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Are your organisational values authentic?

Organisational values – what’s the fuss about?

How much money and how many hours been wasted on the hypocrisy of corporate values? 

How many offsite meetings, focus groups, committees or similar have you been involved in to carefully construct the exact, most perfect arrangement of words that will be on lanyards, inductions and reception areas of your organisation? 

What if it’s all been a waste of time?

Organisational values: what’s the point?

Values play such an important role in our own lives (perhaps sub-consciously), so being able to recognise, understand and articulate one’s own value set becomes critical in sound decision making. 

Logically then, the ability to identify with an employer’s organisational values will assist in determining an employee’s job performance and allegiance, and will inform crucial decisions, like recruitment, within the business.

Consequently, when an individual discovers genuine and meaningful alignment between his or her own personal values and those of his or her employer, a powerful connection can be created.

We know organisational values shape the vision and culture of an organisation, while underwriting its standards.

These values may be articulated or not, or perhaps the values are just assumed through behaviours. Either way, they define an important part of our organisation’s character, and the character of everyone who works within that organisation. 

Is the process too contrived?

For many of us, particularly in large organisations, we are handed a shiny new ID card with a lanyard attached, or some other memory prompt with a list of values on it. 

That is generally accompanied by some further understanding of their intention and purpose, either through induction training, conversations with an immediate manager or HR. 

Perhaps you have even been involved in the focus groups or some other such activity designed to create buy-in to the ultimate values created.

How effective is this process? 

Is the person presenting the values convincing? Moreover, do they walk-the-walk, or are they simply talking the talk? 

Are the organisational values genuine? Does the company really seem to live up to them? Or are they just a PR persona that carefully hides a much different organisation underneath?

Are the company’s values divergent to your own? Are you still willing to do go to work every day and participate, doing the best job possible, or will you simply just become a passenger on the bus?

The process of defining, measuring, or improving core values can be an excellent vehicle for improving organisational culture, when done correctly. 

When too contrived  when values are ‘made up’, dictated or just blatantly untrue, the process can undermine the concept and employees can feel unaligned and even resent the company. 

The most common organisational values challenges

Using values to drive cultural change yields some great benefits, such as defining a behavioural compass and the way employees treat each other, as well as identifying a guide for decisions and emphasising what’s important.

But that’s only if the process to define organisation values has been genuine, and if the values really do align with the culture and persona of the business and its employees.

Not sure if your organisational values are legit? Take a look at your calendar and organisation’s financials – where is the most time and money spent? There’s your values!

In my experience, the most common issues with corporate values are in two distinct areas:

1. Translating those fantastic words into something employees can identify with day-to-day, everyday – without defining the behaviours that sit underneath those values. How can you drive accountability if employees can’t link their actions and behaviours (or lack thereof) to the defined values?

2. No effort is put into how to measure the behaviours associated with the values. Companies do not measure behaviour and give it the same weight and level of importance as more objective (and more easily measured) performance criteria.

Addressing these issues will ensure you will reap the actual benefits of real, definable and measurable values.

So what’s next? 

Consider your own values, and the next time you are at work look at your organisation’s values and see if there is alignment or not. Look around, do you think the majority of others feel the same? 

If so, your company values are well on track. If not, a more authentic and genuine approach to derive values from the people who work for your organisation might be in order.