Mind the Gap: A 3-step Process to Connect Company Values to Individual Behaviour

This column is by , Associate Director, Equals Design

companycultureMany companies have ‘values’, a set of guiding principles that explain to shareholders, employees and the society at large what the company stands for – “the way we do things around here”, if you like. These can be useful indicators for potential employees to see whether there is a ‘fit’ between their own personal values and that of the company they are thinking of joining. They can also be a source of differentiation and positioning when translated into a brand promise.

Some companies have induction processes that further explain how seriously it takes these values. Some even have them etched on glass meeting room walls, bringing a constant reminder to employees and visitors alike as to what it’s like to work for or with this organisation.

But how many companies tangibly link these values to the enabling behaviours of its employees in defined, measurable ways? How can we reduce the risk of hiring the wrong people or (worse still) holding onto those that do not live and breathe the company values through their day to day behaviour?

Here, I’m proposing a three step process:

Step 1: Define the behaviours that enable the value

For each company value, there are enabling behaviours that need to be defined, and engaging your employees in this process can yield rewards in terms of increased motivation and connectivity to the company purpose.

Let’s take an old favourite value such as “We put the customer at the heart of everything we do”. How many times do we see this yet not feel it as customers? To embed this across an organization, consider enabling behaviours such as curiosity (“We are curious about the needs of our customers and are constantly looking for new ways to serve them better”). That is a behavior that can be applied in every team across even the most complex of organisations – from the new product development team through to customer services.

Step 2: Weave this into every single department across the business – starting with HR

Nobody wants to have a HR process that ignores competence, but let’s start with evening out the balance between assessing the ‘what’ (technical skills and experience) and the ‘how’ (personality traits, values and behaviours). Build questions into the interview pack that allow applicants to demonstrate examples where they have exhibited the behaviours that support your company values.

Reviewing performance against these behaviours will also add another dimension to the quarterly/half year/annual review process. As well as rewarding performance against the achievement of quantifiable objectives such as a sales target, incorporate behavioural achievements into the total reward package to formally demonstrate the importance the company places on the behavioural ‘hows’.

The review process also provides an opportunity to develop a personal development plan on a behavioural dimension, as opposed to solely the development of role-specific technical skills. A learning and development suite of materials should be in place to support this.

But what if an employee’s behaviour fails to improve or is consistently at odds with the values of the company? Here comes the test of how seriously the company really takes values and behaviours…

Step 3: Become your own corporate whistleblower

Do the actions and behaviours of the employee support the company values? Do your HR policies allow for disciplinary action and termination of employment if not?

A certain car manufacturer describes, under the heading “What we stand for” that their values are responsibility and sustainability, and that “fairness is important to us”. Is that consistent with the behaviour of the employee or employees that were complicit in the emissions scandal that has damaged its brand and sales figures?

Make it clear that, regardless of performance level or seniority, evidence of behaviours that run counter to the values of the company are a disciplinary matter and a cause for dismissal.

I’d love to hear from you

What are you doing in your business to connect the values of the company to the behaviours of individuals? Have you seen examples of companies that do this brilliantly…or that could do better? I’d love to hear your stories from any industry sector in the comments section below…

Steve is a strategic marketing, business development and employee engagement expert with a 20-year client-side and consulting career in a wide range of sectors including Technology, Financial Services and Professional Services.

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