According to Simon Sinek, we should think of values as verbs. I’d go a step further and say that values are the fundamental beliefs that guide the behavior of individuals and organizations.
They reflect the shared values and attitudes that influence how people think and act in their personal and professional lives. Values are critical in an organizational context for defining culture and shaping employee behavior. They contribute to the organization’s sense of purpose, direction, and identity.
Let’s discuss the significance of values in organizations and how they contribute to organizational success.
When we look at it from a human behavioral standpoint, values are not only verbs but also components of what we value as individuals. We must also understand the distinction between personal and organizational values.
But where do we begin?
We begin by recognizing that personal values have three components that inevitably become verbs:
- The reasoning behind why this is a fundamental belief for me as a person
- The emotional attachment I have to this value because if someone questions why I value something, I will defend it.
- What behaviors are associated with the value I hold so dear?
I have complete congruence in living life according to what I value because of these three components of understanding my own personal values.
Challenge in change
The challenge we have is that since the pandemic, people’s values have changed. Companies worldwide are needing to rethink their values based on how people have shifted their own narratives on what fundamental beliefs they hold to be valuable and true to them.
Previously, an individual valued success, but now that the pandemic has made it possible to be at home, the individual may value time (in order to avoid sitting in traffic).
People used to value money, but now they value health. When change occurs, change must literally occur to accommodate the change. There is only resistance if there is no change.
So, my question for every CEO out there today is, how curious have you become about the people who choose to serve your company?
- Do you understand what they value?
- Do you realize how much their lives have changed as a result of their new value system?
- Have you adapted? Have you changed?
Values and company cultures
Now let’s look at the importance of how values serve our organizations.
Firstly, values help to create a strong organizational culture that promotes unity and cohesion among employees. A strong organizational culture is built on a shared set of values that guide how people interact with each other and the wider community.
When employees share common values, they are more likely to work together towards achieving common goals. They are also more likely to trust and respect each other, which helps to foster a positive and supportive work environment.
This, in turn, can lead to increased job satisfaction and higher levels of employee
engagement and retention. But for them to understand the importance of the organization’s values, they need to understand the importance of:
- The reasoning behind why this is an organizational value
- The emotional attachment I have to this value is aiming to elicit?
- What behaviors are associated with the value so they know how to implement and action it.
Secondly, values help establish a clear sense of purpose and direction for the organization. They provide a framework for decision-making and guide the behavior of employees towards achieving the organization’s goals. For example, a healthcare organization might value teamwork as a way to provide high-quality patient care.
By working together effectively, doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals can ensure that patients receive the best possible treatment and support. This can include sharing information and expertise, collaborating on treatment plans, and supporting each other during times of stress or uncertainty.
By prioritizing teamwork as a core value, the organization can also promote a culture of continuous improvement.
Team members can learn from each other, share best practices, and identify areas for improvement. This can help the organization to stay at the forefront of medical research and practice, and provide the best possible care to patients, but again, there is thought, emotion and action in this example.
Thirdly, values help to build a strong reputation for the organization. Organizations that are known for their values are more likely to attract customers, investors, and employees who share those values. For example, an organization that values sustainability and environmental responsibility is more likely to attract customers who are interested in buying products or services that are environmentally friendly.
With the climate of the world as it is (excuse the pun), more and more people are seeking out environmentally friendly companies because it is part of the changed value system that the world has experienced.
Similarly, an organization that values diversity and inclusivity is more likely to attract employees from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences, which can help promote innovation and creativity.
Fourthly, values help to create a sense of accountability and responsibility within the organization. When employees share common values, they are more likely to hold each other accountable for their actions and behaviors.
This can help to promote ethical behavior and reduce the risk of misconduct or wrongdoing. For example, if an organization values integrity, employees are more likely to speak up when they see something that is not right, and to hold themselves and others accountable for their actions.
Here are some strong indicators, that a business is not consistently aligned with its values:
- Lack of trust: When team members have different values, trust and respect can suffer. This can make it hard for staff to collaborate and cause disputes.
- Miscommunication: Misaligned values can lead to miscommunication since employees may have conflicting priorities and expectations.
- Bad teamwork: Misaligned ideals can make it hard for employees to work together. This creates silos and hinders teamwork.
- Poor morale: Disengaged and unmotivated personnel may not share the company’s values. This lowers morale, turnover, and productivity.
- Lack of direction: When values conflict, it’s hard to set an organization’s course. This can make it hard to focus, prioritize, and make strategic judgments.
- Misaligned values can also cause inconsistent employee behavior. This can damage the company’s image and brand.
- Ethical issues: Misaligned ideals can lead to fraud, wrongdoing, and conflicts of interest. This might damage the company’s reputation and result in legal or financial fines.
- Bad customer experience: Misaligned values may cause personnel to ignore client requests and provide inconsistent service.
- Talent retention: When values are misaligned, it’s hard to attract and retain top employees who share the company’s vision and values. This may create a talent scarcity and make it hard to compete.
Misaligned values can affect profitability by decreasing production, cost, and customer happiness. This can hurt the company’s finances and prevent long-term growth.
Understanding individual values
Finally, values begin with individuals. Start with your values in mind if you want your organization to live them. Then, unpack the organizational values to understand the values’ supporting thinking, emotions, and behaviors.
Organizations that want to succeed in today’s complex and rapidly changing business environment must first understand their values.
Values contribute to the development of a strong organizational culture, the establishment of a clear sense of purpose and direction, the establishment of a strong reputation, the promotion of accountability and responsibility, and the development of organizational resilience and adaptability.
Organizations can create a shared sense of purpose and direction that motivates employees to work together to achieve common goals by aligning their values with their goals and objectives. This, in turn, can lead to higher levels of job satisfaction, employee engagement, and retention, and, ultimately, greater organizational success.