January is a good month for reflection and renewal. Whether you are at the beach with family and friends, or in the office with a few co-workers, now is the time to think about the year ahead. This year, before jumping straight into concrete goal-setting and specific resolutions, consider first: what values will guide me and my work this year? Ask yourself:
- Are my colleagues working towards the same things that I am working towards, or at least approaching their projects with a similar mindset?
- Is there a consistent set of principles that we all apply in our everyday work, or is each one of us guided only by our own personal values?
- To what extent are my own values consistent with the values of my organisation?
- Has my organisation identified what values guide its strategy and operation?
- Have we defined and communicated our organisational values to our employees and stakeholders?
Values – A blueprint for employee behaviour
The organisation’s values should be a blueprint for employee behaviour, a guide for making strategic and operational decisions, and set the company apart from its competitors. They describe the core ethics or principles which the company will abide by, no matter what.
In practice, company values are particularly useful when deciding between two different strategic or operational options – decisions as common as choosing between potential contractors in a procurement process, deciding on the branding of a product, or recruiting a new employee.
Strong, clearly articulated values guide our decision-making, inspire our best efforts and also constrain the actions of the organisation and its people. Your organisational values also underpin your organisation’s Code of Conduct and policies, which clearly define acceptable behaviour at your organisation, and are key tools for managing inappropriate behaviour and misconduct.
The importance of currency and resonance
If your company developed its values 10 years ago – as a clue, the old favourites tend to be integrity, teamwork, ‘ethics’, customer satisfaction and innovation – or feel like cookie-cutter values statements borrowed from other companies’ websites or picked out of an MBA handbook, then it might be time for a review and refresh. Values that do not resonate with staff or reflect your company’s culture and aspirations can actually demotivate employees, alienate customers and undermine the credibility of leaders and managers.
Take a minute to consider the following:
- Whatever your organisation’s values are stated to be, are they credible, deeply ingrained principles which guide all of the organisation’s actions? Do they ring true currently?
- Are they inherent to the company’s culture?
- Do they have an element of aspiration – what we need to be in order to succeed, and what we would like our character to be more like in future?
- Are they specific to your organisation, so that they would ring true to every employee, customer and stakeholder?
Reviewing and refreshing your organisational values
It needn’t be a massive undertaking to consider and refresh your organisation’s values. At Worklogic we have worked with Monash University, the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services and other organisations to identify and codify their organisational values.
The process usually involves in-depth discussions and focus groups with leaders, managers, employees and sometimes other stakeholders selected by the organisation (such as union representatives or customers). We listen to their views about what the organisation stands for now, and (if anything) what ethical shifts the company wants to make in future to ensure that its culture, performance and employee experience continue to improve. Learn more about developing and promulgating a written statement of the company’s values.
Re-connecting with your values in 2017
Your employees need to see the values are real, and to be reminded of the values in ways which make sense to their day-to-day work. They need to be able to identify the values that inform the decisions of the company, and believe that the values are more than just a PR exercise. No, a poster in the tea room which lists the values is not enough!
Here are some other ways that you can help employees get the message:
- Refer to your values in articles in internal and external publications throughout the year.
- Ensure your company leaders ‘walk the talk’ and their behaviour is always consistent with the values.
- Test that company decisions are consistent with the values, even if the decision is unpopular or goes against trends in the industry.
- Celebrate good examples of employees’ actions which are consistent with the values.
- Always act on breaches of the values. Don’t wait for a complaint from one employee about another. If a manager sees poor behaviour in the workplace, they should take action.
- Give away a fun reminder of the company values, such as helium balloons, wristbands, lanyards or water bottles.
- Run a team-building activity that is linked to one of the values, such as a tree-planting day, free yoga or event for university students.
Whatever your organisation’s ethical character, and whatever it aspires to be, take a moment during January to reflect. How can you nudge your organisation’s ethical culture in the right direction? In what little ways can you affirm the organisation’s values, for yourself and for your colleagues? Is there a project you can design which will remind employees of the organisation’s values?
Let your organisation’s values be a motivator for a brilliant start to 2017.
About Rose Bryant-Smith
Rose Bryant-Smith is the co-founder and director of Worklogic. She is passionate about building ethical, productive and innovative workplaces. Rose leads projects about organisational ethics, risk management, corporate governance and organisational performance. Rose applies an astute rational approach, strategic thinking and practical problem-solving.
Worklogic works with employers to resolve workplace complaints and create a positive culture at work. We can help you develop organisational values and codes of ethical conduct that provide a powerful framework for appropriate behaviour at work. We also deliver on-site workshops and interactive training programs to explore and reinforce your organisation’s values.
If you would like help with strategies to identify and affirm your organisation’s values, please contact Rose via email or give her a call on (03) 9981 6500.
Subscribe to the Worklogic blog to receive expert advice on resolving workplace complaints and building a positive culture at work direct to your inbox each week!