Organizational Values: How to Choose and Evaluate Yours

by Rosie Powers on Jan 28, 2019 9:44:56 AM

For many companies, organizational values exist as a part of the employee handbook, or on the company website. But how these values are integrated into day-to-day company culture, studies show, has some room for growth.

 

Pretty waitress serving happy customer at the coffee shop

Only 27 percent of U.S. employees believe in their company’s values, according to one Gallup poll. This data is concerning, as studies have also shown that company values are becoming key to retaining young talent, according to Forbes. This is especially true for Millennials, who will make up roughly half of the working population by 2020.

So how can you establish organizational values that engage your employees while also increasing staff retention and productivity? 

Surprising Effects of Employee Recognition

Where to Start

Think About People

Before you begin drafting values, think about who should be involved with their creation. Depending on the size of your team, this could include a small or large coalition of leadership and staff. If possible, consider opening the brainstorm to employees at multiple levels in the company by selecting one representative from each department or level to be on the coalition. Also consider an open, anonymous brainstorm where employees can submit organizational value ideas for consideration. By casting a wide net of involvement during creation, these methods can result in more staff ownership of these values.

Once this coalition is established, ensure that communication between all representatives is effective - all members must be on the same page about implementation. As Forbes reports, “They should be committed to drafting and implementing these values, willing to brainstorm and compromise, able to demonstrate the determined traits themselves.” If one representative from the team has an issue with one of the values, they should feel comfortable expressing it so that the group can compromise. Representatives from the coalition also need to be invested in living out these values themselves if they expect other staff around them to want to follow. Staff will have difficulty following leadership that don’t “walk the walk” of organizational values, and perhaps even resent leadership or the values themselves as a result.

But what if you already have organizational values that you’re looking to refine? Another people-oriented process is known as the “Mission to Mars” process, which we’ve written about previously here at TINYpulse. Although less collaborative and more individual-focused, this method is a good way for leadership to envision how organizational values can be applied to staff as a whole.

For this process, your company’s leadership should individually list out what members of the team they like and don’t like, as well as why. Compare both lists to your current values. Do the values help those on the first list thrive? Do they weed out anyone from the second list? It may seem harsh and direct, but it’s also an efficient way to evaluate the effectiveness of values across the company.

 

Think About Meaning

Meaningful work is the single largest contributor to a positive employee experience, according to one study. Similar to the data mentioned at the beginning of the post, this is in part due to the fact that organizational values and company culture are a higher priority for younger workforces. In fact, data obtained by the ADP Research Institute found that 82 percent of employees worldwide want to play a meaningful role in their organization.

Why is deeper meaning so important in organizational values? Meaning, for many employees, can give context and reason behind the everyday work that employees are doing. As I wrote previously, this benefits employees who are intrinsically motivated because it fulfills the need for meaning in their work, and can lead to increased productivity. This, in turn, is likely to result in happier employees, a more positive culture, and even higher staff retention.

This deeper meaning should draw from employees themselves. “Rather than get people to live the values, they should focus on the values that live in the people,” as Forbes reports. Values centered around self-governance - or those that inspire individual employees to align their actions around a common set of principles - run the risk of having low engagement with employees if they believe a discrepancy exists between leadership’s rhetoric and their behavior. This can be avoided entirely if the values are not based around self-governance, but rather individual meaning.

 

Think About Culture

Your organizational values should also have basis in your company culture. The two concepts often go hand-in-hand, and both can have a direct impact on the success or failure of a company. According to one study of 1,400 North American CEOs and CFOs, more than 50 percent of those surveyed said corporate culture influences productivity, creativity, profitability, firm value and growth rates. Despite that, only 15 percent said that their firm’s corporate culture was where it needed to be.

Organizational values can miss the mark if they are not created in accordance with company culture. This is mostly because they feel inauthentic; they don’t fit the mold of how employees view the “feel” of their work environment. Many of today’s largest organizations have adopted culture into their values, such as Google. The more authentic your values feel, the more likely employees will also feel passionate about them and want to help with implementation.

So how can you begin to analyze the connection between your organizational culture and values? Start with a few questions. What aspects of your culture are the most integral or unique to your company? What qualities matter most when hiring a new employee, or speaking to a new customer? What qualities about your business or company culture are you likely to bring up in these conversations? Take note of these and consider how they define your company as a whole.

 

Aerial View of Young Business Friends Discussing the Project at the Worktable.

 

Implementation and Evaluation

 

Publicize Your Values

Once your values have been finalized, use internal and external channels to publicize these values to the company at-large as well as your customer base. But as Inc. reports, there must be consistency between internal and external messaging in order for the campaign to be cohesive. A prime place for these values is on your company website. This not only commits your company to these values for current employees, but also new customers or potential hires that may be searching for information about your company online. The publication of these values also helps uphold transparency, as it enforces that all staff members are being held to the same standard regardless of their role in the company.

But as we’ve stated earlier in this post, values must also be lived out in order for them to be effective. Leadership can work with the company’s marketing team to create ways to humanize these concepts. Ideally, if these values are rooted in your culture, this shouldn’t be difficult - brainstorm how employees can relate to these values in their everyday work. Consider adding them as a section to an internal staff e-newsletter. Perhaps you have a staff blog that you could add posts to that spotlight employees whose peers think they exhibit a certain value.

 

Onboarding and Professional Development

Although a publicity campaign of these values is a perfect kickoff point, some of the values may be more complicated in nature. Consider the addition of orientations or trainings on how to incorporate these values into day-to-day work. This can be included in onboarding trainings for new staff, or in yearly update sessions for current staff. These in-person trainings also give employees the opportunity to ask any questions they may have about how these values connect with the company.

Current employees can also be further engaged in these sessions if the values are linked with professional development opportunities. This allows employees to obtain more professional training while also reinforcing why a certain subset of skills are applicable to the company at-large.

Your company’s Human Resources department can play a crucial role in implementation of organizational values by incorporating them into the hiring and performance review processes. When interviewing potential employees, try to include a mixture of value/culture-related questions in addition to those that may be more skill-based for a role. Once you have hired on an employee that you believe exhibits these values, a six-month or annual review is the perfect place to ensure that they understand how these values fit with their role. As Inc. reports, the performance review process is where you “inspect what you expect.”

Great Leadership

 

Evaluation

Once you have established and implemented your organizational values, your work isn’t finished. As we’ve written about frequently here at TINYpulse, the best way to know if your strategy is working is to measure its effectiveness. As Forbes reports, even leadership that possess a high emotional intelligence can fall victim to seeing a version of culture or morale that is vastly different from a subordinate’s.

The best way to evaluate a strategy is an anonymous survey. Anonymity is key for ensuring transparency. Employees should feel that they can give constructive feedback without fear of retaliation. Focus on questions like:

  • How happy are you at work right now?
  • Do you believe these values affect your role?
  • How do these values fit into a project you’re working on now?
  • Do you feel that your company’s management or leadership live out these values?

Use these surveys on an going basis - perhaps quarterly to measure responses over time. Make adjustments to your values based on this feedback and continue to measure results. And remember that culture and values are not static! These concepts can shift over long periods of time, even at the healthiest companies. Evaluation is the key ingredient to ensuring that your company can adapt.

 

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This post was written by Rosie Powers

Rosie is a digital marketing strategy consultant and freelance writer focused on helping nonprofits, socially-minded startups and small businesses engage with audiences. She is passionate about environmental justice and loves nerding out about space exploration.

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