In how many organisations have you seen ‘our core values’ exquisitely engraved in a precious looking glass plaque and eminently displayed at strategic locations in the workplace? Perhaps, in several, if not in majority of organisations. Have you sometimes noticed any disconnect between what is on the plaque and the general dispositions in such organisations, even when the core values are publicly pronounced. Now, you can mention many. Ironically, this is the stark reality and the challenges many institutions, both private and public, are grappling with.
Given today’s highly dynamic and competitive operating environment, the focus of organisational leaders and managers is majorly on how to maximise available resources to achieving desired goals and objectives, through the right sense of direction. The widely recognised tools for achieving this is having an inspiring and clearly defined set of vision, mission and core values.
For purpose of clarity, vision is simply a future state that an organisation aspires to be, while mission is the purpose of its existence. Core values are the fundamental principles that guide towards achieving organisational purpose, through display of appropriate behaviours. Thus, the extent to which an organisation achieves its vision and mission is largely dependent on the level of assimilation of its core values by organisational members.
Oftentimes, these statements are conceptualised and developed by the top executives and line managers, with the output shared amongst staff at possibly a strategy session or other fora, for their information and compliance. In many instances, we never consider it necessary to check whether every staff fully understand the vision, mission and core values in a way that translate into their daily work activities. Maybe a few organisations do. In many, the leaders tend to assume that every staff has the same big picture view on the aspirations of the organisation as them.
I have seen instances where participants in a learning session or at our competency-based Staff Promotion Assessment are asked about the vision, mission and core values of their organisations, and what follows is dead silence for the first 30 seconds before attempts are made. And even when they eventually provide a response after their thought process, they either struggle to clearly articulate the exact statements nor give an unambiguous explanation of what they connote, especially the core values. Some even mix up their vision statement with mission statement. So, we expect a high level of commitment, passion, and contributions from such staff?
We must understand that one of the key drivers for achieving a sustainable organisational performance is the level of emotional connection and attachment of all organisational members to the vision, mission and core values. This definitely goes beyond the aesthetic display on walls or in finely bound documents. Deliberate actions must be taken to ingrain their intents and purposes on organisational members, in a collaborative manner.
However, while vision and mission statements are always defined, though some may not have been properly crafted, core values are mostly not. Hence, their gross misinterpretations by organisational members. Organisations that aspire to be amongst the Ivy League institutions must, therefore, take urgent and purposive steps towards clearly defining and embedding its core values into the psyche and cultural fabric of the workplace.
The following are six (6) ways organisations can drive sustained performance through its core values:
Clearly defining and communicating core values: This should be done in short and simple terms, with everyone having a common understanding of what the values connote. Organisational leaders need to go beyond simply sending staff an email on the values or mandating its inclusion on documents. It requires detailed explanations of its intents and purposes, as well as what the core values mean to them.
Ensure every organisational member is in sync with the core values. Organisations are quick to roll out a bulleted list of core values which are considered as merely empty words that mean nothing to the people they are meant to inspire. Hence, this will require collaboration between HR and line managers in organising periodic sessions on how the core values have become an integral part of the workplace. Organisations must also ensure alignment of corporate values with personal values, given its impact on job satisfaction and contributions to productivity. Employees tend to work best in an organisation that aligns with their unique qualities, values, and beliefs. Therefore, the critical role of the recruitment process in ensuring that the right kind of staff are brought into the system.
Engage employees in crafting core values. In order to facilitate deep understanding and assimilation of the essence of the core values, employees should be engaged through a representative group. This will ensure everyone supports the appropriate behaviours required for achieving individual and collective performance goals and objectives. Employees’ involvement can be through focus group, surveys, and consultation.
Integrating core values measurement into the performance management system. What gets measured gets done. Beyond discussing core values during employee induction session, organisations should convert the core values into measurable KPIs, which would be taken seriously by employees. Employees need to understand how values related to their roles and the company success. So, overly generic, superfluous or wishy-washy words must be avoided. Many companies are becoming advocates of values-based performance management, where core values are integrated as a framework on which the performance management system is built.
Conduct on the spot check on organisational members. It may be necessary to periodically carry out an unannounced check on employees about the core values of the organisation and how it applies to their day-to-day activities.
Craft core values in easily remembered acronym. It has been discovered in practice that creating core values in an easily recallable acronym would go a long way in ensuring employees internalise them and are appropriately guided and focused on a daily basis.
Values are the business attributes that must be upheld for organisational success. Employees who understand and believe in the core values tend to have a clearer understanding of their role, know how they can contribute to organisational goals and objectives and demonstrate the attitudes to perform at their best. When employees live the values that are most important to your business, performance can improve as a result.
Writing down values does not actually make any difference, the values must be put into action in all facets of the company management from hiring decisions to day-to-day work focus to customers’ experiences. The companies that are famous for their values implement them in a consistent way.
Many companies will define the core values, publicly share them as prints in the offices and stores and place them on their website and just stop there. Eventually, the core values get ignored. According to Michael Hyatt, the author of the New York Times bestseller, ‘Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World,’ it is critical to translate the core values into behaviours that are easy to understand by your employees.
Living and Teaching Values. Leading by example is the best common tool any leader possess. A survey conducted by Deloitte has found that 70% of the employees who agreed that their companies had performed well financially said their executive management team speaks to them often about the core values associated with the culture of the organisation. Integrating the values into the new employees’ orientation programme. This may require telling the story behind each value chosen and what your organisation expects in terms of behaviours related to the values. A statistic from ‘Recognition Linked to Core Values Delivers Increased ROI’ shows that 88% of employees who knew their core values say they are engaged compared to 54% of respondents who say they did not know any of their company’s core values.
They define what the culture of an organisation is and serves as its main source of competitive advantage and brand differentiation.
Head, HR & Organisational
Development Unit, FITC Consulting