The topic of ‘values’ has been echoing through the corridors of ‘corporate speak’ for a number of years now, but I would like to attempt to rescue it from the ‘cliche grave’ before it’s too late. In short, I’m a massive fan of the notion of a business or individual operating to a set of values, providing they are authentic and meaningful. I think there is an enormous business value when applied to a variety of commercial contexts and can really help to separate out correct chains of thought when reviewing behaviour of staff or even key strategic commercial decision making.
So what are values?
In my book, values are all about the ‘behaviour aspirations’ that any corporation sets itself from the outset. As such all business activities must be aligned to such values, almost like a business code of conduct. These values are then cascaded through the organisation and all staff are expected to live out such values in their activity too, the goal being to create a harmonious work setting where people can predict an ethically sound outcome to situations they encounter. In a manner of speaking, such values transcend all corporate operating manuals and ultimately represent the DNA or psychology of the organisation at its absolute core.
To take this to the next level, the best alignment between staff and company values will lead to elevated levels of ‘connection’ and ultimately loyalty to the company brand.
It does perhaps come across as more than a little idealistic, but wouldn’t you rather work for a company that at least was holding itself accountable to a set of values?
Clearly, the values themselves need reviewing, though we would typically see the following in relation to companies that have a well thought out set of values (5-6 tend to be an appropriate number), Eg:
Integrity - this is a very popular one and very important
Ethical - linked to the above
Innovation - shows a desire to encourage ideas
Resourceful - encourages self-sufficiency
Autonomy - linked to the above
Expertise - pushing knowledge sharing
So to take this out of the context of corporate speak and into the real world, what could be the practical application of such values? I’ll share 2 great examples that spring to mind on either side of the recruitment coin:
As an employer, ask yourself - what is more important 100% skill match or 100% values match? Or to put another way, would you rather have 80% skill match and 100% values match or the other way round? The fact is, skills are teachable, and values can be taught but the learning curve is far more challenging. Perhaps one way for employers to address the challenges of hiring and building a legacy of their own loyal talent is to focus more on values and less on 100% skill match - and consequently invest more in L&D.
When looking for a job:
As a candidate, always look to find out the core values of the prospective employer and evaluate how they resonate with you. Do they reflect your own personal values? Have you asked your prospect employer at interview stage how they live and breathe the values of the company? This will tell you a lot not only about the employer but about the manager who is interviewing you and you will ultimately report to. This level of evaluation will be an excellent filter for you if you are weighing up multiple options - the company with the clearer set of values with evidence they are being carried out day to day will undoubtedly be the better working environment. It will also be more productive as values alignment leads to a happier, more self-sustaining and stable workforce.
So in summary, ask yourself the following:
What are your 5 most important values?
What are the values of your employer?
How well do these values align?
To what extent does your employer live and breath these values?
Which employer offers the best alignment and lives and breathes them too?
The results of this evaluation, I believe will be very telling...