Why it’s important to create a values-based workplace culture

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When researching companies with a very low rate of employee turnover, you might be tempted to ask yourself, “why do people choose to stick around?”. Well, the answer to this question is typically because employees believe that the organisation truly lives and breathes its values. 

An organisation’s values reflect what is most important to the business – supporting its vision and mission and helping to shape its culture.

At the end of the day, a company’s values become its blueprint – its core identity defining what it stands for. 

Before diving any deeper into values from an organisational standpoint, first it’s important to understand values at a more personal level. After all, a values-based workplace culture can only be created when the values of every individual employee are aligned with those of the company as a whole. Otherwise, what’s referred to as ‘personal-organisational values incongruence’ takes place, and this is a one-way ticket to a major retention problem. 

Essentially values are a set of guiding principles which influence our judgement, behaviour, and the decisions we make. The values people ascribe to themselves are often very different from the values they practise. Anyone can talk the talk, but a person’s true values are expressed through their actions. 

What are your own core values? What is most important to you in life, and why? What brings you joy?  

Are you focused on your own personal well-being? Perhaps you prioritise helping others? Is wealth high on your list? Maybe spending time with family means more to you? Or is being able to make a difference and a sense of accomplishment what really gets you out of bed in the morning? 

When creating a values-based workplace culture, companies need to go through a similar exercise in order to be able to articulate what the organisation cares about; what its true purpose is; what it really stands for.  

For example, your organisation might care about collaboration between employees and product innovation. As such, its values might reinforce employee engagement, along with encouraging brainstorming and creativity. 

When did you last unpack your organisation’s values? What are they? How do they project what you want to achieve as a business?

Perhaps you’ve placed an emphasis on honesty, trust, respect, independence, customer orientation, or accountability? Regardless of the values you identify as being unique for your business, you need to be able to clearly articulate what the values really mean in practice.

More importantly, everyone in the organisation needs to be familiar with the values which should become a living and breathing part of the company vernacular. 

Please note that these values don’t need to be limited to single words and might even be expressed in abstract phrases, such as “Be Awesome”, “Create WOW!”, “Play, as a team”, “Be v2.0”, “Make complex things simple”, or “No Dickheads”. However, they can’t be too vague and should always be accompanied by some kind of brief explanation. For example: 

  • Bulletproof integrity: We uphold our values and our ethics whilst driving business success. We have authentic conversations, ask courageous questions, and we believe in delivering the right solution, not the easy one” 
  • Be the change you seek: Continuous improvement is a shared responsibility. Action is an independent one” 
  • When it’s on, we’re on: When we see a problem, we take personal accountability for solving it. We don’t worry about whether it’s in our job description, or who’s watching us. We just get it done” 
  • Vibe the tribe: Team spirit, fun, and passion are important to us and at the heart of how we operate. We look up to each other and support each other to get stuff done, overcome hurdles, and deliver meaningful outcomes for our customers”. 

Above all, values must have meaning, relevance, and mutuality.

In other words: 

  • What does the value really mean to an individual within the organisation? 
  • Why is the value specifically important to your business? 
  • What is required from others to reinforce the value, to keep it alive, and to integrate it into everyday practices? 

Given that organisational values should ideally reflect everyday practices, it’s important for leaders and team members to carefully think about the organisation’s true purpose.

For example, does the business operate purely in pursuit of profit and shareholder value? Perhaps there’s a focus on building solid relationships between employees, customers, and suppliers? It could be that quality, efficiency, or continual learning are a priority. Or is the development of a strong cohesive culture the main goal? 

Once you (most likely along with your leadership team) have created your values, you need to encourage your team to demonstrate the values internally with colleagues, and externally with customers as well as with the broader community.

One way to keep the values top of mind could be to embed them in branded screensavers or monitor wallpaper, or perhaps creating an internal Slack or Teams channel dedicated to values recognition and highlighting those team members living and breathing the values day-to-day. 

At the same time, it’s the responsibility of the leadership within the business to implement a values-based recruitment methodology; to ensure that new hires are introduced to the values as early as possible during their onboarding; and to incorporate the values into performance and professional development conversations as well as any reward and recognition programs. 

You might even want to consider appointing a values ambassador or a values champion internally to help provide values-related coaching to different stakeholders and to wave the values flag to ensure that the culture blueprint you put so much effort into creating doesn’t start collecting dust on a shelf or end up in a filing cabinet drawer somewhere in the office. 

Remember hellomonday provides coaching and support to leaders at all levels; prioritising development initiatives that result in long-term sustained learning and change; and reinforcing habits through curated learning and impactful coaching. 

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