Culture is a way of life, the way we do things. At Paychex, our culture is rooted in six core values that shape who we are, how we work, and why more than 670,000 businesses trust us to handle their HR, payroll, benefits, and insurance needs. We believe our culture is truly a competitive advantage, but, too often, companies let culture happen; they don’t intentionally work on their culture.
When I became CEO of Paychex more than nine years ago, one of my priorities was making our culture even stronger than it was. While our company and employees have always operated on a foundation of ethics and integrity, we didn’t have a companywide set of values in place with clear guiding behaviors to help our employees understand what it means to live those values.
We do now. And, I am very proud of how I see our nearly 16,000 employees exemplify our values in all they do.
In 2012, we launched a culture-shaping initiative beginning with our senior executives, who came together with a common purpose: to create a set of six core values for our company. The energy and commitment in the conference room that day set the course for the culture we have today, and the values created are just as fundamental to Paychex’s success now as they were eight years ago.
We act with uncompromising integrity.
We provide outstanding service and build trusted relationships.
We drive innovation in our products and services and continually improve our processes.
We work in partnership and support each other.
We are personally accountable and deliver on our commitments
We treat each other with respect and dignity.
It’s important to understand that while these values make great content for posters, they are much more than just words on the posters that today hang on walls of every Paychex location. They are reflective of how our employees were already doing things and beliefs they already held.
Once we established our core values, we developed and executed an organized process to take everyone in the company through culture-shaping workshops and training programs. Every Paychex employee—from San Diego to Charlotte, to Denmark and India—participates in training around our values and the behaviors that support them. We embed our values in training, leadership development, performance management, and employee engagement initiatives. And, while it’s essential that the senior leadership team model our values-based culture, building a culture that’s embraced by all isn’t, and can’t be, a “top-down” process. Certainly, leaders need to authentically live our values, but without adoption of our values across the organization, at all levels, our culture can’t thrive.
Today, we have more than 1,100 “culture champions” across the company who volunteer their time to be ambassadors of our culture in their offices and business units. They are the feet-on-the-ground believers who help ensure that our culture is carried into all we do, for co-workers and for clients. Champions come from all parts of the organization. They are managers, frontline service representatives, and administrative assistants. And, the role they play in the success of our business extends beyond the job they were hired to do.
We also count on their insight. For example, we are developing a new leaders-only culture session as part of our continually evolving training around values. So, we asked our champions what messages shouldn’t be missed in this session.
I want to share some of what we learned. You’ll see that every single message ties back to the business.
“I believe any leader who does not embrace culture is doomed to failure or at best mediocrity. It doesn’t make them soft; it makes everything they are trying to accomplish easier. Mutual respect equals optimum efficiency,” said one of our culture champions who is a leader in our IT organization.
“Accountability is using our power each day to make a positive difference for those in our world and taking responsibility for our actions. It means asking, ‘What more can I do to get results in spite of obstacles and barriers?’… to look inside ourselves and make the decision to take action—to go beyond personal job descriptions and do whatever it takes to honor our commitments.” This is from an administrative assistant and champion in one of our sales divisions.
This message is from a leader and culture champion in our Paychex Insurance Agency: “Can I tell you that promoting and living the culture concepts has increased revenue by 30 percent? No, not specifically. But I can undeniably say if we didn’t have the culture concepts, our revenue wouldn’t have increased by 30 percent. We wouldn’t have partnerships across teams, and best practices wouldn’t be shared. Our Agency [Paychex Insurance Agency] is in the top 25 insurance agencies* (nationwide) because we live these values and have a solid foundation built on them.”
It’s also critical, once a company culture is established and takes root, to continue reinforcing the values, with current employees as well as those who are hired to join the company. Our onboarding program for new employees at Paychex includes a training module on New Employee Culture Orientation. Additionally, all new managers and supervisors attend a culture-shaping workshop as part of their new leader training.
Our values message reaches employees across the company on a regular basis through our employee communications channels. Each month, we send an all-employee email highlighting one of our six core values. We incorporate videos, some created by our corporate training team, and others that have a more grassroots feel to them because the ideas, production, and values message come straight from employees at one of our office locations. We also take advantage of our Inside Paychex podcast to do monthly episodes that feature conversations with senior leaders talking about our values, with companion blog posts.
We make all these resources and more easily accessible for Paychex employees on our culture-shaping intranet site. We provide quick links to our values and guiding behaviors, best practices on living the Paychex values, and even an order form to get culture materials for a team meeting. Copies of one of those items—a small tri-fold values brochure—are distributed to every new employee, in addition to being available to order from our culture site. The brochure has “I” statements for each of our six values (such as “I accept personal accountability for results and live up to my commitments.” And, “I treat others with respect, dignity, and common courtesy.”), and is intended to reinforce the personal accountability that comes with our values.
I have heard it said that integrity and respect are table stakes. Without them, none of the other values matter. I believe they all matter, but I operate personally and professionally from a perspective that uncompromising integrity and unfailing ethics are the guideposts for all we do. I have a small crystal sculpture on my office conference table engraved with a quote from Roy E. Disney, a longtime senior executive for The Walt Disney Company: “It’s not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are.”
At Paychex, our strong culture has helped us achieve tremendous growth, and keeps us poised for greater growth in the future. Our nearly 16,000 employees who live our values each day give us every reason to be “Paychex Proud.”
*Paychex Insurance Agency, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Paychex, Inc., ranked number 21 on Business Insurance magazine’s 2019 list of the Top 100 Brokers of U.S. Business.
About the Author:
Martin Mucci assumed the role of president and chief executive officer on September 30, 2010. Under his leadership, Paychex has significantly expanded upon its foundation as a payroll services company to become a leading provider of integrated human capital management solutions for small and mid-sized businesses, growing to $3.8 billion in annual revenue.