Surely everyone gets it, right?
Well, you’d be surprised, or maybe you wouldn’t. Every organisation has values, whether they’ve been written down or not. Even the smallest business has some stuff that’s fundamental to its identity – probably starting with what’s important to the people that founded it. These things will be visible every day in the way people in the business behave. They could be positive, or negative, but they are there.
If you think about well-known brands, there are words that we associate with them. Could be innovation, responsiveness, fun, but it could also be words like arrogant, pushy or disorganised. These may or may not be the words that are on that organisation’s website under ‘Values’, or that feature in their job ads.
A good test is to head to Glassdoor and look at what the people that work there have to say. Equally, read the reviews left by customers. These can show the true face for good or ill.
Which is where living the values comes in.
Do the words match the music?
If an organisation makes great play out of their values, but then the experience of working there, supplying or being a customer doesn’t match, you know there’s something wrong. You may still really like the product or service and buy it anyway. You may still decide the salary/ benefits/ progression opportunities or whatever is sufficiently attractive you’ll overlook the disconnects. We all get to make choices like that as individuals, based on our own judgement at the time.
If you’re a leader you should really think hard about creating a consistent picture. For example, if one of your values is fairness, ask yourself whether the way you hire, recognise success, reward and motivate your people is genuinely fair. Because you can be sure that if it doesn’t feel fair, your people will have tuned into that and have formed their views as a result.
If your product is amazing, your customers may forgive a lack of consistency in behaviours. Then again they may not. Can you afford to take that risk?
Top tips for living you company values
Living the values means using them as a benchmark for everything you do, every decision you take. It keeps you honest, it challenges you to be the best leader you can be. It helps you choose between the easy decision and the right decision. It’s incredibly helpful in fact.
It helps if they are written down, especially if everyone in the business has had a hand in coming up with them – co-creation is a powerful tool. Here are some ways to make them an everyday part of your job:
- Use them for hiring decisions. If you value collaboration for example, look for people explicitly who bring that as part of the way they work, as well as the other skills you need
- Use them for reference to your suppliers and clients – maybe you value innovation, but you’ve been dictating terms to some stakeholders. How much better if you could co-innovate?
- Use them in your communication; your reward strategy; your product development.
- Most of all, discuss them with your people – call out for recognition when you see the values in action; hold yourself to account on them and acknowledge when you get them wrong.
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This approach has achieved engagement rates of 94%, compared to the average usage rate of 2-18% for Employee Assistance Programmes and 10-40% for points solutions.
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