Yesterday one of our clients launched their purpose and values (I'm not saying 'new purpose and values' and you'll read why below) to staff.
The problem wasn't that they didn't have a purpose or set of values - of course they did, every organisation does. However, if you'd asked 100 of their staff what they were, they'd have given you 100 different flavours of why they they exist and what values they expect from each other.
THAT was the challenge - there was no consistency in how their people described the purpose and values in the organisation and, as a result, no North Star.
So we worked with them to find out. 150 of their staff attended workshops at which we dug into what was important to each of them, how they saw their organisation and what they think their clients wanted from them.
It was about finding out what the existing purpose and values were and 'getting them down on paper' to drive a consistent understanding for all to share.
And yesterday the CEO launched them to staff. As part of that event, she used a video of me explaining to staff where each one had come from and how their feedback had directly shaped the outcome.
The message was really important - that these values weren't the brainchild of the CEO and senior managers cooked up in a country hotel on a corporate away-day. They were borne from the people of the organisation and, as a result, there's a much higher chance that they'll own them and live them
But, as I've told them, that's the easy bit!
To be really successful now, people need to see examples of what good looks like - what does it mean to be 'straightforward', 'commercial' or 'clear'? What do 'Lead with Integrity', 'Have Fun' or 'Act with Purpose' ACTUALLY look like in practice? So the organisation will now need to bring their people on that journey by creating connections between their actions and those values.
Bringing values to life
So whose responsibility is it to bring values to life across an organisation? The CEO? Managers? The internal comms team? The staff?
For me it's ALL of the above - here are a few successful ways I've done it in organisations:
Storytelling is the single best way to highlight how staff are bringing an organisation's values to life. In team meetings it's the responsibility of staff and managers to call it when a value is at play - I've created team talk kits and reminder slides to help managers to do that. CEO and Exec Team notes should highlight examples of values coming to life in their communications. And, for internal comms teams, clearly signposting how stories on the intranet and on other channels link back to the values is critical.
Recognition programmes that are underpinned by an organisation's values give staff the chance to recognise unsung heroes in their organisations. And at the same time it gives the internal comms team a great opportunity to uncover stories across the organisation that are normally buried and really hard to find
Performance Management - THIS IS THE BIGGIE! Whilst not strictly an internal communications channel, PM is a very powerful way to embed the values in an organisation. It's easy for people to hit targets but it they do that in a way that's contrary to the values an organisation wants to live by, should that have an impact on their performance rating? In my opinion yes, because it's a serious contributory factor to the values gap.('so you say your value is this but you reward that person for acting like THAT!)
Beware the values gap
The values gap is what happens when - and I paraphrase - 'you don't put your money where your mouth is'. Put simply, it's what happens in a company when what we say we do (our values) and what we actually do (our behaviors and actions) are different. We've all been there - the employee we know who isn't living our values but still gets the plaudits, the promotion and the 'employee of the month' trophy. It undermines everything that creating a set of corporate values in pursuit of a corporate culture and, ultimately, vision, is trying to do.
What does success look like?
Perhaps it sounds counter intuitive but, for me, ultimate success lies in organisations NOT talking about their Values. True success is when those things become so pervasive, so intertwined in company culture, so second nature that they don't need to be called out any more, because they just become 'the way we do things around here'.
And that's the end of it.