I was asked a great question the other day. “How do you get values to be more than just a plaque on the wall?” Defined organizational values communicate to your stakeholders, including customers, investors and employees, what your organization finds important and what they can expect from you and your organization. Successful organizations understand the importance of defining values. However, that’s where I have seen organizations stop.
Typically organizations communicate their values through a list, either on a plaque on the wall or in the beginning of their employee handbooks. Some may even have a statement describing the values – however, in many cases the descriptions are so general and broad that it feels like more fluff. How do your stakeholders, especially employees, connect with that? And if they can’t connect with the values, the values have just lost their importance.
Make Your Values Come to Life
As a business leader or owner, you KNOW why you chose those values. You KNOW why they are important to you. And those reasons go beyond the generic description statement on the plaque or in the handbook. It is important that you take that information in your head and share it with your employees.
- Identify why these values are important to your organization.
- Share specific examples of how someone would model these values (this is even better if you can recognize examples you have seen from your employees).
- Communicate verbally (ideally in person). It is important for employees to hear you say those words. The importance of the values is driven home by the passion you share when communicating them. The passion is not seen or felt by reading it.
(Book Recommendation: Traction by Gino Wickman. In the Vision Component, the author focuses on the importance of values and how to effectively communicate the values to employees.)
Align Your Process To Your Values
Now, the values need to be incorporated into your decisions and practices, including your human resources processes.
- Employee Handbook: The employee handbook was mentioned earlier. Yes, this is an important step. A good employee handbook template has a section specifically to communicate an organization’s values. This helps you demonstrate what employees can expect when working with you – these define WHY you make the decisions you do.
- Hiring Process: It is important to use the values as a decision point when hiring new employees. Use a standard set of interview questions and include questions related to the values of the organization. You can ask the candidate how they have demonstrated that value in their past employment. For example, we value customer service — tell me about a time you have provided good customer service. (For more information on standard interview questions, check out our previous blog post.) In addition, by asking questions based on your values, you are communicating to potential employees know right up front what is important to you and the organization.
- Onboarding: As you onboard new employees to the organization, this is the opportunity to share the information above. This is not just about sharing the piece of paper with the values or walking through the information in the handbook. This is about sharing why those values are important and examples of what it would look like to model those values.
- Performance Management: I have found that most performance reviews focus on WHAT the person is doing in their job — and therefore, tend to be very task and responsibility focused. Make sure when you are reviewing performance that you are also considering HOW the employee has demonstrated and behaved in accordance with your organizational values. Ask the employee for specific examples of how they have demonstrated those values and share examples of how you have (or have not) seen them demonstrate the values.
- Recognition: Recognition is a great way to engage employees, which increases productivity and reduces turnover. However, I have seen organizations struggle with HOW to recognize employees. Recognition is a great opportunity to continue to highlight and focus on the importance of your organizational values. Publicly recognize individuals who have demonstrated those values. Implement peer recognition programs where employees can nominate each other based how their peers have demonstrated the organizational values.
- Benefits Offerings. There is so much talk about benefits and perks offered by organizations. You may have even had your employees mention (subtly or not so subtly) what their friends’ employers offer. It’s a lot of pressure and hard to make decisions about what to offer or not. When you are in those moments, reflect on your values. What benefits or perks do you offer and how do they align with your values? If your benefits and perks align, communicate those. If you have benefits or perks that don’t align, it may be time to question those. Why do you offer them? And what could you offer instead that would better align?
These are a few quick and easy examples. To learn more about how to engage your employees to model your organizational values and work hard to drive your business results, including how to integrate your values into your human resources processes, let’s connect! Here’s a link to set up a meeting directly with us: Connect with People Spark.