Are your employees representing your company’s core values?
Unfortunately, few companies take the time and effort to really answer this important question. After all, company values are meant for posters on the breakroom walls, right?
Wrong. Businesses that think company culture and core values don’t affect the bottom line are missing out on a vast opportunity for productivity and profitability. According to an article from the Association for Talent Development, internalized values relate directly to job commitment, decision making, job satisfaction, lower turnover, and positive work attitudes. Instilling values can be a powerful tool for business success.
Most companies, however, are falling a bit short in making their values “live” throughout the organization. Lorri Freifeld, writing for Training Magazine, discusses these harrowing findings from LRN Corporation’s HOW Report:
[…] companies are struggling to inspire employees to take more responsibility and ownership over living their values when faced with complex business decisions. More than one-third of employees hesitate to speak out in team meetings out of a sense of fear about how their managers may react. Fewer than half feel they have the license to question established methods and practices within their organization. Only one in four employees would apply peer pressure to influence a colleague who was not behaving in line with the company’s values.
So how do we instill these all-important values throughout the organization? It starts with a clear vision – and lots of long-term training. Here are three steps any organization can take to improve values training and cement a corporate culture.
#1: Branding Your Culture
You can’t instill values if you don’t know what they are. Your company culture must be based on a clear set of values that are easily communicated. One way to be sure your core values are clearly articulated is to brand your culture. HR veteran Libby Sartain recommends branding the entire employee experience.
“It gives an organization and management team a consistent voice, and authenticity about its relationship with employees,” she says. “If done well, it can be the most powerful tool a business can employ to create an emotional connection with workers that wins hearts and minds.”
Of course, “winning hearts and minds” always starts with a “What’s in it for me?” proposition. Employees must understand how core values will make their jobs – and lives – better and more fulfilling. Branding can help emphasize the day-to-day benefits of the company culture.
Sartain goes on to make another important point: Communication must be ongoing. One weekend retreat won’t make a corporate culture. Core values must be instilled throughout the employee experience. Which leads us to…
#2: Bringing Values into EVERY Training Experience
Just because you’re not specifically training on values doesn’t mean you can’t specifically train on values. Employees may not be tying their roles to organizational values, but we can help them! Here are a few things to try:
- Develop examples that relate to core values. Most training includes practical examples of the work being done in the real world. So how can you create scenarios that reinforce values? If one of your core values is “Integrity,” you might reinforce it during security protocol training by giving examples that illustrate how security relates to integrity. Or “going the extra mile” could be shown through customer service training or just by providing great examples of collaboration and teamwork throughout the organization.
- Create value-based icebreakers. Swati Karve, writing for the Association for Talent Development, suggests an activity correlating colors to values. At a recent ttcInnovations retreat, our employee team worked in pairs after randomly drawing one of our four core values —innovation, quality, integrity, or responsiveness. The pairs were tasked with coming up with a new idea to implement in the workplace that would represent the value they had chosen. Together, our pairs generated four actionable, value-focused ideas that we could easily implement as a team.
- Use values in debriefing. Most group-based activities demonstrate the importance of working together as strongly as they teach the subject at hand. Karve mentions that “in another game where participants were asked to build a wall out of Lego pieces, organizational values such as commitment, creativity, and integrity were discussed during debrief.”
- Recognize values-based decisions as they occur. A ttcInnovations blog post articulates it quite well: “[I]magine […] your core values include “Leadership by example,” “Daring to be different,” and “Togetherness and enthusiasm.” Keep an eye out for employees reflecting those values and, most importantly, recognize them for it when you see it. By letting your team know that you’re aware of their commitment to your core values, you’re much more likely to see an increase in the engagement during your training.
The beauty of bringing values into every training experience is that you can teach them without being preachy or spouting platitudes. A good facilitator will lead participants to find the values for themselves.
#3: Training the REAL Trainers
Let’s face it: The real trainers of company culture and values are your front-line managers. Ultimately, workers will take their cues from their managers – for better or for worse. You can make it “for better” by enlisting and training your managers. As Freifeld says:
Design a culture initiative that empowers managers to act as culture exemplars and ethics envoys to their teams. This will promote a stronger ethical culture and breed greater trust amongst their teams. Research shows that a manager’s consistency in word and deed sets the tone. When managers are not involved and do not serve on the front line as culture envoys, it can breed a tone of cynicism and skepticism among their employees.
When your managers are fully on board, you’re on your way to instilling a values-based company culture from top to bottom.
It’s a Marathon, not a Sprint
Once you set out to develop a fully immersive company culture, it’s important to understand that it won’t happen overnight. It takes patience and a long-term view to truly create a culture that employees respect and embody. But when you consider the benefits – happier, more creative workers with higher company longevity – values-based training seems like a bargain.