The 3 Critical Ingredients to Making Values Work

What core values guide the people in your organization? Are those values real as you hire people, work together, and serve your clients? Or, are they just pretty posters on a boardroom wall?

How do you handle your training? Do you give people a list of the 791 things they can do, a list of the 427 things they can’t do, and then have them sign the bottom of the page indicating they understand it all (I’ve heard it called “check a box training”)?

If any of these questions touched a nerve, your organization may not have the clarity it needs to succeed – especially in difficult times.

You can’t enact enough laws, policies, and standard operating procedures to govern peoples’ behaviors. There has to be higher-level guide posts. In other words, teams need clarity around values.

When a team is clear about its values (i.e., leaders model the values with their actions and everyone is held accountable to those values), organizations can rely less on formal “control” systems and more on the decision making ability of their people. Decisions get made more quickly, service levels are typically higher, employees tend to be more engaged, and organizations get to rely less on financial compensation to retain their best people.

And here’s the other thing about values. We all have our own individual values (whether we know it or not) and we don’t check them at the door when we enter the workplace. They come with us and, to a large extent, influence our workplace behaviors. I guarantee that if your personal values are not in line with the both the stated and unstated values of the team or organization, you will leave work each night completely exhausted and stressed out!

So, what are the 3 critical ingredients to making values work in an organization?

  1. Leaders at all levels have to model the values with their actions. If leaders don’t model the stated values in an organization, then the values don’t mean anything at all. It all starts at the top. Model the way.
  2. Integrate team values into your hiring process. I recently met with a client who realized they had a 33% attrition rate for new employees who were with the organization for 1 year or less. The attrition rate rose to 54% before new employees reached their second anniversary. What’s your attrition rate for new employees? Are you bringing the right people on board to begin with? Technical skills are a dime a dozen. People that are a cultural fit are much harder to find.
  3. Integrate team values into your performance management process. This creates accountability at the behavioral level. If your organization simply copied and pasted a performance management template from another organization, you are doing an injustice to your people. Customize your performance management process so that it is aligned with team values, and do not hesitate for even a minute to hold people accountable to those values.

So, throw out the boring SOPs and the outdated policies. Instead, define and rollout values that will guide your team members. What you will find is a new found sense of purpose and a framework to help people make the right decisions when the right decisions matter most.

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