Do you have company values? And if you do, are they underpinned by the daily behaviours of everyone in your organisation? Or do you struggle to remember them at all?

In this post, I want to do something a little bit differently. I’m going to ask you some questions. Do you have company values? If you don’t have any company values, I’ll give you some tips on how you might be able to start the process of defining them. And if you do have company values, can you name them off the top of your head (without Googling what they should be)? 

Values Are Central

This is a really important reflection point because we all know how important values are. You’ve probably heard people say things like:

  • Values are the beacon, the guiding light of our organisation
  • Values are the lens through which we make business decisions
  • Values enable everyone to understand the behaviours that are important here
  • Values underpin our culture. 

But quite often, these are just words on a wall. Recently, an organisation said to me, ‘I want you to help us embed our values’. I said, ‘Okay, great, what are your values?’ And the answer was, ‘I knew you’d asked me that!’ 

Even though the organisation came to me specifically to embed their values, they couldn’t actually articulate what their values were. I think that’s where we need to stop for a moment and ask, what is the purpose of our values? 

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Finding Your Values

Maybe you don’t have values at the moment, or you can’t remember them, or maybe you know them really well, but it’s been a while since you reviewed them. If that’s you, here are some steps for you to take to identify your values. 

Defining Culture

The first step is to think about what you want the culture of your organisation to be, because your values create the behaviours that will lead to that culture. Your culture is the combination of all the ways you do things in your organisations, including:

  • symbols you have in the workplace
  • behaviours that you display to others
  • behaviours that you expect from others

All of these things roll up into culture. So the first question is, what’s the type of culture you want in your business? This is a great brainstorming exercise for your leadership team, or your entire team. Ask everyone, ‘what do we want our culture to look like?’ Next, you discuss behaviours. You ask, ‘if this is the culture we’re aiming for, what behaviours underpin that?’

‘if this is the culture we’re aiming for, what behaviours underpin that?’

Articulating Values & Culture

I like to use Brené Browns’ method of looking at values. Her method is more about personal values, but you can use it for your organisation as well. Brown has downloads on her website of value sheets with prompts for words that may articulate the values you want in the organisation. 

For example, rather than having values like innovation, communication, transparency and integrity – all those words that we quite often see as values – why not use a different type of word that’s more meaningful to your organisation. 

Identifying Behaviours

Once you’ve got some words together, you need to identify the behavioural statements that will underpin them. For example, in my organisation, Amplify HR, one of our values is ‘Being Human’. And we have a statement that explains what this means: ‘We are all human. Compassion, gratitude, respect and fun are all welcome.’ 

Rather than setting our values as ‘compassion’, or ‘gratitude’ or ‘respect’ or ‘fun’, we’re rolling that all up into one word, to say we value being human. 

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Testing Your Values

We also need to test ourselves against our values. For example, if a client asks for advice on a particular issue, I’m not going to give a  black-and-white, risk-averse answer, based solely on the legal requirements

We value being human, so we operate more holistically. We ask questions about the different perspectives, for example:

  • What is the employee’s situation?
  • What is the manager’s situation?
  • What is the culture of that business?

We need to test ourselves against our values’

Only then do we attempt to provide advice on how to manage the situation. For example, a client once asked me for advice when an employee he’d just hired had told him she was pregnant. ‘What do I do?’ he asked.

The black-and-white answer was to provide him with the anti-discrimination legislation. But instead, we had a conversation. I asked, ‘Why did you hire her?,’Why did you think she was the best candidate for the job?’ I also asked about the concerns my client had. He said, ‘I’m worried about her going on parental leave, I have this gap in the business again.’ We could then discuss his options for managing that gap. 

Through these conversations we were able to unravel the concerns, fears and issues around the problem, as well as the practical steps that my client could take to manage the situation in a human way. Because we value being human, to the employee, to the organisation, the manager and the culture. 

Through these conversations we were able to unravel the concerns, fears and issues around the problem’

Using Your Values

When we say that we’re embedding values, that doesn’t mean we just write them into our policies. We need ways to stress-test and talk about them and show our values through our behaviours. 

Talk about Your Values

Once you have your values set or refreshed, it’s very important to talk about them as a leadership team or as a whole team. Sit down with them and have a look over your values, and ask them to consider the previous month, or quarter, or any given time period. Do these values still ring true for the organisation? Are there examples of times you’ve shown that value? 

Another one of our values at Amplify HR is ‘Continual Learning’. The behavioural statement beneath it says, ‘We strive to grow personally and expand our expertise, which enables us to provide the best outcomes to our clients’. 

When we get together to review our values, we ask:

  • How are we living that value? 
  • How are we learning individually? 
    • Are we listening to podcasts? 
    • Are we reading things? 
    • Are we looking at research? 
  • How are we learning about our client experience? 
    • Are we asking them? 
    • Are we doing our client experience calls? 
    • What are the results? 

Have your say

I would love it if you could let me know the answers to some questions. 

  • Have you defined values in your organisation?
  • Have you defined behaviours that support the value? 
  • Have you had conversations about how your team lives that value? 
  • Can you see your values in operation in your organisation? 
  • Do you use your values as a lens for business decisions?

We’d love your feedback on this series, just head on over to Amplify HR or connect with Karen on LinkedIn.

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