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Live Your Values

Cindy Ventrice Posted by Cindy Ventrice.

Cindy Ventrice is a management consultant and workshop leader with over 20 years of experience. Through her company, Potential Unlimited, she helps organizations improve performance by improving work relationships.

Live Your Values

USDA, Creative Commons 2.0

The management team at Xilinx, a San Jose, California-based semiconductor company, has built a culture where adhering to their values is second nature. Leading the way is CEO Wim Roelandts.

Xilinx already had a list of values when Roelandts became CEO eight years ago. He wondered, did these values really represent what people cared most about? So he asked. What employees said formed the basis for Xilinx’s CREATIVE values:

  • Customer-focused
  • Respect
  • Excellence
  • Accountability
  • Teamwork
  • Very open communication
  • Enjoying our work

CREATIVE is a catchy concept. But lots of companies have catchy concepts that are basically meaningless. Roelandts knew he needed to make these values essential. He worked to entrench the CREATIVE concept into the Xilinx culture. Even today, he still talks about these values in every speech he gives, telling stories to exemplify what is working and what is missing. With Peg Wynn, VP of Worldwide HR, he worked to further reinforce these values by establishing a program where employees nominate each other for meeting one of the CREATIVE values.

Again, many companies have CEOs that talk about values. Few work to build a culture where the management consistently demonstrates its commitment through its actions. Wynn describes the way they make decisions as an example of everyday respect. Everyone has their say. They can emphatically disagree. Each point of view is respected. Once a decision is made they all work to implement it.

Xilinx’s commitment to respecting employees was really tested during a three-year economic slump that hit their industry. In response to plummeting revenues, other semiconductor companies had cut their workforces an average of over 20 percent. While Xilinx experienced a 50 percent loss in revenue, they chose not to lay off a single employee.

Maintaining their workforce was a conscious decision. Many, including their own board of directors, questioned the choice to avoid layoffs. The executive team met to weigh their options. Things got a little heated, but ultimately they came out with three goals for the downturn: reduce expenses, maintain productivity, and emerge stronger.

They decided that these could be achieved without layoffs. To reduce labor costs, they implemented an across-the-board tiered pay cut. They offered unpaid sabbaticals with a twist-employees kept their benefits and received $10,000 if they spent a year volunteering for a nonprofit organization. They kept layoffs as an option of last resort. For a team that lived its values, it was a matter of integrity.

Employees responded with understanding and loyalty. Some offered to take an even greater pay cut than requested. Through their commitment to retaining their people, even during a difficult time, Roelandts and his executive team strengthened their relationship with every employee, helping them maintain productivity and emerge stronger.

Real values are those we are willing to live with, even when it is difficult.


  • Define your values. Know what really matters to you.
  • When conventional wisdom is contrary to your values, question conventional wisdom.
  • Find ways to achieve your goals without compromising your values.

Adapted from Make Their Day! Employee Recognition That Works . Cindy Ventrice is the author of Make Their Day! Employee Recognition That Works (Berrett-Koehler, 2003). A speaker, trainer, and consultant with over twenty years’ experience, Cindy works with organizations to solve employee morale issues. You can learn more at: www.maketheirday.com.