Making Your Values More Meaningful
Over the years, we’ve worked with lots of organisations to help them either create new values or evolve existing ones. It’s hugely rewarding work because we know that, lived properly, those values are a game-changer when it comes to creating strong and aligned cultures.
However, during that process, I often find myself saying to senior teams, “this is the easy bit – the hard work starts when you’ve agreed to your values.”
Values Can’t be Just Words on a Wall
We’ve all heard the term ‘words on a wall,’ and all too often, that’s what company values become – art (and not very good art at that!). What that achieves when it comes to culture change is squarely NOTHING.
In fact, it does more damage than good if organisations choose to advertise their values and then not actually live them by creating a say-do gap and eroding trust as a result.
That Trust is Easily Lost and Hard to Win Back
Embedding Values Takes Time
Embedding organisational values to ensure they are meaningful to your people takes time and effort. So what are some of the things organisations can do to make their values work harder for their people and their business?
Here are six to get you going:
1. Ensure Leaders Role-Model Your Values
In organisations, not matter how flat, people still look up to see what the leaders do. So, to truly embed values, those leaders need to walk the walk – they need to role model the organisation's values and demonstrate the underlying behaviours consistently. In doing so, they set the tone for the rest of the organisation.
2. Communicate Your Values Constantly
You need to ensure that people know that the values are and what they mean. Doing so creates a shared and aligned understanding of the values. However, communicating them once in an all-hands launch isn’t enough.
You need to use various channels to reach your people (including town hall meetings, newsletters, posters, the intranet and team meetings). Make sure that they are clearly visible in all communications.
3. Reflect Your values in the Recruitment Process
Incorporate the values into the recruitment process, not just in the ‘tell us about a time when you <insert value here> competency-based questions, but in how you run your recruitment process too.
If you have ‘We’re Open and Transparent’ at the heart of your values, then share details of the salary and what’s good about the role and what isn’t. If one of your values is ‘Putting our people first,’ then reflect that in the tone and language of your advert and communications.
4. Recognise behaviours that align with the values
Create recognition programs (can be org-wide or peer-to-peer) that celebrate employees who exhibit behaviours aligned with the organization's values. And then use the stories submitted to reinforce what good looks like in your communications to staff (see two above!).
5. And call out behaviour that doesn’t.
It’s all well and good recognising when values are lived, but it’s almost more powerful to call out when they aren’t. Say you’ve got a salesperson who does double their target but leaves a trail of people and relationship destruction in their wake. How you handle that says a lot about your organisation, the leaders in it and how important your values REALLY are!
6. Integrate values into performance management.
One of the hardest to do but one of the most impactful. If you have a set of agreed values with clear behaviours under each then everyone should be measured against them – simple! To be effective, your performance review system should look at both what they achieve (the numbers) and HOW they achieve it (the values and behaviours). So, just remember, if you’re evolving your values or creating new ones, that’s only the start of the journey. It’s important to think about the ‘then what’ embedding phase as part of that project – it doesn’t end with the TA DAAAA glitzy launch event.
In fact, if you do that big values launch (think money, time, effort etc!) and then nothing happens to embed them, you run the risk of losing momentum, the impact of that launch and your people’s interest.
Creating and launching your values is only the start of the journey. To really bring them to life, you have to think about how you embed them across your organisation.
Ensure leaders role-model your values
Communicate your values constantly
Reflect your values in the recruitment process
Recognise behaviours that align with the values
And call out behaviour that doesn’t
Integrate values into performance management
If your values have become those words on a wall and need a reboot or if you’re struggling to embed them in your organisation, get in touch.