Company values are a typical part of the internal communications plans we design for clients. Values are generally unveiled or updated in coordination with an organization’s mission, vision, and business plans. While normally pithy, visual and to the point, we find that the vast majority of values require more than simple explanation and repetition. Many organizations put a lot of thought into the four to five words they choose to express their values. They add a few sentences to explain what they mean, but often they ‘launch and leave’, or repeat the words without a lot of thought behind whether they are doing everything necessary to make the words real. Often times, there are real barriers to implementation that must be overcome in order to make progress. Examples range from learning or training barriers to process changes or organizational structure considerations. And, as we all know, the words and employee experiences must match. Here are some tips we have honed over the years to help your organization make real progress toward your values.
- Prioritize values that have real meaning within your organization. Think about your industry, your company’s culture, consumer interests, and what’s important to your employees. Think about what really makes you different as an organization. What can you get behind and own? We gave a lot of thought to our values at Winning Presence – Ideas, Inspiration, and Integrity – and we made an “I” part of our logo design as a reminder of how to live the values every time we look at the branding. We work with supplier partners and other consultants who share our values. They’re deeply ingrained in how we operate because they are fundamentally important to what we do.
- Identify and remove the barriers before you announce your values. This is a biggie, and I think it’s best explained through examples. One client aspired to be more collaborative as an organization, yet they continued to reward leader behaviors that worked in silos while achieving results. So while employees were inspired and motivated by the idea of being more collaborative with their colleagues, they didn’t see their leaders collaborating. In fact, they saw the opposite. Another client prioritized agility as a value, but their company is in a highly-regulated industry and the business is designed with multiple approvals required to move forward. They are also very layered and somewhat bureaucratic with a decision-making process that was cumbersome and slow. As a result, they needed to adjust some processes, including removing some unnecessary layers for approvals. This helped them achieve greater agility. It’s important to remove the barriers before you announce your values so that they are authentic at roll-out.
- Integrate your values into business planning and reporting. Too many times, mission, vision, and values are hung on a wall or posted on your website without truly integrating them into the business. One of our clients restructured their updates to the board of directors around MVV. Another incorporated values into all employee performance reviews. Nothing is more demotivating to your people than talking about values as important, then performance discussions are unaligned or make no mention of them.
- Have regular checkpoints to assess progress. Be ready to pause, listen, and adjust if needed. One of our clients realized during a culture change project that employees didn’t truly understand accountability, so we adjusted our timeline of communications tactics to accommodate some training on the topic. We collaborated with HR and Training to expose employees to learning and development. It was an important part of the plan and ensured everyone could really live the value of accountability.
- Spotlight and reward progress toward the specific values so your people can see best practices in action and strive to be part of it. Recognition will help reinforce the values and demonstrate your commitment. Recognition can be a regular part of leadership communications plans where you can spotlight good actions. If possible, connect the values to achievements and performance. We’ve also done peer recognition programs where employees and leaders can recognize each other when they see someone living the values.
Values are an important part of a company’s journey, and they play an important role in the portfolio of mission, vision and business plans.