow us to say, ‘I challenge your thinking on this with the best intention, because I want to improve the work .'”
Aske pointed out that as a team leader, “we discuss how gratitude and kindness affect your personal and professional health, and try to model those behaviors every day at every meeting.” A good idea, she noted, can come from anywhere, and “you have to be able to cultivate an atmosphere of openness in order to hear a diverse set of opinions and be a revolutionary culture.” .
How culture and kindness pay off
At the best of times, it can be difficult to instill common values and create a cohesive culture. In today’s hybrid workplace, in which Biolumina finds itself training, onboarding and growing remotely and in person, the agency has made significant changes to its approach.
“In September, we implemented a brand new method of onboarding, which means that for a person’s first two weeks, their only job is to be fully immersed in our processes, philosophy and culture,” Kantak explained. “New employees don’t touch the work of clients at all. They spend time getting to know everyone” and “participate in case-based training” built around “actual past experience at the agency”.
This experiential process serves to “make our values much more real,” Kantak said. “When you put yourself in each different player’s shoes in a scenario, you really understand the behaviors that are consistent with our values and how to be kinder, express gratitude, be more open-minded and have a braver heart. “
In the end, is the time and effort spent on instilling the fundamentals of culture and values worth it? Madden asked the two leaders.
“Over the past five-plus years, we’ve grown exponentially,” Kantak said. “We’ve seen people get promoted multiple times.” Kantak estimated that about 30% of employees were promoted last year. In practice, as Kantak pointed out, “it’s just as important because, ultimately, people work in an agency not for the good of the agency per se, but for their own growth and opportunities for growth. career”.
For Kantak and Aske, the “trial and error of life and learning in the business” led them to “this very organic place of creating a space that allows everyone to be heard”.
We asked ourselves, “What if we own this place? In what environment would we like to work? recalls Kantak. “There’s definitely an element of the experiences we’ve had at big agencies over the years…feeling left out as a junior person and wanting to make sure we attract all levels that can be sure that It’s not “my opinion against yours”, but it’s a collaboration.”
“Culture, values, curiosity and psychological safety – that’s what it’s all about,” Aske said in closing. “We think creating a great culture with strong values is something to focus on because organizations with strong cultures always come out on top.”