Core values are at the heart of a values based culture and drive Employee Engagement and profitability
Core values are the guiding principles that speak to accepted behaviours and actions within your organisation. These values can help employees and managers to decide what actions to take when faced with a fluid and dynamic work environment. Essentially core values help your organisation to determine if they are on the right path to achieve your business goals. Employee engagement is supposed to stimulate positive employee attitudes and behaviour in order to improve productivity, morale and satisfaction within the organisation. However, for many organisations the challenge is converting their proclaimed values into an authentic, work-changing experiences for their employees. Often, the issue is that the values are typically expressed as jargon/corporate-speak. Added to that is a disconnect between the actions of leaders and rewarding the wrong behaviours.
Key elements that drive a values based culture:
Clearly defined values.
What does your organisation actually stand for? What do you stand for as an individual? These two elements must be aligned to drive a positive culture of engaged action. Identifying and understanding the values and beliefs that define who we are as individuals (and our organisations) is a critical step to building and embedding a solid culture and brand. Essentially, our values define our character, our organisational values define or culture, and our organisation’s culture determines how we act as employees.
Clearly defining our desired culture through a strong set of values, which are then lived is a fundamental step towards an engaged values based culture. Values are our guiding principles, a roadmap that guides us towards the culture we desire. They are the blueprint of how we should behave towards each other and how we can expect to be treated by the organisation. They can be a valuable guide in our decision-making process. Values need to be specific, simple and memorable, but most importantly they need to be lived on a day to day basis from the top down. They also need to be reinforced through our processes – what we acknowledge and reward.
A feeling of belonging.
Creating a feeling of personal belonging in employees is a key to engagement and a values based culture. When we identify with an organisation’s values and feel part of the organisation we are more likely to take personal responsibility for making it a success. Being part of an organisation we can believe in also creates a sense of pride and accomplishment in us. Part of this is having a voice and feeling seen – believing we matter.
“Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.” Theodore Roosevelt
Giving employees a voice.
Our employees often see opportunities and threats to our organisation before we do, but unless they feel comfortable sharing their observations we may not hear about them until it is too late. A key benefit of engaged employees is that they ask lots of questions, they are curious and they question the “way we do things here.” Examining the status quo leads opportunities to change things for the better. Increase efficiencies and reduce waste.
However, when an organisation has a culture that stifles the freedom to ask questions the business often suffers as a consequence, specially in competitive markets. When employees don’t feel comfortable asking “why are we doing things this way?” they might find it difficult to offer innovations and suggestions to improve.
Developing leadership across the board.
Great line managers are the secret weapon in the fight against apathy and disengagement. The greatest predictor of engagement is the relationship between and employee and their direct supervisor. In fact many people experience the organisation through their line manager.
This is why developing good people management skills that engage, motivate and develop employees, rather than demotivate and delete initiative is crucial. According to Gallup 50% of people leave managers not organisations – but the cost to replace talent is still a huge expense to the organisation. Upskilling or replacing poor managers is often less expensive than the loss of talent poor managers cause.
Live values through authentic leadership.
We don’t care what people say, we learn from what they do. Authentic leadership that is transparent, visible and honest is crucial to engage and motivate employees. One of the most valuable traits of a manager is to really care about their people – and show it. Do you live the values of your organisation, or just pay lip service?
Keep it simple.
It can be incredibly easy to overwhelm employees with too much information, and as such it can be a real challenge to manage the flow of communications to ensure the information is relevant and sticks. Often day-to-day communication takes priority over items that may seem more abstract. However, the bottom line is that these soft/abstract communications are often fundamental to shaping the organisation’s culture.
When launching a new vision/values it is essential to keep communication clear, concise and relatable. A flurry of tactical comms activity often doesn’t actually help embed the values but causes a disconnect as employees get overwhelmed with data. So how do we help employees to continually think and act with the values in mind? One of the most effective ways tis to keep the conversation alive. Conversations in teams and with managers which link the values or strategy to day-to-day behaviours is more effective than screen savers, posters or annual town hall meetings listing the values.
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