6 Questions To Check If You Value Your Company Values Enough?
Written by Andy Goram, Bizjuicer Consulting
It’s official, Company Values are on trend. It’s hard to walk into offices now and not see posters, hanging signs and wall montages depicting a company’s shiny, new value words to employees and visitors. But too often this is the sum total of their use. Decoration.
I’m a passionate believer that setting a company vision and aligning the required values and behaviours that will help you deliver that vision goes much deeper than that. They are not things to just leave on a wall or refer to annually at a conference. Truly useful and unifying values are being used daily and for good reason. If yours aren’t, then you probably have the wrong ones, or you’ve completed the Company Values tick-box exercise.
If you really do want to deliver your company and customer goals successfully, in a lasting way and achieve employee alignment and engagement you should dig out your values, hold them up and honestly answer these questions. It might make you re-think them.
1. Are they unique to your business?
It used to be that most company value sets contained one or more of the following words - honesty, integrity and customer-focused. Really? How are these distinguishable for you versus your competition? Aren’t these standard, pre-requisites for business?
Then there’s use of words like fun, authentic, collaborative. The first two are outputs driven by behaviour, and isn’t working together a business 101 thing?
Importantly, if you took away the logo from the list of values, could you really see your company, or just any company in there?
Don’t just copy the trend, look at yourself honestly. What will, or does make you distinctive?
2. Do they really reflect what you aspire to be?
There’s a massive difference in your values sounding cool and engaging and them actually being connected to what you want to be or do. The connection to who you really are is the most important aspect. Having a bunch of super words, that don’t have that link to what you’re doing and where you’re going is a waste of time.
What will make a difference for you? What behaviours do you really need to see consistently, in order to generate the success you seek? Start there. This way you’ll have values that really get results, not just design awards.
3. Is it easy to live by your values every day?
How many of your current values are already happening like breathing? Ones you are unconsciously delivering on every day. Well that’s great, but if they are that natural, why spend time focusing on them? It’s probably time to move on. It’s like writing a To-Do list and filling it with things you’ve already done. It might make you feel good about yourself for a second, but who are you kidding in the end. It’s a waste of time and serves no real purpose.
Strong, beneficial values should feel challenging at times, but understanding their delivery has a crucial link to your organisational goals makes it vital you stick to them. It will ensure people act more consciously and begin to hold each other accountable for delivering them too.
4. Can each employee relate make sense and apply the values to their work?
As well as being connected to the business you want to be, do your values make sense to your people? Can they relate to them? Can they see themselves using them in their day-to-day work? If they’re just corporate words that they can’t personalise, you should probably think again.
The language you use is an important factor in helping the understanding, connection, adoption, engagement and ultimate delivery of your values, by your people, happen consistently. That and being able to see how they apply them to their daily work. The more closely related they are to that, the stickier and more useful they will be.
5. Do your values help employees make decisions?
The very best values act like a helpful guidebook for all employees, on how to act in all situations. Is that how your employees would refer to your values? Can they even recall what they are?
When was the last time you consciously made a decision, based on your company’s values? They are meant to act like a cultural anchor for your business. To do that they need to be alive and useful, every day.
6. Would you fire, as well as hire and reward people based on value delivery?
Aligned to the last point in guiding decisions and using them every day, leads me to reference the Performance-Values matrix, used by Jack Welch in his time at GE. This illustrates the importance of delivering values and culture alongside performance, in a simple Boston Matrix.
For me, the key part of this model comes at looking at those individuals who are high performers, but low deliverers of culture and values. The action with these people, which is surprising for some, is to exit them from your business as fast as possible. They have the potential to poison and infect the rest of your business.
When was the last time you exited this type of person from your business because of their poor value alignment? Conversely, when did you last reward or embrace your culture champions?
If you really value your company, and you make strong decisions like this based on your values, you are surely on the right track to delivering a place to work that not only gets great results, but feels great at the same time.
The fact that you have a set of company values is a start, but it's not enough. They really should be helping you and your organisation deliver your company and customer goals, every day.
It’s never too late to stop, take stock and make the necessary changes. You now have to have something right you can use, not just have to use something you have right now.
Andy Goram is the owner of Bizjuicer – a consultancy that believes people are the often-forgotten internal fuel that can power businesses and brands to greater success. He helps businesses build stronger brands through engaged and aligned people and consults on vision & values, customer experience, transformational change, brand development and employer branding.