What’s the secret behind company values that work?

How would you describe the personality of your business in just a few words? And how would your colleagues describe it? A company with an identity connects your employees and aligns them with  your overall mission and vision. Square Circle provides you with interesting insights to help define and implement your values.

Involve your team in the process

Values should be worn like a suit, not kept in a suitcase that you only open when you need it. You embrace values because they are personally meaningful and because they add something to the way you work as a team. They need to be shared by everyone in your company to be effective. That is why values cannot be determined top-down and employees should be involved in creating values that work.

Create clear and limited values

Values shape your company culture, how employees behave, how strategies are decided, and how successes are celebrated. Values should be lived by your employees and expressed in their day-to-day interactions. For this reason, it is important that your values clearly express what is expected of your employees. Do not hesitate to fundamentally review your values, and involve your employees in the process, in order to (re)formulate them and clarify these expectations. You will see how energising this is!

Limit the amount of your values to three or four. A higher number will be hard to translate into specific behaviour, increasing the chances that your employees won’t live by them. Do you have five or more values? Review them critically, perhaps you are overestimating the capabilities of your team.

Set an example and promote the right behaviour

Values should be promoted top down, by talking about them regularly at team meetings. By using them as a compass in evaluating employee behaviour. By emphasising proper behaviour as well as speaking up to those who don’t put your values into practice.

Management plays a key role in implementing a company’s values. As a leader, you must think about them daily and talk about them regularly. If values are upheld, employees are more motivated, more involved and more connected with management, benefitting, in turn, your customers, partners and stakeholders.

Need support in reviewing or defining your company values? Square Circle helps employees reflect on values through interactive workshops. Working bottom-up, we help define values and their corresponding behaviours, always taking care that they are equally supported by upper management. Together, we can come to clear agreements. Curious to know more? Get in touch.

How do you define your company’s mission and vision and why should you?

In a world teeming with ideas and aspirations, the bedrock of any successful venture lies in a clear purpose, encapsulated in the trinity of vision, mission, and values. But what makes a strong vision and mission, and how do you define them? Square Circle offers strategic advice to help you get started on your winning strategy.

Leave ‘missions’ to the military and James Bond

A word of advice: replace the term ‘mission’ with ‘core purpose’. Ask your receptionist what her job’s core purpose is and she’ll be able to answer it. Inquire about her mission and she’ll most likely stare at you in bewilderment. The same holds for your employees. A core purpose gives meaning to their work. It is the reason why your activity was created and your organisation exists. Without roots, we don’t know where we’ve come from and even less, where we can go.

A core purpose does not have to be unique. Feeding people is the core purpose of many food companies. Yours can be to feed people healthily and sustainably. What makes you unique, however, is how you translate this core purpose into a powerful vision: what kind of company do you want to become? Without a core purpose, there can be no vision.

Don’t know where to start? Square Circle helps your company self-reflect and define its core purpose through interactive workshops. Together, we’ll come to the roots of your company, helping you understand where you come from and how you can grow. Curious to know more? Get in touch.

Prepare for the future with a strong vision

A strong vision can transform a boring strategy into a scoring strategy. It describes how your company responds to technical, technological or societal evolutions – think of challenges such as climate change or the rise of AI – and what opportunities they offer your company.

Identify pillars

The first step is to determine the pillars of your vision: what areas determine the evolution of your activities? For a building company, this might be developments in civil engineering, the ability to build more complex structures or to ensure safety.

Define goals

Next, strong and ambitious goals need to be defined for each of the pillars, the kind that gives you goosebumps, that excites and motivates you. These goals can be both qualitative and quantitative. To give you an example, the following is a goal formulated by an American manufacturer of concrete:

“In 10 years, we will be producing engineering and civil engineering structures that will be 2 times more resistant, 2 times more durable and half as expensive – both in terms of construction and maintenance – than those of today. We will also build them twice as fast.”

Rely on your team

Pillars can be defined by your management. For specific goals, we recommend drawing upon the knowledge and creativity of your team. Divide your employees into small working groups and have them discuss and analyse these pillars and define goals for a period of 3 years, 10 years, or more depending on your type of market. You’d be surprised what they can come up with.

Developing a vision is fascinating work. It forces you to imagine your company in the future, to respond to ongoing developments in the world and to come up with bold ideas. However, there’s one key ingredient missing to implement your vision: your corporate values.

Need support defining your goals? Square Circle helps you harness the creativity of your team. We facilitate workshops where your employees can freely share and discuss ideas to define powerful and ambitious goals for your company. Working closely together, we help you shape a short or long-term vision to guide your employees. Curious to know more? Get in touch.

The secret to a successful and surprising debate

Expanding internal knowledge, showing social commitment or bringing clients together: you know why and what you are organising a debate about. But as a moderator, how do you make sure your debate stands out? How do you approach common discussion topics from a refreshing angle? Helena Schalenbourg, Communications Advisor at Square Circle, offers surprising tips to sharpen your moderation techniques.

BEFORE THE DEBATE

Lay a long foundation for your debate

A moderator’s job starts well before the debate in question. Extensive preparation provides a good basis for a natural conversation.

  • Delve into the topic | Explore the subject matter by conducting online and offline research. In the research phase, take into account the client’s expectations, but also the target group. Do they come into contact with the issue on a regular basis? What does their prior knowledge consist of?
  • Meet the panel beforehand | Ideally, you should take the time to get acquainted with each guest. That way, you become familiar with their expertise, background and point of view on the central issue. Often, at this stage you will also come across intriguing peculiarities in the guest’s vision or personality, which you can exploit during the debate. Be curious and listen with an open mind. A targeted conversation of half an hour per person a few days in advance should be  sufficient.
  • Prepare a range of questions | An interviewer’s worst nightmare? Not being able to think of a powerful follow-up question. Using a wide range of alternating questions, focusing on the essential angles you definitely want to discuss, allows you to always fall back on a good question and maintain the pace of the discussion. Write these down on handy punch cards if necessary, so you have a grip not only figuratively but also literally during the debate.

DURING THE DEBATE

Enable constructive conversations

While the best debates seemingly happen naturally, they are often also the effect of an assertive moderator with guts.

  • Introduce each panellist | Briefly but firmly introduce each speaker to the audience before declaring the debate open. Or better yet, ask them to briefly tell you who they are themselves.
  • Have guts and dive into the churning river | How do you open a debate? An overly detailed description of the central topic is like a churning river and causes a room of experts (if they are indeed experts) to doze off. In that case, dare to make a statement that moves every party. After all, an exciting film often starts with a cliffhanger too.
  • Keep your distance with science | The line between bringing rhythm to the debate through engaging questions and revealing your own point of view is thin. Citing scientific research to introduce a question is an ideal way to grab the attention of the panel and the audience without revealing your personal opinion. Neutrality is key!
  • Break free from the ‘banality’ of every day | Human beings have an intrinsic desire for depth and intellectual exploration. Even a debate on a mundane or technical subject can be enriched by confronting the panellists with statements of established philosophers. You will see, the answer to this kind of question often speaks straight to the listener’s heart.
  • Speak to the imagination | Imagery is refreshing. Feel free to use metaphors in your questioning, e.g. analogies from the animal world. Drawing parallels with the natural world often provides a vivid and accessible way to convey complex concepts.
  • Play devil’s advocate | If a critical question is on the tip of your tongue, don’t hesitate to ask it, but do so in a warm and friendly way. The listener will hold their breath, sitting on the edge of their seat awaiting the answer.
  • Lightheartedness trumps | Even in serious debates, most speakers are only too happy to show their playful side when confronted with lighthearted questions. Breaking seriousness with playfulness adds a human element, enriches the dynamics of the debate and also creates a unique and sometimes even memorable connection between speaker and audience.
  • Guard the balance | Rarely does a debate aim to throw oil on the fire. Give panellists sufficient opportunity to express themselves, show their expertise and come up with convincing arguments.  Do you notice that someone stays in the background? Give them the floor on a subtopic they have an affinity with.
  • Let them shine | Moderating is like conducting a symphony. Your job is to make the panellists score and shine. The panelists’ success is also your triumph.
  • Show your focus | Eye contact and a smile create confidence in conversations with colleagues, friends and family. The same is true in professional situations such as debating. Be alert to your own body language through adequate eye contact with panellists and a conversational smile. They help make the panel feel comfortable.


Bonus tip | Involve the public

A debate is not an academic presentation or a financial report. Dare to take the opportunity to poll the audience. Engage attendees, for example, via a poll they can answer with their smartphones. A live display of the responses on a screen will undoubtedly provide new fodder for further debate.


AT THE END OF THE DEBATE

Conclude in style

A practised moderator devotes at least as much attention to the conclusion as to the build-up of the debate.

  • Take time for a word of thanks| End the debate by explicitly thanking the panellists for their presence and their fascinating views. Then address the audience. After all, the people in the room also chose to make time and attend the debate. A thank you to all involved is a warm gesture with an impact that should not be underestimated.

Do you wish to call on an experienced moderator? Looking for an objective party to build the bridge between panel and audience? Square Circle is happy to take the lead.

Contact Square Circle >>

Dismissal: a slap in the face?

In a recent article in De Standaard, Annick Ruyts, an employee at VRT, expressed dissatisfaction with the way her dismissal unfolded during the latest organizational restructuring. Abrupt and strictly business like, lacking the anticipated humane touch in both communication and farewell gestures.

How would you yourself like to be fired? Have you ever thought about that? How about incorporating this aspect into the hiring process or including it in the employment contract? Is your preference for a brief and stoic exit, or would you appreciate having ample time to bid farewell and express your emotions?

We are not talking about the individual dismissal here which can be experienced as ‘liberating’ if the fit with the company or the job is lacking or if the employee-employer relationship is not working out and it is simply best to part ways. We focus on multiple or collective dismissals where several employees are suddenly asked to leave their organisation for economic reasons.

That is where the words dismissal and redundancy can have real, tangible meaning for those involved. The reactions do not lie. You only have to read the headlines on some restructurings: a “sledgehammer blow”, a “slap in the face”, a true “battlefield” for staff…

But it doesn’t have to be that way!

When dealing with redundancies, you have every interest in handling redundancy interviews professionally and qualitatively, not as an afterthought that your company has to endure.

It not only benefits your company’s reputation. The acclaimed ‘Reputation Institute’ has been scientifically researching elements that influence an organisation’s reputation for more than 20 years. Their conclusion? Emotional attributes or characteristics are more important than rational elements.

A collective expression of dissatisfaction from a hundred individuals recounting their negative dismissal experiences carries significant weight, particularly within the vicinity of their company’s location. The impact may extend beyond local boundaries, evident in the widespread national media coverage surrounding Annick Ruyts’ book Indeed, this holds true even when the experiences are positive. Your company’s social reputation is built not only when hiring employees but also when they leave, if it comes to that.

But your organisation’s internal reputation counts too. How do you get your people engaged again if the human experience surrounding the round of dismissals among colleagues is downright negative? How do you retain the good elements who will be the first to leave the ship if they experience certain human values being compromised?

The ideal dismissal does not exist.  As a golden rule, we advise you to view dismissal interviews not only as a conversation to end a relationship (the solution for the company) but also as a moment that should enable the employee to start something new later (the solution for the employee). Planting seeds that can germinate later.

Even if you think it is far too early to talk about the future at that point, you can still suggest avenues that can help the employee work on his or her own future again, step by step, in the coming weeks. For example, by dwelling on the practical help that an outplacement counselling service or an employment unit can offer.

There are also three ‘dimensions’ that can help you along the way to succeed in your strategic exercise: SPACE, TIME and CLARITY.

Giving SPACE to vent, to listen, to understand.

The impact of a collective dismissal frequently lands on unyielding ground. Employees often feel ‘caught out’. Self-esteem and confidence in the organisation are affected. Frustration, anger, emotionality are often vented at home. Also, with colleagues. It is to the credit of managers if they give employees space to express their feelings. With respect for everyone. In a ‘safe’ environment.

Provide TIME to go through the ‘grieving process’ in its entirety.

The concept of time is subjective in this context. Certain individuals immediately dive into their next endeavors upon resigning, wasting no time between the announcement and their actual departure. Others need time, sometimes a lot of time. Talking, venting helps with this. But at each person’s pace. A manager knows his people. It is his/her job to do so. Don’t leave that to HR alone.

CLARITY is a steady rock.

When all assurances dissipate, our brains often start ‘freewheeling’, no longer listening, no longer wanting to understand. Make sure you have scripts for all managers who will soon have to hold dismissal interviews, in collaboration with HR.

A script explains how best to approach the conversation, what to do in case of emotion, anger, brutal reactions. What to give in writing, in it included the ‘seeds’ that might germinate later.

Do’s-and-don’ts when conducting an employee engagement survey

Measuring employee engagement annually via a survey is a regular practice in many companies. A good thing, if you take this process seriously. This blog shares the do’s-and-don’ts when conducting a  employee engagement survey in your company. Valuable reading for management, hr and anyone who leads people.

Engagement survey? A good idea!

Engaged and loyal employees are the best ambassadors for any organisation. Not surprisingly, the engagement survey is well established at numerous medium sized to large companies. There are quite a few providers on the market that make sending out an engagement questionnaire to all your employees quite easy and that provide you with insightful reports on the results.

But what is the best way to go about this? How do you get the most out of this survey?

Moving beyond HR

A staff survey creates expectations. You offer employees the opportunity to have their voices heard, express their satisfaction and commitment and share any concerns or suggestions. It is therefore logical that they expect something to be done with their input. Think about this in advance. A common pitfall is to appoint only human resources to work with the survey results. But fostering engagement is not just the work of HR. Achieving engagement is an everyday task and has more power through direct managers, with the help of HR.

Communication and customisation as accelerators

Timely and clear communication about the engagement survey with proper framing is necessary to generate impact. One e-mail, often sent centrally, calling for people to complete the survey will get less response than if the questionnaire is additionally framed and motivated by the direct manager, at a team meeting for example or through an additional messaging. It’s important to explain the context, why you are launching this survey and what you will do with the results.

“Can I share my opinion anonymously?” “What happens to my answers after the end of the previous survey?” “How will we be informed about the results?” These are just some of the questions you should answer in your accompanying communication when sending out the survey.

The results are available, now what?

The management team puts its heads together and chooses a number of targeted actions . Driven to move from result to action, they sometimes forget to give proper feedback to employees: What were the main results of the engagement survey? What did we as management learn from it? What are the results we already want to work on or the actions we have already identified?

If you want to get the most out of your employee engagement survey, go one step further and actively involve the employees themselves in working with the survey results: As a manager, enter into a dialogue about your own team’s results, ask for additional interpretation, let team members make their own suggestions or set up small working groups around certain themes.

Say what you do, and do what you say

As well as a few ‘quick fixes’ that can be implemented quickly and are easily visible to everyone, there are also issues that take more time and may be less visible. Employees are often left wondering where the survey has led, and if this is not clear to them, the desire to have their voice heard next time will diminish. Square Circle therefore stresses the importance of communication and follow-up communication.  “Say what you do, and do what you say”. Link back to actions that have been taken or are in progress, and take the liberty to say where you do not plan to invest for example. Continue to involve employees wherever possible and systematically strengthen their commitment to your company.

Square Circle’s senior hr and communication experts are available to strengthen your hr, communication and leadership skills within this framework, making your next edition a success.

Contact Square Circle >>

Listening sessions that reduce distance and increase engagement

Square Circle deepens your employee engagement survey with listening sessions. Confidential group discussions with several employees holding different positions in preparation for or after the survey. They allow you to delve deeper into hot topics, discover drivers and throw up initial solutions. Our experience shows that listening sessions give more meaning to survey results. This leads to higher awareness among management, HR and leaders on the one hand, and to more commitment by staff on the other. A win-win!

Square Circle, on the powerful combination of HR and Communication

From which conviction stems the unique bridge that Square Circle builds between HR and communication? What makes Square Circle both a centre of expertise and a trusted sparring partner for professionals? Partners Katrien Decroos and An Dewaele sit down for an exclusive double interview about Square Circle’s distinguishing factors. An inspiring conversation tailored to corporates, SMEs and experts who want to (further) prioritise their people and their communication.

 

Hello Katrien, hi An! Let’s go back in time 21 years. What was the mission behind the founding of Square Circle in 2002?

Katrien: “Square Circle was started with the aim of engaging people to grow along with the changing context within their company. Communication and hr are the ideal levers for this. It is crucial in change to get managers and employees on board. If they do not get on board, the hoped-for change or transformation will not happen. What is the potential hidden in change? We help translate high-level plans into effective realisation on the work floor. Anno 2023, we are essentially doing the same as when we started: supporting our clients through change.”

An: “When getting to know Katrien in 2021, it quickly became clear to me that Square Circle’s mission is unique and still relevant. Today more than ever, there is a need to pay attention to the human factor in the business world. It is not processes that ensure that business objectives are achieved. It is exactly the other way round: people get companies moving and help them achieve results. As a result, a focus on communication and HR remains indispensable.”

 

Three different target groups can call on your expertise: large companies, SMEs and experts. Why this choice?

Katrien: “The division evolved organically from the companies that we have served over the past +20 years. After all, what we do is not limited to one type of company. Regardless of the size order, it pays to initiate and support change in a well-founded and human way.”

An: “True. We want to offer added value to the organisations that engage us. In large firms, for example, we see that support structures and processes are usually in place. The experts are also familiar with the matter. Yet both look to us for additional expertise or capacity and experience. SMEs, on the other hand, are more often somewhat lost.  When a problem arises, we can make big differences with our experience already with small actions.”

 

Square Circle has a unique selling point. Can you explain the power of communication and HR?

Katrien: “Every business revolves around people, because every company wants to achieve results. You can’t achieve goals without people. From this point of view, you have everything to gain from your employees, from managers to executives, doing their jobs in the best possible way. Staff is not a machine; you don’t have a fitting solution that applies to everyone. It takes time and attention to get and keep people motivated.  What drives them? What tools and resources are appropriate to activate those drivers? Square Circle combines the two domains that make that happen: communication and hr.”

An: “We offer the sum of communications expertise and HR practices, for us an obvious combination for success. But if we are to take our clients and our newest expert, Helena Schalenbourg, at their word, this is quite a special mix. For example, when we assist a company in announcing a new corporate structure or reorganisation, we not only provide the right messaging, but we look at the entire process for the announcement from the perspective of the executives and employees. We prepare the leadership to make the announcement in the most optimal way and to pay attention to aftercare. For example, when a team is downsized, the job is not done after the employees leave the company. Those left behind also go through a change process. This is something you need to pay attention to.”

If today you were allowed to plot the future, what do you wish for Square Circle? Feel free to dream!

Katrien: “Gosh! (laughs) That’s not an easy question to formulate an answer to. Or perhaps it is. I greatly appreciate it when clients we have supported in the past find their way back to us. I hope to build and maintain more of these strong collaborations in the future. My ambition: to remain top of mind with organisations and managers looking for a pragmatic approach to communication and HR-related issues.

In short, to continue to be a centre of expertise and a reliable sparring partner for professionals.”

An: “I agree, our guiding principle is always to be ‘a house of people and communication practices’. In addition, I am looking forward to turning the knowledge we are providing today into tools that can be used immediately. Right now, success sometimes depends on our presence, whereas our years of experience, sector know-how and people knowledge can be fused into hands-on solutions that any company with the same questions can apply. Without wanting to expose too much at the moment, we are in the process of building a support tool for change projects that customers will be able to deploy themselves during the process and work on this independently.”

The future is promising, that much is certain! Thanks for the instructive conversation, Katrien and An.

Do you want to steer your organisation smoothly through a process of change? Strengthen your teams or employees through tailor-made training courses? Contact us and receive additional information without obligation.

Contact Square Circle >>

Square Circle, the story behind the name

For our company name, we draw inspiration from Chinese mythology. There, a square symbolises the earth, where we are, and a circle symbolises the sublime, to which we aspire. Square Circle’s field of activity is the complicated but fascinating force field in between. How can we improve? What does it take to realise a better version of ourselves, our organisation and our teams?