Look at any corporate website, and chances are you’ll find a page on Our Values. Some might dismiss the idea as new age, soft, touchy feely stuff – but values are worth exploring, establishing and promoting because they make business sense.
Ideally, core values:
- Voice and shape the beliefs of an organisation
- Reflect and influence its culture
- Are a dependable constant in a changing world
- Help inform decisions
- Speak to customers, partners and the press about the company’s identity
- Help attract and retain good people who like what they see
- Unify teams and encourage working towards shared standards and goals
How to find your core values
How do you know what matters to your people? Ask them. As individuals, teams and the organisation as a whole, invite them to think in advance about their own values, how they want to work, what success might look like and how they want the public to see and talk about them. You might think in terms of ‘we achieve this … by doing this …’
Hold a brainstorming session, where anything goes.
Then group the ideas into common themes, and pick out those that clearly and truly matter most.
You may find the same themes come up again and again – there are only so many ways of saying the same thing:
‘the customer is at the heart of what we do…’
‘building good working relationships…’
‘taking pride in delivering excellence, quality and value for money …’
‘being accountable and responsible … ‘
‘acting with integrity and professionalism …’
‘empowering staff … ‘
Whatever you come up with, they need to be agreed by and applicable to your organisation and its people.
Define those key values in simple, meaningful terms. The language and tone should reflect the culture and style of your organisation, and be relevant, memorable and quotable. Simplicity and brevity are absolutely fine.
Values in practice
Once they’re fixed, they need to be out there.
I worked with an organisation where the values formed a vital and ever-visible element of corporate life.
Day one of induction included a session on the values, printed on postcards and bookmarks in the welcome packs. New recruits were given bags of fuzzy felt, glitter and perfumed pens and invited to illustrate them. Young be-suited executives fell on the materials, and the resulting posters lined the staff cafe walls.
Website, intranet, banners and screen savers all featured the values, and each line was etched into the glass of the partitions between the meeting rooms.
Today, the values are central to the way they work, forming part of their appraisals process and peer-voted performance awards.
An organisation that takes the time to ask its people what really matters to them, and listens to the answers rather than imposing from on high, will come out with a set of real-world guidelines for life and work. PH
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