This is a really interesting topic and one I’ve heard debated many times, more recently at a Culturevist event talking about 'Culture as a Competitive Advantage'. Company values seem to be a pre-requisite these days, yet I constantly hear leaders and executives complaining that they are not being lived. When I was working for a large insurance company I remember the CEO saying “we’ve created our values with our people, we’ve spent a lot of money on communicating them out to the business, why are they not getting it… what’s the problem?!”… indeed!
See our blog on "Shifting Company Culture: 5 ways Executives can lead from the front" for more on this topic!
What are they for?
They are great for communicating what’s expected to new employees and defining the culture for customers, however creating an environment where the espoused values are reflective of the current ways of working is not an easy feat. Lets start at the beginning, what is the reason behind creating values? Why do we have them? Generally they are a way to set a standard, to outline what an organisation stands for and to act as a guide for the necessary behaviours required to reach their ambitions. Values are usually created with the best of intentions, however somewhat naively there is this belief that a set of words or phrases will somehow miraculously change the way the whole organisation works!
The fascinating thing is, when you look across various different organisations, no doubt you will find similarities in their values. The image below shows some of the most common values that exist.
Therefore it's not about the words necessarily, but how they are lived and breathed in the organisation!
The good, the bad and the ugly
When thinking about values, we can all recall a number of examples where the organisation’s actions are so far removed from their values that it would be comical, if it wasn’t so serious in some cases. Volkswagen’s values include “Renewability, Respect and Responsibility" yet only a few years ago they were caught trying to trick the Environmental Protection Agency’s emissions testers into thinking that the cars were more environmentally friendly than they were, resulting in investors understandably deserting the company amongst other things. One of RBS’s values is "Do The Right Thing" yet we all know the endless hot water they’ve been in over the years from rate fixing, to bullying small businesses when they are supposed to be helping them get back on their feet. Lastly, who could forget Enron with a core value stating "Integrity – We work with customers and prospects openly, honestly, and sincerely." Ahhhh o.k… say that to the 20,000 employees who lost their jobs when you went bankrupt for accounting fraud!
As we can see there are many cases where values mean nothing. Without the necessary weight and focus they are just words on a page, or a poster, or a website, or a… (you catch my drift) and can go horribly wrong. However, when done right, they can be super powerful. At the Culturevist event I mentioned earlier, I heard an example of a company who has an internal strap line around “reducing waste”. It was so very well embedded in the organisation that when any decision was made, or action was taken it was always run by the ‘waste test’… i.e. people would ask themselves "could there be a more efficient way of doing things?". This won’t work for every company, however that’s not the point. The point is how does one create values that are so ingrained in the organisation that they become second nature… a habit! What is the holy grail of creating Values!
That's the million pound question!! For the answer, watch Lara give us her "5 Tips on Creating Corporate Values that Work" by clicking on the image below.
So in answer to our original question of 'Do You Need Corporate Values... Yay or Nay', I guess when it comes to it, if you’re not going to do it properly, dont do it at all!
Hope you enjoyed the read. Now it's time to crack on with creating your own fantastic values! If you need a sounding board or have any questions, get in touch for a...