World Market’s roots go back to the late 1950s when a San Francisco businessman turned traveler and importer began selling shiploads of hand-woven wicker from one of the city’s piers. In 1958 he turned his shiploads into a storefront on San Francisco’s famed Fisherman’s Wharf. Today, with more than 200 retail stores across the U.S. and 5,000 employees, World Market continues to delight customers with an ever-changing marketplace of unique and beautiful home furnishings, décor, accessories, and exceptional gourmet products.
In 2020 World Market faced a lot of changes, all at once. The Covid pandemic led them to evolve into a hybrid workplace, with all new safety protocols, having to pay particular attention to how they managed processes in their corporate office, stores, and distribution centers. At the same time, World Market was managing a divestiture from a former parent public company, transitioning to being privately owned. They were facing change in every sense of the word, across every vertical, as well as across the leadership team.
As workforce and customer demands and expectations continued to evolve, the senior team considered what the next chapter for the brand would be. The leadership recognized that “What got them here won’t get them there”. Therefore, they knew that taking a closer look at their values would be an important step in effectively managing the change they were going through.
While the leadership team was starting to think about their values, at the same time, a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) program was being formalized, and inclusion was very much at the forefront of the minds of the senior executive team. This project sparked an idea: The values project can be a way to provide a seat at the table to employees across the organization and to give a more equitable access to everyone for decision-making. Hence, the employee surveys and focus groups that would help define the values were a part of a bigger, strategic decision.
The World Market HR team launched an employee survey asking their associates for their input on the company values - how they felt about them, how they are brought to life, etc. Some of the results of the survey led to:
The HR team knew, however, that the successful survey and rollout of the initiatives was just the beginning. Prior to changing their values, they asked employees if they knew what their values were, and about half said they knew them all, and the other half said that they knew just some. There were also differences in awareness, recall, understanding between the different business verticals, the corporate office, distribution centers, and stores.
As the next step following the survey, the team got to work to make sure that their new values and all their new initiatives were internalized in their culture. They achieved this by implementing several powerful and impactful actions:
Overall, the World Market HR team received a lot of positive feedback from employees that they were being asked for their input on these important strategic areas. With that, the HR team said that they don’t believe that prior to this survey, the employees would have expressed the same level of confidence that this level of action was going to be taken based on their opinions and voice. This means that even organizations that are still working on improving their employee listening strategies can achieve impactful, strategic results from their surveys.
“Every individual person, from cashier to CEO was empowered and given an opportunity to share their voice to shape our new company values. Our goal for this project was to make World Market an even better place to work than it already is for all of us.”
Another one of the critical takeaways that the World Market HR team had was the importance of being open-minded. They started with the assumption the values won’t change much, or envisioned what they may be, and with the data they realized that they were not what they expected, and that they had a lot of great learnings in there. They advise that the same goes for feedback. You may find what you have been doing isn’t working anymore, you may need to let go of something or rethink it.
The World Market team plans to run another survey in a year and based on their efforts of making this initiative front and center with their workforce, they expect to have better internalization of the values, especially as the employees helped define them and it was what they asked for, and that in turn, it will have played a significant part in helping them drive cultural change. Change is not easy to make, but they are here because we care and want to make the effort.
For a project of this importance to be executed successfully it needs to be done with a lot of thoughtfulness and commitment. Without that, it’s impossible to see the results that the World Market is seeing. The right technology can be a great ally on this path, to help an organization focus on what’s most important in project execution, and help them propel the project forward. Below are a few examples of how the World Market leveraged QuestionPro Workforce technology as a part of this important initiative, and how they collaborated with the QuestionPro team to support them along the way.