Company values are the foundation of your culture. During times of crisis and uncertainty, these values become an important shared understanding.
A recent survey by HR compliance training and data analytics company Emtrain found a 10% decline in employees who say their behavior is governed by “well-understood norms.”
“Values are the north star of a company,” says Marissa Levin, CEO and co-founder at Successful Culture International. “They help determine acceptable and unacceptable behaviors.”
Your team should rely on your company values, provided they understand what they mean. Here’s how to shift your values from abstract words to the guiding principles in your employees’ day-to-day actions.
Employee input is crucial for identifying an ethical framework that supports your mission. Convene a small group of representatives from different branches of the organization to discuss company values.
“Have a very thoughtful group of stakeholders involved when you create the values,” Levin says. “Then engage the rest of the company in a way that creates a shared responsibility.” This process can be also applied to reassessing your legacy values to reflect the changing times and the voice of your evolving workforce.
Once your values are in place, employees need to know how to behave accordingly. “If you have the value of integrity,” Levin says, “what are the behaviors that represent that value?” Those who are challenged to live these values out every day should help define how they’re implemented in specific behaviors. Establishing ownership over the definition of values creates accountability.
To maintain their integrity, values have to be consistently lived across all levels — from interns to the C-Suite. If your company values say one thing but your leaders’ actions say another, that erodes their power. “You have to follow your values, even when it’s not ‘convenient’,” says Deloria Nelson, president of Authentic Culture and Engagement Solutions Inc. If you say you value transparency, for example, but discourage people from asking questions or speaking up in meetings, then you create a breach in your values and damage trust.
Measure value-based behaviors in performance management and hold everyone equally accountable. “You have to reward people that live your company values — and hold them accountable when they don’t,” Nelson says. Remote work can make this challenging and requires more attention and effort to keep everyone aligned.
HR professionals play a critical role in aligning company values across the organization. Beginning January 1, 2021, HRCI certificants will need to fulfill the ethics requirement during their three-year recertification cycle by earning one ethics credit.
“When you develop career paths for your employees, incorporate company core values into those descriptions,” Levin says. Reward workers for behaving accordingly. Incentivize them when their peers and leaders put these values into action.
If trust is one of your values, for instance, that can’t just flow from the top down. When values are upheld for some groups but not others, then your values need to be re-evaluated, especially across diverse employee groups. “You have to do that tough introspection,” Nelson says. “Is this an experience that all employees are feeling?”
Employees need to trust that they have equal opportunities for promotions or have their voices heard. Doing so aligns and solidifies company values across teams and functions.