By Dr. Robert Ang, President & CEO
Company culture is inevitable.
When a group of people spend a significant amount of time together, working and interacting, certain patterns of behavior will eventually become standard practice. However, I believe company culture can be shaped – not easily or quickly – but it can be molded in ways that can result in real change and ensure the team is working toward a shared goal and vision. I also believe company culture can be a true asset that can help a company navigate through challenging times. Our strong company culture at Vor Bio was the primary reason we were able to navigate our way through the pandemic and keep our employees united and on track towards our goal of transforming treatment for people with blood cancer.
A key tool used to shape company culture is a defined set of core values. Defining core values should be a thoughtful process that results in more than just words on your website or a poster in your office.
Your core values should be a true reflection of your company and how your employees work together every day – mapping back to your mission and what you are trying to achieve.
A good first step is to bring together a small group of people from all levels of the company to drive this process. At Vor Bio, we started our Core Value initiative in the winter of 2019. At the time, our company was just over 20 people, with the vast majority having joined within the prior six months. We established a Core Values Committee comprised of Voracians who were not on the leadership team. This was important to us to ensure our values resonated with employees at all levels of our organization.
The next important step was to collect input from all key stakeholders of your company. We sent out a survey to all employees, key consultants, board members, and investors. The instructions were to describe positive values we might already be reflecting, but also think inspirationally about the kind of company Vor Bio should become. The committee then collated these values and presented the output to our leadership team.
I remember that meeting very well. We were all huddled in a meeting room in the basement at our old office space. When the Core Values Committee began their presentation and we saw a list of values that succinctly captured what Vor Bio was like already, as well as a list of aspirational values, it was an amazing moment to reflect on the kind of place that Voracians want to be part of! During this discussion we pared down the list and aligned on just three core values, as we believe too many values makes them less memorable and meaningful. If you have too few, you lose opportunities to shape certain cultural aspects.
The final step involved defining these values to explain why they are core drivers of how the company operates. This transforms the values from a list of words on a page to guiding principles that should shape employee behavior every single day.
The results of this process should establish your North Star to shape your company culture and outline the shared passion of your employees to execute on your mission. At Vor Bio, we narrowed in on:
- Passion: Enthusiastically driving our science toward innovative medicines
- Fellowship: Fostering genuine bonds of collaboration and mentorship
- Humility: Acting selfishly by putting the collective mission first
These core values might sound a little unusual for a biotech company. But talk to any Voracian, or watch our new corporate video, and you will hear how our values are fundamental to our company and are the lifeblood of what we do. As Vor Bio continues to develop and grow, we hope to welcome more new Voracians to our unique and special culture.