In a world of constant change, how do you know if your organization is charting the right course to living its strategic intent and fulfilling its mission and business goals? Beyond financial results, there are other anchors that tell us how healthy an organization is and therefore how ably it delivers on its promise. Commonly understood as core values, these anchors represent the behaviors and beliefs that underline the work people do and how they interact with their client base and with each other. More than platitudes on a wall, when clearly identified and communicated, core values drive behavior and results, and offer direction to individuals when situations require judgment calls, regardless of the situation they face.
Today, core values are more important than ever for three reasons:
- Many organizations in BC are in growth mode, and growth often brings significant changes to organizational charts, workloads, and manager and team expectations. Values are the anchor that keeps people on the same page, and are particularly important to champion during transformational change. “The way we do things around here” may evolve to adapt to growth, but the core behaviors and beliefs help people stay the course with wisdom and integrity.
- In a marketplace where it’s increasingly difficult to attract, hire, and retain great talent, core values can be a differentiator in attracting the right people. When clearly explained on your organization’s website, they convey to potential recruits what your organization stands for and whether that’s a culture match for them.
- In a time where exponential change is now the new world order, from global political shifts to economic and industry changes, people are looking for the “port in the storm”, and core values can provide the assurance that where people work and what they do is important and really matters. When teams have shared core values, they have the compass for making decisions that are aligned with corporate direction, regardless of the external “noise” that filters through the workplace on a daily basis.
Here are four ways to ensure your corporate values are alive and well:
- If your organization hasn’t articulated its core values, it’s a worthwhile exercise that brings together various perceptions of what drives behavior and decision making. If the core values have been defined, but aren’t all that compelling, now is a good time to review and refresh. Sometimes a few wording adjustments can bring new life to traditional values that may have been created years ago. Three-to-five word statements that are manageable and memorable make it easy for people to get behind. For example, if “Doing the Right Thing” is a core value, then the value statement should explain how you follow through on commitments and do what you can to protect your reputation. Or, if your organization is a leader in product development, a core value may state something about innovation that goes beyond what’s expected.
- Can everyone articulate the core values and what that means for the work they do and the service they deliver, internally and externally? If collaborative work relationships are a core value, what does that mean for how problems are solved and decisions made? The more people understand how the core values apply to what they do every day, and to the customer experience, the easier it is for them to demonstrate behavior that’s aligned with the team and culture. At weekly meetings, share stories of team members who’ve done a great job of exemplifying one of the core values. Or, consider giving periodic rewards or specific recognition for individuals who best exemplify the core values.
- Make them visible. Are the core values posted in meeting rooms, the office kitchen, on your website? Perhaps the way they are presented could be refreshed with a more current look. Keeping values visible reminds everyone of what the organization stands for and ensures communication both internally and externally to visitors who enter your workplace and visit your website.
- If core values aren’t used as part of your hiring process, start incorporating interview questions to explore the values fit with potential candidates. Do candidates demonstrate behaviors that reflect your team’s values set? One of the biggest reasons for a hiring mismatch can occur when values aren’t aligned. Stepping up this part of your selection process can make a difference.
Core Values are the cornerstone of organizational culture and guide all aspects of your business, from how decisions are made and business gets pursued, to who you hire and how you reward, coach, and develop your people. In a world of ongoing change and uncertainty, make sure you’re using this important lever to keep your business and people aligned with meaning and purpose.