Let’s examine one company who puts empathy at the core of what they do: Piktochart. Values lay at the core of Piktochart’s organizational culture and processes. Plenty of companies say they have a mission, values, and vision, but employees don’t necessarily feel a company’s values day-in and day-out. One root value may be missing in in the daily, empathy.

Why is empathy important in the workplace?

Empathy is the ability to share and understand another person’s emotions. In the workplace, it’s especially important to gauge where colleagues and staff are emotionally. In a recent survey of 150 CEOs, over 80% recognized empathy as key to success. Why do 20% of CEOs hire empathy training for managers? Because empathy seriously supports the health of a company.

Empathic workplaces tend to enjoy stronger collaboration, less stress, and greater morale, and their employees bounce back more quickly from difficult moments such as layoffs. Humans don’t necessarily mimic just bad behavior; behaviors and norms that are also good and productive are also “contagious”. Much like how children learn by watching everyone around them, employees who demonstrate care and altruism “teach” new employees about the norms at the office.

Ai Ching Goh, CEO at Piktochart, kindly granted an interview. Piktochart allows users to create web-based, easy-to-create infographics and visuals. Piktochart leads their organizational culture, their core values, and how it infuses understanding people---from their employees to the clients---into their everyday. 

organizational culture

Why is organizational culture so important?


First, what' organization's culture? It defines behavior within an organization. “This is how we do things here” is a common phrase. From team meetings, lunches, to brainstorming sessions, an organization’s behavior can be defined by sharing the common beliefs and values established by leaders. The effectiveness of these values and beliefs are often determined by how they’re enforced. Communication through various methods, like onboarding or performance review, shapes employees’ perceptions, behaviors and understanding of those values.

Organizational culture is not one-size-fits-all. It depends on factors such as size, industry, or priority. However, regardless of vertical, culture sets the context for every decision that is made at an organization. That’s why culture matters: the small decisions may look small at the time, but collectively they persuade the larger setting to function in a certain manner.

Amongst the most successful companies, a strong culture is often a common denominator. What sets culture apart from other aspects of a well-run organization is that values pertains to the whole of the organization, not just individuals. The leaders of such companies must reflect on how a culture’s values are communicated and lived out in their workplace. This is embedded in nearly all manner and approach, from the hiring process, to how emails are sent, or employees are let go.

Cultural identity is woven in the fabric of the most thoughtful companies.

Zoom CEO Eric Yuan the well-known conferencing platform, has an unprecedented 99% employee approval rating; Yuan claims company culture cannot be separated from product development. Greenhouse CEO Daniel Chait leads the world’s fastest-growing talent acquisition system (TAS), with nearly 3,000 customers globally. Employees at Greenhouse work to sustain a strong culture with employee-run committees dedicated to assisting and inspiring colleagues. Leaders find ways for their companies values to be defined in their organizations---and most importantly carried out.

Piktochart is one example of a company working to live out its values. These values are below:

H is for Humble

We’re always open to feedback and to learning from our mistakes. We tend to view our humility as a strength, because we know that recognizing shortcomings will open doors to improvement.

O is for Open Up

Transparency is key, and both internal and external collaborations are valued. We encourage employees and users alike to honestly voice what is on their minds. When someone speaks, we listen intently. We speak the truth with love and respect!

P is for Passionate

We’re a team of developers, designers, marketers, and support staff who care about building the best visual storytelling tool on the internet. Piktochart is a part of who we are — and we love what we do. We want our users to love what they create.

E is for Excellent

A wise person once said, “Aim for the moon. If you miss you may hit a star.” In everything we do, we aim for excellence – but we refuse to let perfection hold us back.

F is for Fun

We pride ourselves on hiring genuinely awesome and sometimes quirky team members. Our light-hearted and lively culture shines inside and outside of Piktochart. F also stands for the Foosball table in the office, which some of us spend way too much time with.

U is for User Focused

Our mission is to provide a design tool that’s both intuitive and indispensable. We’re directing Piktochart to be laser-focused on what’s best for our users and their goals.

L is for Love

‘I love to…’, it turns out, is a pretty good way to start your sentences, shape your thinking, and make things that matter. We do things out of love and we wouldn’t know what to do without the good people who use the stuff we make.

organizational cultureAi Ching explains how Piktochart values are amongst the first touchpoints an applicant learns about. They embed it within their “Thank you for applying” email to even listing them in the introductory interview. It’s at the forefront of the candidate experience and throughout their talent management processes. Content marketer and Piktochart employee, Gosia Kieszkowska, affirmed how relaxed and welcome she felt. Piktochart's values of empathy and authenticity came through in the way they asked questions about her, her work, and even being transparent about the challenges Piktochart faces. A candidate experience that focuses on the "human" during the process is reinforcing human-centric values, like empathy.

Embed values as the norm

Ai Ching explains how employee performance reviews are framed within the context of their prized values. However they aren’t left to be discussed only quarterly. With weekly one-on-one’s, managers and junior employees reflect about the week’s progress and results, but also about how the past week aligned with their values. Orienting tasks and projects with the metrics of values provides a special opportunity for employee development and also reinforces cultural identity.

Implement values-oriented leadership

A company that champions values need to be led by people who embody, or who work to embody, the values the organization purports. What is values-based leadership? In short, it’s when leading a team or company goes beyond metrics; it’s leading and evaluating performance based on the organization’s set of values. Piktochart’s CEO, Ai Ching Goh, sits down and reviews the company’s values every year. She sets time aside to evaluate how they’ve been applied throughout the year and in which areas can they be further improved. Values-based evaluations take as much time and consideration as does the “nuts and bolts” of running a team.

According to Harry Kraemer, former chairman and CEO of Baxter International and now Clinical Professor of Leadership at Northwestern University, it’s about “doing the right thing”. To enable values-based leadership to choose wisely, it’s contingent on “Four Key Principles”:

-self-reflection
-balance
-true self-confidence
-genuine humility

Self-Reflection

“When leaders are able to reflect on what they know they do well and where they have room for improvement, it allows them to check in with their values and anchor themselves to their principles”.

Balance

Leaders who listen to all of their team members not only make more informed decisions, but they are more transparent when they make the final decision. In fact, leaders who follow through by explaining final decisions to their team members earn more respect because every team member will know he or she is listened to and understood.

True Self-Confidence

Professor Kraemer discerns what the “true” entails: a truly self-confident person is comfortable saying, “I don’t know,” and, “I was wrong.” That’s because a truly self-confident person cares more about doing what’s right than being right.

Genuine Humility

According to Kraemer, “the truly humble remember where they came from”. Leaders recognize they’ve had success, but still understand there’s more to learn and that they don’t have all the answers.

With strong values, cultural identity, and values-based leadership, a culture of empathy is the result. Piktochart isn't perfect---as Ai Ching was quick to explain---but its one company constantly striving to adhere to their values day in, day out. 

Special thanks to Ai Ching, Gosia, and Marta Olszewska for making this interview possible. 

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Elizabeth T.

Written by Elizabeth T.

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