An organisation’s values lie at the heart of what it cares about most. There is an important link between organisational values, employee behaviour and company culture. When employees are unclear about the values of their company, they will fill the gap with their own cultural interpretation.

A values-based, or values-centric, organisation is one whose culture is astutely shaped and upheld by a clear set of ground rules. This establishes guiding principles for decision-making, actions and behaviours  that bring about a cohesive and aligned workplace community. A values-centric business focuses on building a healthy culture that values employee wellbeing. This culture-by-design brings the personal goals of employees in line with organisational values. Employees become firmly rooted in a set of shared values that establishes a community feeling that percolates downward through all levels of the organisation.

What are the benefits of building a values-centric organisation?

Building a values-driven organisation brings a company many benefits.

  • Grows positive brand identity: A values-driven culture is not limited to the employees or leadership – it extends to all stakeholders and creates a positive brand identity for the organisation.  It creates a sense of belonging, allowing employees to identify with an organisation’s mission and values. Many clients prefer to associate with companies that reflect their personal values. Plus, it garners increased trust in the capabilities of the organisation and higher respect within its industry.
  • Builds community: Shared values create a sense of common purpose among colleagues and teams, which helps to support solid relationships. The positive culture fosters open communication and understanding among employees and establishes a positive, supportive work environment.
  • Fosters a healthy team environment: A values-centric organisational culture guides the decision-making process, which helps improve workflows. Team members who are well- informed and knowledgeable about processes are more motivated to finish projects to a high standard. In this way, having a clear culture that unifies employees and promotes organised work structures helps people work together with purpose as a well-oiled machine.
  • Promotes elevated productivity and profitability: Feeling more connected to the organisation’s purpose and values will improve employee morale, making the team more enthusiastic about their work and contribution to the company’s success. As employee satisfaction increases with a supportive value-based culture, it will reflect in the quality of interactions with customers and lead to greater customer satisfaction.
  • Supports sustainable growth: When a company focuses on leadership development in line with its values-driven culture, it will typically see significant growth. In this way, a values-centric culture can lead to enjoying a competitive advantage, helping the organisation to achieve and exceed its long-term objectives.
  • Builds a company’s resilience: Resilience is often referred to as an individual’s ability to ‘bounce back’ in the face of adversity. An organisation, too, can learn to develop a “culture of resilience” that enables it to rebound from adversity. Organisations that have a strong culture generally pull together in the face of adversity and can even perform better in a crisis than in normal times.
  • Allows for innovativeness: Innovation as a company value means pushing for better ways to serve your employees, clients, and the organisation. Innovativeness as an element of organisational culture happens when social norms and shared behaviors from employees within the organisation allow ideas and creativity to thrive within it.
  • Better employee health and wellbeing: Usually, employees flourish when they believe their work matters and that they are positively impacting their company. When an organisation upholds strong values, it will reflect in an employee’s work ethic and attitude toward the company. This has a positive knock-on effect of supporting employee health and wellness by making people feel more connected to their work.
  • Employee retention: When a company upholds core values that develop the right culture, they attract and retain the right kind of people.

How to build a values-centric organisation

Companies can spend a lot of time creating company core values statements that end up being nothing more than words on the company website. For a company’s core values to make a positive impact, they need to be a part of the fabric of the company – a code that employees live by daily. Here are five steps to instilling company values:

  1. Choose values that leadership believes in and are willing to demonstrate
    This way, management can be more consistent in living out these values. The more consistent this behaviour, the more employees will recognize what matters most and will model your behavior.
  2. Create a clear understanding of your core values
    Clarity will make it easier to implement values. Company core values, like mission statements, need to be articulated in such a way that they easily flow from employees’ lips. Use concrete language that everyone in the workforce can relate to. Make sure the organisational values clearly say what you care about.
  3. Bring your core values to life
    Too often, company values are general concepts that can be interpreted in several ways. If you want employees to adopt and live out your company values express them clearly and make them easily actionable. One way to reinforce this is to incorporate your values into employee rewards and recognition. Align employee rewards and recognition with the values you most want to see in your employees.
  4. Make organisational values committable
    Great organisational values are mandated from the top but built from the bottom up. How do you get employees to commit to living out your company core values? One way is to let people see how seriously committed the company is to its organisational values. This entails being willing to commit to ensuring the values are respected. For example, in extreme cases consider  disciplinary action for people who are not consistently living out values even after they have been communicated with and coached. This will send a clear message that a company does not just pay lip service to organisational values.
  5. Use the recruitment process to find employees with similar values
    Keep your organisational values in mind during the recruitment process to help managers identify candidates who share the same organisational values. To do so, ensure there is a carefully developed list of questions to investigate the candidate’s fit with core company values. For example, if one of your company values is humility, do not hire someone who shows signs of arrogance.

In an organisation, cultural change happens from the top down because value-instilling initiatives have nothing to do with building employee consensus. Rather, they are about imprinting a set of strategically sound beliefs on a broad group of people to influence and regulate their actions. This is one of the reasons why a values-driven culture requires leadership to walk the talk and demonstrate core organisational values in their actions. The reward is focused leadership development and higher growth in all areas of the organisation, with positive benefits to all stakeholders – employees, clients, vendors and shareholders.

Over to you for sharing your comments and experiences.

About the Author: Kerstin Jatho

Kerstin is the senior transformational coach and team development facilitator for 4Seeds Consulting. She is also the author of Growing Butterfly Wings, a book on applying positive psychology principles during a lengthy recovery. Her passion is to develop people-centred organisations where people thrive and achieve their potential in the workplace. You can find Kerstin on LinkedIn, Soundcloud, YouTube and Facebook.

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