Imagine this scenario…
Your organisation has a clear vision and way of working which all your employees understand and buy into. Decisions come easily to you as a leader and you know what motivates your employees. They love coming to work and consequently their productivity is high they perform to their full potential and both staff absenteeism and turnover is low. Externally your organisation is seen as a great place to work and you are known throughout your industry for what you stand for and your reputation for living up to this so you attract both the customers and employees which will make your organisation a success.
An impossible task you ask? No, not once you understand and take seriously your values…your own personal values, the values of your employees and the values of your organisation. And here I don’t mean sitting down for an afternoon, jotting down a few words that seem to resonate and then pinning them on the wall for all to see…I mean really understanding the role values play within organisations, getting crystal clear clarity about those crucial to your success and then aligning all actions and behaviours to be congruent with them.
So what are values?
Put simply your values represent what is most important to you. Your personal values reflect what is most important to you as an individual. They influence the work you prefer to do, the way you spend your time, who you choose to associate with and they shape the way you lead your organisation. Examples of personal values are respect, care, belonging, cooperation, financial success, quality, fun, technology and environmental responsibility
Organisational or core values represent what is most important to your organisation. They provide a blueprint for a way of working and when the behaviours and actions of your organisation align with your values, your organisation will benefit from a clear sense of identity both internally and externally. For example the Co-operative’s ‘ethical’ values are Openness, Social responsibility, and Caring for others
Research shows that those organisations which have successfully outlasted recessions are those with a clear set of values which focus beyond the end result and represent a deeper sense of purpose creating enjoyable ways of working and harnessing the potential of employees.
So, how can understanding your values help you and your organisation?
We are not talking ‘fluffy stuff’ here. Living your values influences many aspects of running an organisation all of which ultimately has a real impact upon its performance.
Values and Leading with Integrity
When you honour your personal values in your role as a leader you feel fulfilled and motivated, good quality decisions come more easily and you are able to sleep at night knowing the choices you have made are true to who you are. Following the recent financial crisis much has been discussed about the qualities of leaders and research indicates that leaders who show integrity, who are true to their values earn far more respect and are more trusted that those who don’t.
Values and Decision-making
Having a core set of values for your organisation as a whole provides every employee with a consistent framework to guide their decisions on a daily basis For example which suppliers do you want to work with, which customers do you want to attract, which markets will you choose to enter, who do you employ?
Values and Motivation
When your employees are engaged in work which is meaningful in terms of their own personal values they will be more motivated and more productive. Aligning employees own values with those of the organisation helps ensure that everyone is pulling in the same direction.
Values and Team Working
Recognising and accepting differences between yourself and others is a key step in being able to better understand those you work with. With understanding comes a far higher level of rapport which in turn forms the foundation of great working relationships.
Values and Productivity
When you know your personal values and your employees are more connected with their personal values it is easier to become clear about what is really important to everybody. Better understanding of when people are at their best and when they are most productive enables you to make better decisions about job design and role allocation within your organisation.
Values and Recruitment
Recruiting the wrong people to your organisation is a costly process. Taking an objective assessment of a candidate’s values during the recruitment process gives an indication of what job role they are best suited to and will be truly engaged to carry out (which in turn has an influence over employee productivity); how they will work with the current team; and the degree to which they will be committed to the aspirations and values of the organisation.
Values and Your Organisation’s Brand
How do others perceive your organisation? Having a clear set of values and living up to them ensures that a consistent message about who you are is communicated to the outside world which helps to differentiate you from your competitors. Demonstrating through your values that you are a great place to work gives you a significant advantage when attracting and retaining great people.
So what is most important to you, your employees and to the success of your organisation? Can you afford not to find out?
About the Author
Louise Yates specialises in developing values-lead organisations and often uses a values inventory test in her work. She has also written about how to become a coach.