How Core Values Can Help Guide Employees During the Pandemic

5 min read
May 19, 2020


This guest post is by Harrison Tang, CEO and Co-founder of Spokeo and one of LA's Best Places To Work.

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With millions of Americans working from home due to the COVID-19 global health crisis, leaders are searching for ways to more actively engage their employees and help them work from home successfully.

At Spokeo, we’re learning that the core values established prior to the pandemic are helping our teammates navigate remote work challenges during unprecedented and uncertain times.  We’ve found that these core values are serving as the North Star to guide how we conduct ourselves with our teammates and our customers.  These core values have become even more important since we’ve been working from home without the standard structures of a typical work and office environment.

What Are Core Values & Why Do They Matter?

We define core values as a combination of “how we should behave” and “what we aspire to.” These values serve as the North Star in how we should be working together.  We want our employees to return to these values to help guide their actions on a daily basis.

How We Developed Core Values Using a Data-Driven Approach 

We took a democratic, bottom up approach that involved the input of all employees throughout every level of the organization. We’ll show you how we used a data-driven approach vital to establishing and identifying our core values. 

Understand the Raw Data

As the old saying goes, “Garage in, Garage out.”  Any data scientist will tell you, nothing is more important than the collection and understanding of raw data inputs.  That’s because raw data is the foundation for everything -- if your data foundation is faulty, then your future efforts will be doomed.

Use TINYpulse to Survey Employees

The first step in our data-driven approach was collecting and understanding the raw data inputs.  To collect the data, we used TinyPulse to survey our employees and ask them what matters to them most.

We broke down our questions into three areas to dig deeper into what’s important to employees in their day-to-day work life. 


Company goals/growth:

How well do you understand the goals?

How would you rate our internal communications efforts?

What would you like to see more of?

Individual goals/growth:

How well do you understand how your goals contribute to company goals? 

How important is employee opportunity for learning?

Do you understand what your career path is here?

Do you understand the career growth required for this path?

How important is employee appreciation and wellness to you?

Company culture/morale:

How important is employee recognition?

What types of rewards and incentives are you looking for?

What do you like about working here?

What would you like to see more of?

What would you like to see less of?

After collecting the answers, we then used the methods below, which coincidentally became the core values we now use to approach team projects: 1).  Listen with Empathy; 2). Understand the Why; 3). Clarify with Data.  

1).  Listen with Empathy

In order to thoughtfully collect data, we listened with empathy to our teammates from across all levels of the company about the values that guide them in their daily work lives. 

We listen with empathy so that we can comprehend the context of the conversation, align diverse perspectives, and move forward.

2).  Understand the Why

We established this value as a guiding principle underlying everything we do.  That’s because we believe that understanding the why is crucial to know before engaging in any project, including developing core values.  Why was it important for us to develop these values? Because we believe that our core values serve as a roadmap to guide our team on how to behave.

We understand “the why” so that we know how to find relevant solutions and champion sustainable growth.

3).  Clarify With Data

After collecting answers to employee surveys, our next step was to clarify with data.  We sorted and analyzed the data to identify common ideas within the data sets.  We employed data analytics techniques such as clustering, which is a data analytics technique that involves classifying each data point into specific groups based on similar properties.  We used this clustering technique to identify similar ideas from the data sets and then grouped them into specific themes that informed our six core values.  By doing this, we were able to determine the values deemed most important to our teammates in building an effective team culture. 

We clarify with data to provide smart, measurable, actionable, relevant, and timely insights. 

4).  Innovate to Learn

We also realize these core values are a continual work in progress for our company that requires re-calibrating on a regular basis. As a tech company, we are constantly in a feedback loop as we introduce new product features and we iterate product development based on user feedback. Therefore, our value “innovate to learn” has two meanings.  As a company, we offer people information services to our customers and we incorporate what we learn from our customers into our product roadmap and organizational processes.  We practice our values everyday and we recalibrate our values on a regular basis based on the feedback we gain from our  teammates.

We learn through the use of innovative thinking, expressing creativity, and the sharing of new and bold ideas with the courage to manage failure.

5).  Collaborate to Achieve

Because we “listen with empathy,” we encourage teamwork, which is especially important working in a collaborative scrum method that emphasizes an agile project management framework.  The scrum method encourages teams to collaborate to achieve and learn through experiences, self-organize while working on a problem, and reflect on their wins and losses to continuously improve.

We achieve through collaboration, drawing from our different experiences, knowledge, and skills in pursuit of common objectives

6).  Insist on Quality 

While we insist on quality, we continue to focus, test, and iterate on our work so that we can continuously improve our product. We recognize that our job is never done because achieving quality is never a finished state but a continual work-in-progress.

We insist on quality because we recognize that our job is never done.

Leading the Way With Core Values  

We are all dealing with uncertainty and anxiety as we navigate these uncharted waters. No one knows how long we’ll be working and sheltering from home. Having a common set of mutually agreed upon core values is crucial to guiding our teammates to work in unison toward our common goals. 



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