September 29, 2015 in True Strength, Mindset, My thoughts

An interview with Ryan Cheyne on the rentalcars Values Festival

My Twitter and LinkedIn timelines looked very colourful recently, as lots of people at shared photos of their ‘Values Festival’, with lots of fancy dress and a VW campervan. I went to see Ryan Cheyne, People Director, to find out more.


Ian: so, what have you been up to with your values festival and why are you doing it?

Ryan: We called it our V Festival, V for Values, and it just happened to fall at the same time as the original V Festival. I’ve been working an for 12 weeks now and one of my first jobs is to come up with a set of values because we hadn’t got any articulated values. I believe that having a set of articulated values is essential because without them, you’re going to be missing a vital component of recruitment, performance management, and any way in which you engage people.


Fancy dress


Ian: Why did you decide on a festival?

Ryan: I was meeting with my team, talking about how to approach this and discussing some early ideas about running listening groups, doing some surveys, and establishing value champions. One of my team challenged me about whether yet another listening group was the best way forward. It was a very fair challenge; our motto at is ‘Anything but Ordinary’ and our initial thoughts about articulating our values were very ordinary. So then I came up with this idea, actually on the train home.

We have colleagues from 70 different nationalities in different roles from customer advisors through to web site developers and they all have different preferences and learning styles. So the idea was that we created this event where we have different interactions to different learning styles and different preferences and they could all get involved in a way that was comfortable to them. And then I just came up with this festival theme because it was festival time of year. So the idea was that we create something that was cool and funky, was highly interactive, was different, allowed us to get tons and tons of data banked and in itself would create an event that would get people talking and discussing, and in effect launch, the values before we’d even written them. So we had 1.1 mile of bunting, 12 musicians, a VW campervan-shaped video booth. The events each day were what we called main events and we had fringe events round the outside. So we did things like, draw us a picture that pictorially represents to get some of the creative side coming out. We did the portaloo events which was where you write down any behaviours or stuff that you want to flush away. So it was somewhere to acknowledge the fact that we are far from perfect so let’s flush it away to uncover that stuff as we will learn as much about stuff that we shouldn’t be doing. We had live music every lunchtime because it was a festival. Friday was the peak where we had fancy dress – best dressed individual, best dressed teams, and there were tents all over the place!


Ian: It looked amazing! How many people took part in it?

Ryan: It’s really hard to know because people were doing different things. One of the events was ‘vote for a value’ so we gave them a list of value-type words and they had to vote for 3 and if the word that they wanted to vote for wasn’t on the list, they could add it in, so we had just shy of 800 people voted for a value which gave us 2,500 words to play with. Throughout the week we ran ‘rentalcars personified’ awards so the idea here was that colleagues could nominate another colleague who in their minds personified rentalcars (as if you cut them in half, they’ve got rental cars running through them). We had 300 people nominate 400 colleagues (because you could nominate more than one). Then we recognised and rewarded them last week at the Town Hall, which was fantastic. They were recognising and recommending their colleagues which was great, but we were also getting valuable information because they had to fill out detail of ‘why’ and ‘what for’ and 3 words that best describe those people.


Vinyl Disks


Ian: What have you got now as a result of it?

Ryan: We’ve got all kinds of qualitative stuff, that we’ve now pulled together. We combined the word votes with the votes for values and the personified awards and got over an hour’s worth of video booth footage. The other thing we did was ask for song nominations for songs that captured the values so we’ve got a ridiculously long playlist with some absolutely great tracks on there. But the main stuff is the word stuff that we are now playing with and pulling together. We’ve got the themes, and from those themes I will be shaping our value statements and then testing them with the ‘rentalcars personified’ winners. I’ll take them round the business and test them and ask do they look and feel right? We analysed the word cloud (in the shape of a car) and I’m relieved that the Founder recognised the main themes that are coming out. The whole idea is that the values are already there, they just need writing down.


no repeats car word cloud


Ian: Now you’ve written down the values, how are you going to launch them?

Ryan: We’ve got some more work to do before we launch them as these have got to last for years. It felt quite historic really; if I think back to my time at Pets at Home, the values had been in place for about 15 years. So as I was up to my eyeballs in bunting at the V Festival, I was thinking that we need to come up with something that people will still be talking about and recognising in 15 years. So the first stage is testing, then we will launch them and we’ve not yet decided how we’ll do that.


Ian: And what will you do after you’ve launched them?

Ryan: That’s when the real work starts as we embed them in our recruitment practices, our performance management, our induction, and all our training. Now we’ve got them, we need to use them.
Ian: From what I saw on Facebook and Twitter, it looks like everybody was having a great time! How important do you think it is that people have fun while they do this?


Ian: From what I saw on Facebook and Twitter, it looks like everybody was having a great time! How important do you think it is that people have fun while they do this?

Ryan: Absolutely essential, and you might well see fun featuring somewhere in the values! When I look at great companies out there, fun always seems to feature in one way or another. That doesn’t necessarily mean you have to dress up; although we’re inclined to do that, other businesses may not. We spend too much time at work for it to be not fun. We had music every lunchtime at Fountain Street and we had musicians going around Sunlight House, setting up in various positions. They’ve now started playing music in the canteens and we’ve been getting more requests for music. The fancy dress theme on the last day of V Festival didn’t give us any data, but it created a great atmosphere!


String Trio


Ian: What’s the atmosphere like now that your V Festival is over?

Ryan: I’ve related this whole thing to what I’m like as a parent; how I want my kids to grow up being decent, well-mannered, and doing the best the can. If you’re a parent, values come into everything. I keep seeing things that fill my heart with joy; seeing people who were cynical really changing their stance and telling us how much they’ve enjoyed things and that they get it now. When we publish them, if people can say “I recognise those” then that’s a job well done.


Selection of Snaps


Ian: How much of this is about articulating the values as they are today, and how much is about describing the values that you really want to live?

Ryan: A bit of both. For example, collaboration has emerged as a theme where we are fairly good already but we have the opportunity to do more and be better. I think the values will paint a good picture of how we really are today and will drive us on to be even better.

Ian: Final question; which bit of your Values Festival are you proudest of?

Ryan: I’m incredibly proud that a small team of about 8 of us worked our socks off to deliver this in 3 weeks! I’m proud that we did what we said we would; we create the buzz, created the event, and set a real expectation for what comes next. And nobody asked me to leave after we’d done it! We’ll end up with a brilliant set of values that I think will stand the test of time and I hope that they’re still on the wall in 10 years time. We’re in the detailed bit of finalising them at the moment but I’m really pleased with what we’ve done.


Ian: Ryan Cheyne, thank you!


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