It wasn’t until around 20 years ago that most companies began to state their values and deploy them as strategic HR and business tools. Debra Corey examines why, while the vast majority of businesses now do this, few have values that truly act as strategic tools.
According to a 2016 study by Gallup, only 27% of employees believe in their company values and only 23% knowingly use them in their jobs. This means that most companies are failing to use their values to help them succeed.
Many will be cynical about what values bring to an organisations and will question their necessity. So let’s remind ourselves of key ways that values can support your organisation:
1. They define who you are. Values define what an organisation stands for (and against), and what it is willing to fight for. This is important because it tells potential and existing employees and customers what the organisation believes in and how it will behave, clearly defining this upfront. The better this is done through values, the better chance organisations have of standing out from competitors and attracting and retaining talent and customers.
2. They guide decisions and actions. Values act as guidelines, guiding principles, or guideposts to your employees, helping them make everyday operational and strategic decisions, even when leaders are not around. When used properly, employees use them to ask questions, such as: “what do my values say about this?” and “how can my values help me choose a path and make a decision?” This is important at all times, but especially in bad or challenging ones, where values provide the focus and guidance we need to persevere.
3. Values fuel the workforce. Values give employees the energy and passion to not only make decisions, but to get things done. This passion, this energy, is so critical in the business world, and when being led by values, it ensures that it’s being done in the right way and in the right direction.
Bringing Your Values Out to Play – A Playbook on Company Values by Debra Corey is available now.
And it’s not just companies that find value in their company values, as they’re equally important to our employees. In fact, according to a 2019 study by Glassdoor, the factor that mattered most to employee satisfaction was culture and values, scoring higher than career progression, work-life balance and even compensation and benefits.
Which is why, if we want our values to deliver success, we need to start by getting the “right” ones. Here are four questions to HR leaders need to ask themselves:
1. Are they servants to the organisation’s purpose or mission? The values should support, align and drive the company’s purpose or mission, keeping the employees focused on what the business is trying to achieve.
2. Are they specific to the company? The values should not only be specific to the company’s purpose and mission, but specifically relate to its culture and ways of working.
3. Can (and will) the values be lived and acted on? Once values are put in place there will be an expectation that they will be acted on. This means that both the business and employees will be expected to behave and make decisions based on these, so HR must make sure that once acted on they will drive the right behaviors.
4. Can (and will) they take us to a new planet? Values need to take businesses to a new “planet”, playing their part in achieving future goals and objectives. Too often, companies focus on the here and now with their values, but to be effective they need to have a healthy balance of helping in the present and projecting forward to the future.
The right values can answer these four questions and drive the three results I mentioned previously. But even if they are right, values need to be brought out to “play” repeatedly, weaving them into the business’s actions and decisions. By doing this, HR leaders will be creating value in company values, using them as a key strategic tool in the business toolbox.