As leaders and teams re-calibrate how and where work will be done in the near and long-term, balancing achievement of your organization’s strategic intent as business goals are re-set is no small challenge. The guideposts or anchors that will drive continued success have become more important than ever. Commonly understood as core values, these anchors represent the behaviors and beliefs that underline the work people do and how they interact internally, with customers/clients, and the larger community you serve. 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, and especially during times of disruption and significant change.
Today, core values are more important than ever for three reasons:
- Organizations everywhere are revising their people strategies post-pandemic, and at the same time may continue to be in the growth mode they were in previously. Both are bringing significant changes to organizational charts, workloads, and manager and team expectations. Values are the anchor that keep people on the same page, and are particularly important to champion during transformational change. “The way we do things around here” is clearly not what it was, so it’s essential there’s clarity on the core behaviors and beliefs that will help people stay the course with wisdom and integrity.
- In a marketplace where it’s still challenging 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, 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, especially when some or all are working remotely, and some may return to or continue to work from a corporate office? 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 (virtual and physical), 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 the disrupted times we’re living in, make sure you’re using this important lever to keep your business and people aligned with meaning and purpose.
To learn more about how you can align core values with the work, team and your organization, check out Basic to Brilliant for techniques to make the most of this important aspect of organizational life.