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Company values at the core of hiring and growing employees

“It starts with each and every one of us,” CEO Mark Shlanta told SDN Communications employees at a recent all-employee meeting — “it” being SDN’s core values and the role they play in the customer experience process.

SDN’s Core Values:

  • Servant Leader
  • Customer First Attitude
  • Motivated — positive, can-do attitude
  • Passion — for SDN, its Members, its Customers
  • Innovate and Challenge

In 2021, the management team added the last value — innovation and challenge.

“In the past couple of years, we’ve had to ask this of everyone. We’ve had great procedures and policy that have brought us to where we are,” Shlanta told employees. “But the world has changed around us. We have to challenge the status quo.”

And that’s something else SDN asks of its employees — to look for new ideas and have the courage to say, “we have to stop the way we’re doing things.” Shlanta said it’s important to have employees who can see opportunities for change and have the confidence to communicate them.

SDN’s core values drive more than the customer experience; they also impact hiring and culture within the organization. Like many companies across the country, SDN is seeking qualified people to join the team. However, just having the technical know-how isn’t enough, said Amy Preator, SDN’s HR Director.

“We know that personality and character traits matter more than knowledge and experience. We want them to come with that and have the technical aptitude,” she said. “But if we don’t hire for the core values that we want, we’re going to regret it down the road — it’s not a good long-term decision.”

That may mean that SDN takes its time to fill positions to get the right experience and the right personality, especially when unemployment numbers are so low, Preator said.

“We can train for a lot of the knowledge that the employee needs for the technical part of the job — we can’t train the core values,” she said.

The core values are lived out in many ways, from the culture created in the office environment to how employees view their role within the company, both of which are measured each year in anonymous employee engagement surveys. SDN’s engagement levels have remained consistently high since being measured this way, Preator said.

One way SDN creates positive culture is through the Service Beyond Expectation program, which helps acknowledge employees. They’re recognized with colored, foam building blocks representing the core values.

“Mark (Shlanta) is the perfect example of so many of our core values, which filters down to our executive team, our managers and our staff,” she said. “If employees don’t see it at the top, they aren’t going to follow suit.”

Shlanta frequently reminds employees about developing excellent customer experience by sharing a quote from Walt Disney:

Whatever you do, do it well. Do it so well that when people see you do it, they will want to come back and see you do it again and they will want to bring others and show them how well you do what you do.
― Walt Disney

“If you’ve been to Disney World, you’ve seen how they do that,” he said. “Think about our customers — if the job we do for them inspires them to bring a friend and show it to them, that’s the best referral we can get. We appreciate when they say ‘look at what SDN does for me.’”

SDN is hiring for several rare openings. People with interest in those areas and who feel they share SDN’s core values are encouraged to apply through the Careers page of the SDN Communications website.

SDN Communications is a leader in providing reliable business internet, private networking and cloud connectivity to companies and organizations in communities such as Sioux Falls, Rapid City, Worthington, and the surrounding areas.