Your Kidding Right?
By now, I am sure most of you have seen the news. REI is closing all their stores and even disabling online orders for Black Friday on Nov 27th. Instead, REI is encouraging their employees and customers to #OptOutside. REI believes being outside makes our lives better. I do too, so their message resonates with me. I was excited to hear the news and yes I did jump to the conclusion REI was launching an elaborate marketing campaign, but if you think about it a bit more, maybe not.
You can watch an interview with the CEO of REI by clicking below. I watched several of them and this interview gave me the best understanding of why REI elected to close on Black Friday. (Yes there is some brand building involved.)
You could be like most everyone else and blow this off as a very clever PR stunt by REI. Yes, it has brought them a great amount of publicity, interviews and articles, although I have not seen any other company at this point opt out of Black Friday. Although, there are lists of companies opting out of opening on Thanksgiving. Which I also applaud.
But let’s put aside the promotional intent of REI for a minute and examine what is really going on and how it applies to you.
Fundamentally, REI wanted to do something that demonstrated their authentic values on Black Friday. This challenge was given to employees over 9 months ago. I love retailers and their planning calendars.
So, REI is going to re-inforce their brand, give their employees a day off to get outside and send the message that getting outside is more important than Black Friday. (Did you also know REI has been listed in the top 100 places to work by Fortune since the inception of that list in 1998)
REI is willing to forgo a day’s worth of sales on a big shopping day and say, we value the outdoors, believing it does make lives better. Look, REI is not going to go out of business by missing Black Friday. They have had double digit sales growth the last two years and have revenues of $2.2B.
They set out to create a platform for discussing the benefit of going outside. Clever and of course they hope to benefit from the goodwill they have created with customers and attract new customers based on their message. These customers are likely to be very aligned to REI’s values as well. Also, it reminds employees of REI’s values and mission. All solid reasons for doing what they are doing. I would imagine employees walk around proud to say they work at REI.
At this point, you could chalk this up to a lesson in marketing and public relations. I am sure that is where most folks will land, but I think there is more to learn from REI’s #OptOutside campaign.
What can you learn?
When was the last time you stood up for your values? When was the last time you were visibly vocal about what you valued? When did you take any personal action to live your values?
I have struggled off and on over my career where my personal values have clashed with the actions, policies and values of organizations where I worked. I am sure some of you have experienced this as well. I am not talking about fundamental differences in business strategy, but more important matters, like employee engagement/development and company culture. Everything from vacation policies, layoff policies to how employees were valued and treated.
It wasn’t always like that. I remember my early days at Hewlett Packard, where I can honestly say that my values and HP’s were fairly well aligned. There was a true value put on people, development of employees and high standards for teamwork. I had tremendous opportunities at HP, because the culture fostered that environment. (Maybe I was naïve at the time and that is possible, but I think things have really changed over the years in business, not all companies of course).
I would have to say, that this is one of the key reasons I left corporate to start working on my own business. It just seems that over the years, my values became more and more compromised and it became harder and harder to support organizations where my values were not aligned.
Have you tried to work for an organization where you did not support their mission or align to their values? It is hard. It is hard to bring the best version of you to work. It is hard to go the extra mile when called upon.
Besides, who wants to work for an organization where your values are diminished?
In fact next time you are considering working for an organization (paid or not), ask yourself these two questions:
Can I support the mission of the company enthusiastically?
Can I align to their values?
If you can find work where you can align to the organization mission and their values, it is very likely you will contribute at a high level and be enthusiastically engaged. The more aligned you are to an organization’s mission and values, the more satisfaction you will get from the work.
In fact, there are 3 things that people need to be engaged at work:
I think you can see how REI is connecting their employees and customers to one of their key values and purpose.
And according to Gallup these days, being engaged at work is a rare commodity.
Yes, REI is going to reap marketing and PR benefits from their #OptOutside campaign, but their mission is broader and deeper.
Their #OptOutstide campaign distills what they believe and what they value for their employees, customers and suppliers.
Pretty powerful, even if the media and others are chalking it up to a slick marketing tactic.
So, next time you are uncomfortable at work and not exactly sure why, look at your values for clues. If your companies work approach, policies, expectations, behavior and culture don’t match up, then your values are likely being compromised.
If so, you may have a choice to make.
If you are struggling to find work that is meaningful and aligned to your values (paid or not), let me help get you started. Go to my coaching page here, scroll to the bottom and request a Lay of the Land questionnaire. Send the completed form back to me and I will set up a time to meet.