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When I started out as a rewards professional more than 20 years ago, few companies had company values. And if they did, they weren’t really used as strategic human resources, rewards or business tools. The good news is that things are changing, with the majority of companies now having values: According to a study I conducted of 500 companies, 96% have established values. The bad news is that few companies have values that truly act as strategic tools. According to a Gallup study, only 27% of employees believe in their company values and only 23% use them as they go about their work. This means that the majority of companies are leaving these strategic tools in their “toolbox,” and not bringing them out to help their business succeed.
But why does this matter? What makes values valuable? Here are three ways that values can — and should — help your organization:
1. They define who you are.
Values define who you are as a business, what you stand for (and against), and what you are willing to fight for. This is important because it tells potential and existing employees and customers what you believe in and how you’ll behave, clearly defining this up front in a meaningful way. And in this competitive world, the better we can do this through our values, the better chance we have of standing out from our competitors and attracting and retaining talent — and customers.
2. They guide decisions and actions.
Values act as guidelines, guiding principles or guideposts to your employees, helping them make every-day operational and strategic decisions — even when leaders are not around. When used properly, employees use them to ask questions such as, “What do my values say about this?” and “How can my values help me choose a path and make a decision?” This is always important, but especially in bad or
challenging times, when values can provide the focus and guidance we need to persevere.
3. They fuel your workforce.
Values give your employees the energy and passion not only to make decisions, but to get things done. This passion, this energy, is so critical in the business world, and when being led by values, it ensures that it’s being done in the right way and in the right direction.
And it’s not just organizations that find value in their company values, as they’re equally important to our employees. In fact, according to a recent Glassdoor study, the factors that mattered most to employee satisfaction were culture and values, scoring higher than career progression, work-life balance and even compensation and benefits.
If we want our values to deliver value, we need to do a better job of embedding them throughout the employee experience, starting with hiring practices and following through into onboarding, recognition programs, benefits strategy and performance management, to name a few.
In my new book, Bringing Your Values Out to Play, I share numerous tips and stories for bringing these points to life. Here are examples from two key areas, recognition and performance management.
Recognize Employees for Living Your Values
If, as mentioned previously, a company’s values guide employees to behave and make decisions that help their business achieve its mission and purpose, then it’s absolutely critical that we recognize employees for getting it right. By doing this, employees are crystal clear that these actions are the ones that are desired, appreciated and encouraged.
- At KidZania London, they’ve created values badges that have one of their six values icons on them. Once awarded, they’re proudly pinned on lanyards that employees wear around their necks for all to see. Once they receive all six badges, they are awarded a special “Fueled by Fun” badge to celebrate and recognize this achievement.
- At Impraise, a technology company based in the Netherlands, they have created values trophies to represent their six values, or what they call their “six-pack.” Employees can nominate each other for living the values, with winners being awarded this special trophy at the Superhero Awards ceremony.
- At KP Snacks, a United Kingdom-based snack business, they created recognition eCards that employees can send to one another for living their company values at any point of time. They’re cleverly designed using their snack products to create fun and engagement with each of the organization’s four values.
Bring Your Values into Performance Management
There’s a saying that “what gets measured gets done,” meaning that if you give something focus and attention by measuring it, you have a better chance of it getting completed. And when it comes to your values, that’s exactly what you need, that focus and attention to say that they matter. It’s not just about the results, but how you get to the results.
- At Atlassian, an enterprise software company, they assess employees against three equally weighted elements: role expectations, team contribution and demonstration of company values. This holistic approach to performance management encourages employees to bring their authentic and whole selves to work.
- At WD-40 Company, home to several of the world’s best-known brands, one-quarter of the performance review is based on how employees live the company’s values. During the review, employees, or what they call “tribe members,” discuss and assess whether the value has been lived or merely “visited,” meaning it hasn’t consistently been demonstrated.
Let me close by challenging you to “bring your values out to play” throughout each and every touchpoint of the employee experience. By doing this, you’ll be creating value in your company values, using them as a key strategic tool in your business toolbox.
Debra Corey is chief “pay it forward” officer for DebCo HR Ltd. She can be reached at email@example.com.