Why Are You Here: what our team values now and the framework we built to find out

100% of our team at Polar values growth & development, while 68% of them cite recognition & compensation as a top value. Of those that value wellness & balance, their satisfaction level is 96% (which has increased 4% in the past six months).

How do we know all of this? We asked them, with the help of a framework we built called the Pentagon. It is designed to facilitate the most important question every leader should be asking their team regularly: “why are you here?”.

As leaders, it’s critical to really understand what our team values and by asking the question ‘why are you here’ at an individual level, we are recognizing that diversity in values is part of our culture. By sharing aggregate insights from our team, we are celebrating that diversity. And by asking the question often, we are recognizing that what we value changes.

Often times, organizations blindly assume everyone is there for the same reason. As convenient as this may be for management, it is simply not the reality (from my 10 years of experience) and sells each individual’s opportunity for meaning and satisfaction short by not recognizing that what motivates them is in fact different than what motivates their peers.

The Pentagon Framework

The Pentagon framework has 5 categories that capture why someone may work at any organization.

  • Mission & Purpose: connect with the problems the organization is solving
  • Growth & Development: building new skills and gaining new experiences
  • People & Community: value the people, culture and environment
  • Recognition & Compensation: financial and other forms of recognition
  • Wellness & Balance: flexibility, lifestyle needs, lack of stress and overall balance

Our Process

We first introduced the Pentagon framework one year ago (here is the original memo we shared with our team) and our process has been to ask every team member to fill out a brief, 1-page form, sharing with us their top 3 values (of the 5 listed above), why each are important to them, their level of satisfaction for each and what their expectations are.

Here is a link to the public template that you can use with your own team.

Each team member’s response is kept confidential to myself and their direct leader. This provides the space to share openly. As I am the only one who sees all the results, I’ve taken responsibility of consolidating the data and pulling insights. We shared the results publicly of our first survey here and today we are sharing the results of our second survey.

What We Have Learned

100% of our team values Growth & Development as a top 3 value, followed by Wellness & Balance and Recognition & Compensation. Interestingly, there was a 12% decrease in the number of people who chose Recognition & Compensation in their top 3 (this aligns with a few positive changes we’ve made), and the number of people who chose Mission & Purpose increased 76% from the last survey (in the past few months, we have invested more time discussing the long term vision for the market and our product).

As part of the framework, we ask how satisfied each team member is with each of their top 3 values. For any leader, this feedback can be difficult to receive at times but is critical and I’m glad we continue to ask for it.

To calculate a satisfaction score, we attributed 100% to a response that was Very Satisfied, 75% for Somewhat Satisfied, 50% for Somewhat Unsatisfied and 25% for Very Unsatisfied. And added a weighting, awarding 5 points to the 1st value, 4 points to the 2nd value and 3 points to the 3rd value.

The overall satisfaction score for our team was 88%, which is a 10% increase from the last survey (Jan 2017), which was 78%. Here is the breakdown by value.

Seeing an increase in satisfaction scores across all 5 values is satisfying for us as leaders, however understanding that everything changes, it is not something we can take for granted. Maintaining high satisfaction levels is a priority for our leadership team and awareness is the first step, which is what the Pentagon framework supports.

We were not surprised that satisfaction with Recognition & Compensation appeared lower at the surface in comparison to other values. As in any organization, this is the one value where there is going to be some healthy tension and differences in opinion (i.e. most are going to ask to be paid more!).

Values do change. 40% of the team members had 1 of their top 3 values change in the past six months. For this reason, we plan to continue to survey the team every six months going forward.

Surprisingly, of those that chose People & Community in their top 3, satisfaction was higher (94%) for those based in our smaller offices in New York, London and Sydney, compared to those in our Toronto headquarters (85%), where we have most of our team.

Awareness Is The First Step

Since first publishing this framework last summer, many people have reached out to me to share how they’ve started to incorporate it into their teams. If you lead an organization, a team or are inspired in anyway by what we’ve built and successfully adopted at Polar, I encourage you to ask (or answer) the very important question of why you are here. Here is a link to the public template that you can use.

This serves as an important awareness tool to start a conversation with your team (or leader) about what really matters, why and what the expectations are. It is also designed to be lightweight and simple.

The decisions we make and talent priorities we set now are heavily influenced with the awareness we’ve received through this process, and I’m thankful to each person on our team for sharing openly and participating actively in helping me understand why you are here.

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Kunal Gupta is the Founder & CEO of Polar. Follow his leadership blog at findfocus.today. At Polar, Kunal leads a talented team transforming the media publishing industry with technology. He is passionate about leadership and finding focus in a modern era. Connect with him on LinkedIn, Medium or Twitter.