Alibaba refreshes core values on 20th anniversary, adds work-life balance

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Alibaba’s new core values released Tuesday. (Image credit: Alibaba)

Included in internet conglomerate Alibaba’s six new corporate values introduced Tuesday at its 20th anniversary event was a nod to work-life balance, a notable addition following founder Jack Ma’s comments earlier this year in support of the demanding “996” work schedule.

Why it matters: The revision of the company’s core values—which the company views as business principles that have helped guide the company’s growth—on the same day of Ma’s retirement may be a signal that the company is looking to refresh its image.

  • The updated values are expected to help the company keep pace with the rapid changes in the digital era as Alibaba continues to expand globally, entering new markets and new businesses—and attracting new employees.
  • This is the second refresh of company values in the past 20 years.

“Because of the values we have succeeded over the last 20 years. But today the world is changing very, very fast. So, looking ahead, if we want to continue our success, we need something different. We need something new which can empower us to continue our success on the next journey.”

—Daniel Zhang, Alibaba chairman and CEO, in a statement

Details: The new values call for collective confidence, and more sharply define responsibility and a continued upward trajectory.

  • Last on the list, “Live seriously, work happily” is an acknowledgement that employees lives and work are separate and recognizes the importance of contentment in the workplace.
  • The company plans to serve 2 billion customers, create 100 million jobs, and help 10 million SMEs achieve profitability by 2036.

Context: The shift in core values follows widely publicized complaints from Alibaba employees about its demanding work environment, a facet of company culture that Ma appeared to support with his comments in April about 996, the grueling work schedule of 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., six days a week, that is commonly practiced at Chinese tech companies.

  • The values are dubbed the “Six Vein Spirit Sword,” taken from the work of novelist Jin Yong in which each “vein” represents a company value.
  • The company’s previous core values were: customer first, teamwork, embrace change, integrity, passion, and commitment.