A WOWs (Ways of Work) Culture

Adrianne Court, EVP & CHRO, Caliber Home Loans

Adrianne Court, EVP & CHRO, Caliber Home Loans

Many of us have been there . . . working with a leadership team to articulate the values that express the culture of an organization. The process of garnering alignment and agreement on what values really mean in the context of a business can often be a difficult process. We might end up in a spiral, debating if values are ethics, morals or belief system. Getting wrapped-up in the definition of values or a value statement in the context of a work environment and organizational culture can take more time and energy than it takes to articulate the organizational value statements themselves.

"Each personalized recognition is tied to specific examples of how employees are seen collaborating contagiously, caring fiercely, leading thoughtfully or doing the right thing"

At Caliber Home Loans, we decided to stop the spiral and debate on the meaning of values or value statements. We turned our focus to defining how we should and want to work together to cultivate our culture. We had a realization that we should articulate how we want to connect together as humans without the confines of the meaning of values. Simply stated, how we desired to work together to reinforce our great culture, to continue to deliver the ultimate customer experience, was greater than coming to agreement on the meaning of values.

As we embarked on defining how we connect as humans, we knew we had a great culture and desired to more formally articulate what we knew was so special and different about Caliber Home Loans. This idea became our Ways of Work (WOWs).

It was an important time for us to articulate our WOWs as we were experiencing exponential growth, nearly doubling our employees to 7,000. Although we were ranked the #2 employer in the mortgage industry, the Caliber leadership team feared our culture and our unique spirit could be diluted if it was not purposefully embedded in our organization. We felt maintaining this unique culture was critical to us ensuring an ultimate home buying experience for our customers and to our competitive advantage.

We also knew that we did not want to repeat and reuse the same words that could be found on many company’s lobby walls. We wanted something different and special for Caliber Home Loans. Using feedback from our annual employee engagement survey and working sessions with many teams within the organization, our leadership team reflected on these inputs and committed to several half day sessions to formally memorialize what we instinctually knew was how we desired to work together. The resulting WOWs came alive for us with collaborating contagiously, caring fiercely, leading thoughtfully and always doing the right thing.

Once the WOWs were developed, Caliber was ready to deliver them to all team members. How could we begin to embed the WOWs in our culture? In January, after an announcement from our Caliber CEO unveiling the WOWs, we launched our recognition program, Awarding Caliber Excellence (ACE). This program is design to recognize employees while reinforcing the WOWs. Each personalized recognition is tied to specific examples of how employees are seen collaborating contagiously, caring fiercely, leading thoughtfully or doing the right thing. Over 6,600 ACE’s were sent in the first four months of the program and team members started spontaneously posting ACE’s with the WOWs throughout our buildings. Words that at first felt a little unconventional in place of a company’s value statement are now working their way into the daily conversations and water cooler communications. Team members across the organization, over 350 locations in the US, have taken the initiative to designate themselves as WOWs “ambassadors’’ to champion our WOWs culture.

The next step was to instill the WOWs into the context of talent development. First it was critical to begin incorporating the WOWs in a candidate’s first exposure to Caliber during the process of talent selection and recruiting. Interviews are framed to dive into candidate attitude and experience to determine alignment with our WOWs.

Starting at the top of the organization, leadership scorecards tie annual incentive achievement to include a WOWs modifier. Next employee performance and development reviews have been adjusted to discuss contribution and performance in the context of our WOWs. The talent review program was expanded to assess talent based on achieving results within the context of WOWs behaviors.

We are thrilled at Caliber Home Loans by the level of passion and commitment to our Ways of Work, and we will continue to reinforce our WOWs as we grow organically and through acquisition. We measured the health of our WOWs culture based on employee feedback in the annual employee engagement survey this year, and 81 percent confirmed that we are living our WOWs culture. Specific questions were designed and incorporated into the survey to solicit specific feedback and actionable results. We know having the WOWs thoroughly entrenched in how we connect as human beings at Caliber will allow us to continue to grow, gain market share and strengthen our competitive advantage while giving our customers the ultimate home buying experience and our team members a great place to work.

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