Newcomers are often mystified by a company’s “values”, sometimes even struggling to take them seriously. As with many corporate concepts, such values are constantly championed by management, to the point where they become overused. This, of course, risks employees dismissing them as “bullshit”, to coin a well-used term in business. So where does the balance lie? Should these values become a sort of Holy Grail?
Depending on the individual company, the notion of values can mean anything from a collection of words hastily thrown together to almost philosophical concepts or a set of behaviours which are “lived” throughout the entire organisation.
For Oussama Ammar, co-founder of TheFamily, a bad value is one where the opposite situation is not desirable. Let me clarify with an example. Too many companies include the word “innovation” among their list of core values. The problem with this, of course, is that no company would claim not to be innovative and would refute any suggestion to the contrary. Innovation should not therefore be held up as a value, since it is not a true differentiator.
A bad value is one where the opposite
situation is not desirable
So what makes a good value?
A company’s success is measured by the sum total of the work accomplished by its employees. Two factors can come into play here to bind everything together – values and vision. Values help instil a sense of togetherness and collaboration. Vision crystallises the aims and impact of this collaboration.
In fact, it is these two pillars which shape a company’s culture. They are built around shared passions, practices and behaviours. When a company experiences rapid growth, it runs the risk of losing its soul, hence the reason budding entrepreneurs love to focus so many discussions on the subject! During such times, it is important that companies have a common platform and are able to support growth through a shared set of values that employees can identify with.
These values have to be lived on a daily basis to reflect a company’s DNA. They are much more than a few words posted on the walls of the canteen. Broadly speaking, these values should encapsulate everything that defines a company – its expertise and working practices, its culture and management style.
Values help to build a strong corporate culture which in turn creates internal cohesion founded on a common platform. Employees can unite around a set of shared values which helps to create a sense of belonging, give meaning to their daily actions and provide a clear sense of what they are building together. Values provide a coherent framework for the behaviour of individual team members and the collective behaviour of the company.
Values also play an important part in the recruitment process. They allow candidates and companies to identify whether they are a good fit for one another. If their values and behaviours are aligned, recruitment is likely to be successful.
Yet it isn’t only employees or potential new recruits who are impacted by core values. They are also critical to the company itself in terms of how it views its ecosystem as a whole, namely its customers, partners and suppliers. If the values are shared by all stakeholders, they can be a powerful differentiator, helping firms to stand out from the competition.
Aligning behaviours with values undoubtedly becomes more challenging when the values are defined late in the day. Business leaders and managers are ambassadors of their corporate values which is a heavy responsibility. Their expression through everyday situations must be exemplary. Employees who can’t identify with or relate to their company’s values tend to become marginalised and demotivated and this is when businesses run the risk of losing talent. The critical factor here is employee involvement – a collaborative approach to defining core values will ensure they become embedded as widely as possible.