This article is part 3 of our 5-part Employee Engagement and Culture Checklist for 2021 Series:
- Part 1: How to Build Your Employee Engagement and Culture Checklist: 4 Must-Haves in 2021
- Part 2: Reassessing, Refocusing, and Reinforcing Culture in 2021
In the last year, our resiliency as individuals and organizations was tested beyond what many of us could have ever imagined or prepared for. Even so, many of us have adjusted reasonably well to new safety measures, virtual meetings, and living in our 6ft bubbles. That's not to say that we aren't still mourning the loss of camaraderie, connection, and collaboration that comes from working in a communal space. So now that the dust has settled, how do we begin to get back to what we may have lost and forge ahead to achieve our goals in 2021? We need to get back to our core with a renewed focus on our mission, vision, and values.
Organizational Values and the Bottom Line
Clear values give every member of your organization a sense of direction and a definition of success in every interaction and task. The right core values can drive belonging and wellbeing, improved employee engagement, and reduced turnover. But perhaps most importantly, tying performance measurement and recognition to those fundamental values enables you to build a resilient workforce with a robust culture, laser-focused on what matters most to your organization. Relating all actions and decisions to your core corporate values does improve your business performance.
The only problem is, according to Gallup, only 23% of employees strongly agree that they can apply their organization's values to their work every day. Sound familiar? These six tips should help you start the work on bridging that gap.
Here’s how to do it:
1. Define What Your Values Look Like in Action
Sometimes values seem too aspirational or worse, like corporate fluff. However, chances are that substance and value can be distilled from the values your organization has chosen. Identifying specific behaviours tied to each value allows your team to truly see your values as their North Star, guiding them in making decisions in day-to-day tasks. This can be especially helpful in organizations where employees work remotely, with less supervision or guidance readily available.
Let's break down some behaviours that could be tied to particular values, including Integrity, the most popular value in US companies, according to a recent MIT Study.
Remember that your values will also dictate how your employees treat your clients – that should help spell out specific behaviours that matter.
Try This: Take some time at your next management meeting to define critical behaviours for each one of your core values. If you can't, chances are your employees can't either, and it might be time to revisit your values.
2. Communicate Values Consistently and Often
For your values to help you drive the culture and performance you’d like to see, your employees need to know them! Organizational values are often buried in employee manuals and/or deep in the corporate intranet. It’s likely that many of your employees don’t even know your values, which may be why just 27% of employees believe in their core values, according to Gallup.
Many organizations are getting creative about spreading the word, incorporating values into their office décor, while others display values in their standard email signatures. The common theme is to give your values a presence and have them live center stage. For a remote workforce, this could look like customer Zoom backgrounds, desktop background images, or on the homepage of your company intranet.
Try this: Why not make your values easier to remember by developing a clever acronym! But remember, this comes after you’ve identified your core values – do not determine your values based on an ideal acronym. For example, here at Kudos, our core values are:
We made a simple and relevant acronym work for our values, not the other way around.
3. Recruit and Hire with Your Values in Mind
After you've identified key behaviours and associated them with your values, start looking for people who display those behaviours as part of your hiring process. Share your values openly and communicate to your candidates that they should be looking for value-alignment as well. Be open and honest in your interviews - If you know your organization values punctuality, and a job candidate indicates that they don’t see the importance of every meeting starting exactly on time - they might not be the ideal fit.
A great example of a company being open about values in recruitment is the meal-kit company HelloFresh. Their career page features their values front and center, essentially communicating to candidates, "we aren't interested if this isn't you." Check it out. Another example is popular online shoe and clothing retailer Zappos. They have a recruitment video that displays their culture in a radical way with the purpose of attracting people who are aligned with their values and repelling those who wouldn’t fit in.
Try this: Work with your HR team to craft behavioural questions to discover if the candidates fit your core values. Here are some practical behavioural-style interview questions to get you started.
4. Consider the Do/Say Divide
Leaders and executive managers are always being watched closely by the rest of the organization. Employees look to management for cues on how to act and react, especially in unusual or challenging situations (like what we experienced over the course of the last year). Leaders need to embody the core values they want their employees to live by. If transparency is a core value, leadership must be open with the entire company about any challenges they are facing. If collaboration is a corporate value, leaders should have representation from all company levels and functions on any special projects or working groups.
A great example of this is how Microsoft handled the onset of the global pandemic in 2020. Microsoft's corporate values are respect, integrity, and accountability. When Covid-19 first hit in March, Microsoft announced that they would continue to pay all hourly service providers their regular pay during the period of reduced service needs, embodying those values at a time when all employees were watching.
Try this: Next time you're faced with a difficult situation (a core employee resigns, you lose a big contract), think about whether your reaction embodies your core values and make the necessary adjustments. Remember that your employees will follow your lead.
5. Work and Play by your Values
Consistency is critical when communicating the importance of your values to your team to show your commitment. If one of your core values is health and wellness, but you celebrate your wins with cake and alcohol, that doesn’t really align – does it? For your values to stick, you need to live them in all aspects of your organization.
Here’s a great example; one of Airbnb’s core values is “Be the Host,” so fittingly, during an annual meeting, they encouraged local employees to host their visiting colleagues for dinner at their home or at a local restaurant. This is a perfect example of truly living your values.
Try this: Challenge your social committee to tie any staff events and celebrations back to your corporate values. If something isn’t clicking – change it! Showing you are committed to living your values helps get others on board.
6. Recognize and Reward Value-aligned Behaviours
One of the most straightforward ways to reinforce your values into your corporate culture and day-to-day life within your organization is to recognize value-aligned behaviours. That can happen formally as part of performance reviews but also informally through regular recognition. Informally recognizing value-aligned behaviours and contributions helps keep values top of mind, helping to build the culture you need to succeed as an organization.
Try this: Consider an employee recognition and engagement platform like Kudos to make daily peer-to-peer recognition easy. With Kudos, specific value-tied behaviours must be associated with each recognition message, essentially hardwiring your values into your culture.
Corporate values are a powerful tool that should not be ignored or brushed over. The right values have the power to connect your workforce and drive everyone toward a shared goal. To get there, you must incorporate your values into daily life and truly live your values every day. When values are distilled down from broad and aspirational statements to clear behaviours, employees are equipped with clear expectations, allowing them to do their job in a meaningful and valuable way, leading to improved organizational performance.
Ready to get your organization living your values every day in 2021? Book your demo at Kudos.com today to learn how we can help! Kudos is the modern employee engagement system the world needs today. Kudos is simple to set up, easy to use, and integrates with communication tools to put culture and recognition front and center. Our system allows you to connect, communicate, and celebrate everything that makes your organization unique and successful. With the simple power of a "Thank You" – you can increase engagement, connect remote teams, improve inclusion, enhance productivity, and reduce turnover.