culture

How we built Zeal’s core values

We created set of core values that demonstrate our culture and vision for the future at Zeal.

A picture of a woman wearing glasses smiling

Grace Turner

Lead Recruiter

People illustrations performing core values

August 10, 2022

Goal: To create a set of core values that reflect our culture and vision at Zeal 

How we approached it: 

1. Research

Kelsey (Product Ops) and I researched what core values mean to a company. We prepared several different options for our core values, philosophy and methodology for our Founders. 

Some resources we found helpful were: 

We realized the overarching goal of Zeal’s Operating Principles: is to support and promote psychological safety in the workplace. 

“Studies show that psychological safety allows for moderate risk-taking, speaking your mind, creativity, and sticking your neck out without fear of having it cut off — just the types of behavior that lead to market breakthroughs.”

We knew we wanted to have 3-5 Core Values that aligned with what leadership envisioned for the company. We set up a meeting to discuss our research and advice on how we could build our Core Values based on the principle of promoting psychological safety.

2. Deep dive with Founders 

After our meeting with the founders, Kirti and Pranab, we gave them homework. Their task: to write down Zeal’s Core Values, following this simple framework: 

  1. Actionable values using words like “build” or ”learn” 
  2. Tied to our core business mission and vision 
  3. Representative of what values we already see present and consistent on the team 
  4. Positive in nature and avoid any harsh or exclusive verbiage

During this deep dive, the founders discussed how Zeal’s mission and vision interacted with our core values, since we are a fintech company and an embedded one, we wanted one of our values to reflect our commitment to growing sustainably and compliantly.

To reflect our larger societal goals of contributing to Government 2.0 with our payroll tax engine product, we came up with “lift with your knees.” This means we help support those within our organization to improve the lives of our users through a seamless and easy-to-use payroll product! 

Since we are a very empathetic and low-ego company, we added “learning and iterating” as well as “bias towards action.” In the start-up space, you need to have room for growth and creativity while meeting tight deadlines! 

3. Presented to the team and gathered feedback

We presented our work-in-progress values to the team in an All Hands Presentation outlining the importance of having guiding principles for our work and tying us to the larger mission of the company.

We wanted our core values to reflect us—each and every individual at Zeal, so we decided to break off into groups and add “actions” behind each value in how we see these values emulated in our day-to-day lives. We had insightful discussions and then came back as a group to distill our learnings and share them with the larger group. 

Here were some of our results…

4. Core values and their action items 

Bias towards action

Maintaining open communication channels and being clear in getting high-level buy-in but not being afraid to take ownership over your own department's decisions but always documenting and keeping other stakeholders in the loop to avoid misdirection. 

Build from the ground up

Think about trade-offs when prioritizing features now and the pains of building a long-term embedded fintech solution. 

Learn and Iterate

Our efforts for cross dept collaboration. 

How we can learn from our mistakes and when we are learning and creating processes – “What happens when new mistakes happen or the same ones?” How can you learn and build out new processes and iterate upon them? 

Lift with your knees

How to give feedback and participate in Happy Hours and not be afraid to ask for help 

5. Add styling and logos 

We thought icons would elevate and distinguish each value. In the beginning, we just took some from the Noun Project to use for our team presentation. After deciding on the general vision for each value, we shared them with Christina, our Brand Designer. She iterated on a few ideas. We went back and forth on a few until we arrived with our complete core value icons! 

Original Look

On-Brand Vibe

Introducing Zeal’s Core Values

Bias towards action: We want to skew towards action, taking initiative, and working together and at times running by ourselves is what we envision will make us successful.

Build from the ground up: We must think of how we can build long-lasting, scalable solutions. From engineering to operations to sales at Zeal we need to think about laying down the foundations for our client's users, which means we need to think 5 steps ahead when we initiate a new idea, project, or plan.

Learn and iterate: Learning from past mistakes and refining and progressing as we continue to grow and scale, giving and receiving feedback helps us grow and should be seen as a growing exercise. 

Lift with your knees: We should all make a conscious decision to lift up those around us in a collaborative and constructive manner so we can all reach business and professional goals! 

A nod to the future 

At Zeal, we know that culture, just like a company goes through changes and iterations, the core values today may change in a year or two from now and that’s what is exciting about growing not only a core business but also a thriving people culture. 

Our commitment to the future will be to constantly iterate and open up discussions about how we see these values in play in our everyday lives and diligently grow towards a brighter future together! 

If you’re interested in contributing and learning more about Zeal’s core values and how you can contribute to the culture here, please check out our Culture and Careers Page → here

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