Organisations’ public values have no link to financial success

There is no correlation between an organisation’s “publicised values” and business performance, new research has revealed. However, there is a strong link between values perceived by employees and financial results.

The report by the Great Place to Work Institute, Organisational values. Are they worth the bother? How values can transform your business from good to great, shows that 97% of the UK’s “Best workplaces” cite their business values as a critical contributing factor of their success.

Recruiting the right employees and retaining a strong customer focus have a positive impact on profit, and organisations with a culture of “high-integrity” among their staff are likely to be more successful.

However, many employees feel that there is a disparity between formal, written, value statements and what is actually being played out throughout the organisation, leading to a belief that managers may just be “paying lip-service” to staff.

Great Place to Work’s “Trust Index” data compares statements that assess employees’ opinions on their organisations’ value-led behaviour. The statements “Management’s actions match its words” and “Management delivers on its promises” saw the top 50 workplaces listed with a significant lead of 27% on those unlisted.

Charles Fair, head of consultancy at Great Place to Work, said: “One of the most important values for organisations is integrity or trust. This is ironic when you think about the recent scandals and crises… such as the media and phone hacking; or supermarkets and the horse meat scandal.

“These all occurred because they took place in a culture of inappropriate, weak or non-existent value systems. In all cases, the affected organisations have needed to rebuild trust from the public as well as their own employees.”

The research also revealed that private-sector companies tend to have higher levels of perceived integrity than those in the public sector. However, more needs to be done across all organisations to avoid relying on purely financial figures as a way of measuring success. Customer satisfaction, employee opinions and HR metrics are also important indicators.

Capital One is one employer that has already attempted this culture shift. After the economic crisis, only 26% of its staff felt “fully engaged”, while 30% felt “completely disengaged”. Within four years these figures dramatically improved to 83% and 2% respectively.

It fostered this culture change by introducing a new slogan – “Make Lives Better”, encouraging responsible lending and promoting customer service. One employee commented: “‘I truly believe that Capital One lives and breathes its values and that there is a shared, common vision to make lives better. This is not just a slogan that is stuck on a wall for people to occasionally read but is enforced through everything we do…”

Having a written set of values may sound and look good, but if they are not followed up and acted upon throughout the organisation, then employees will feel disengaged, the report concludes.

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