A living labs case study Core Values:
The Soul of Our Organization

“Families are like branches on a tree. We grow in different directions, yet our roots remain as one.”
— anonymous

When a dad and daughter start a company together, you know family is going to play an important part in the endeavor.

And so it has been with Eagle Hill Consulting, ever since Jack Kelley and Melissa Jezior set up shop in 2003.

What we valued when we started, we continue to value today: namely, a supportive environment where people care for each other, personally and professionally.

In our early days, we cultivated the company we wanted to be in very high-touch ways. Weekly breakfasts at Jack’s house soon became a cherished tradition among our first few employees.

But what happens when two employees grow to 200? How do you extend that “cozy kitchen” feeling to employees in offices nearly 3000 miles away?

By 2016, Eagle Hill was experiencing rapid growth—certainly a blessing, but one that brought forward a real concern to Melissa Jezior, now Eagle Hill’s President and CEO. She saw that our values hadn’t changed, but how we continued to express and embody them had to.

Once again, we used Eagle Hill as a living lab—testing an idea with big business implications in our own offices with our own employees. Working as one firm, Eagle Hill defined our core values and the behaviors we believed would express them, setting down a touchstone for what we never want to lose, no matter how we grow.

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We planted the seed...

All Eagle Hill employees, from senior director down to associate, organize into smaller “families.” Eagle Hill launched the families concept as a way for employees to build close connections to colleagues across the company—in particular, colleagues who worked outside of their day-to-day project teams. These families are an eclectic mix—internal employees and consultants alike. Just like in real families, we have different interests, different personalities, different strengths and weaknesses, but we share genuine caring for each other and are always ready to jump in and lend a hand. Our families promote interaction, collaboration and fun, which made them the perfect inclusive framework we wanted for exploring our values in more depth.

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We pruned the ideas…

Eagle Hill has a culture of soliciting employee input on enterprise-wide initiatives and this case was no different. Each of our families came together to reflect on Eagle Hill’s core values, and what behaviors best expressed those values. From there, we found the commonalities and boiled them down to four values and associated behaviors:

Family

Impact

Collaboration

Fun

Family: We foster a supportive environment that nurtures the “whole individual.” 

Impact: We aspire to make a difference and give our all to exceed expectations every time.

Collaboration: We bring together diverse perspectives and engage in productive dialogue/debate for the good of both our clients and Eagle Hill.

Fun: We have fun while achieving our goals!

Once we knew we had our values and behaviors nailed, we memorialized them in a giant wall mural inside our offices and brought the entire company together for a full-day roll-out and celebration.

End of story…right?

Not quite!

Putting the values together was important. Making them tangible through defined behaviors was even more so. But the most important part came next: making our values part of our every day.

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We tend diligently…

Here's how we bring our values “off the wall” every day, to make them Eagle Hill’s true culture code.

REGULAR CONVERSATION

Melissa Jezior, who now also wears the hat of Eagle Hill’s cultural guru, holds a 15-minute check-in call once a week with the whole company. On these calls, we talk about our values and how we will bake them into future internal EHC initiatives. We also give shout outs to people who have made us proud.

ANNUAL CHECK-INS

Our annual All-Employee Survey asks employees to evaluate their feelings on Eagle Hill’s core values, how well leadership adheres to them, how well their personal values align, and how true the company as a whole is remaining to them.

FRIENDLY COMPETITION

We host frequent friendly competitions to grow and celebrate our core values. For example, one of our employees created a virtual scavenger site at a client campus to build a sense of fun and family for all the workers scattered across the site.

REAL-TIME RECOGNITION

We encourage employees to celebrate each other’s acts of greatness. When someone has lived a core value in a really meaningful way, colleagues write accolades on sticky notes and post them on our “Woo! Board” for everyone to see. We have a virtual version, too, that posts to everyone who subscribes.

YEARLY AWARDS

Employees nominate team members or coworkers who live our values in an exemplary way for annual recognition. The winners are announced at our all-employee conference and receive a prize.

RECRUITING

Last year we took our core-value behaviors and mapped them to our interview competency matrix. That means from our very first interactions with them, employees know what we value and whether they will be a right fit.

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And we gather the fruit every day.

Staying steadfast to our core values has certainly got us attention. Our clients consistently tell us that working with Eagle Hill is a wonderfully different experience. Our Net Promoter score and 100 percent client satisfaction score might make the competition feel a twinge of envy (but then, we’re not a bragging kind of family).

We win repeat recognition as a best place to work, from publications such as The Washington Post, Washington Business Journal and Washingtonian magazine.

Most importantly, we have found a way to keep what matters to us at the center of everything we do. As we continue to grow, we have developed a language of culture we will go on using. Some of the wording may evolve in the future, but our values will never change at their heart.

As Melissa Jezior says, “Our strategy from day one has been to create a culture where employees want to come to work and stay with us, and where they are energized and empowered to give their best to clients. We’re staying true to that culture as we grow and expand our business.”

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To do:

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