Most companies have a false set of values hanging on the wall. They begin with integrity and go on from there with general made up definitions of what these values mean to them. They also have a mission statement that is generally disconnected with the actual service they provide. The disconnect is the same reason people don’t like business speak. They want plain English because it is authentic. If the profits are down, but we are breaking even that means people still have a job, but the owners aren’t making money. If you say you’re a company that is about making a difference and you don’t go out of your way to actually make a difference in a true way, well it’s not a value.
So why do companies do it. Why do they put good values that are not theirs on the wall? I think the people in charge are afraid, afraid of being left behind, they are looking around at what other bigger companies do and they copy. They would rather be safe than look silly. They can look to ascribed values and say I did that and that is what we stand for. They have something to push all their internal marketing on. Their values are not real values, but goals, standards they would like to get to.
It doesn’t work.
Leadership, true leadership can influence values. Paid leadership has to enforce them.
Values are an inherent part of any culture, if you are not a start-up or a small business, you will have a hell of a time influencing culture by force. The reason being you have many people who work for you for money. They start their relationship with your organization as mercenaries. They are not there to fulfill your mission as their own, they are there to get paid. So, you prescribe values and tell them they must adhere to them. You continually communicate that these are your shared values. They look at those and think your full of it. They mentally poke holes in it and how leadership doesn’t represent it, or worse they ignore it. You spend money to say this is what we stand for. Which is fine if you are starting, you get to establish the tone and hire people with those values.
But, you are already a big business and you are looking to establish values going forward. Don’t look, around look inside. Discover what your team really values. Find out what makes work enjoyable to them. Look at those in HR doing the hiring and ask them what they look for in a new hire. Don’t try to cram too much into your values. Take the top three that are true and build on them. If you are missing certain core values like truth, merit, or service; then write it down as a short term company goal to establish a system of truth in every situation. After the campaign of honesty, then you may have established a new cultural value, or it may have fallen flat on its face because of poor leadership.
What matters most is getting down to what your company really values. If it is profit over people, then verbalize it. Own it and then reshape it. Just because you have poor values doesn’t mean you have to keep them. But you cannot replace them if you don’t actually articulate them. It is like saying “I love being healthy” and eating junk food instead of actual food. You value (enjoy) flavorful, sweet, easy food over your health. If you have a grind house of a company (you have a high turnover rate), you probably have a value disconnect that you are not being honest about. You might value profits over people and are not willing to pay the higher price to hire only the best. But if you don’t articulate that you will never be able to address it. You will think up some other reason people leave. Remember, most people go to work for your company for their own personal gain. The value your company brings to them is monetary, then it could be mission if you have a strong enough mission. The only place this isn’t true is in the nonprofit world where people go to work first for the mission. But then again, they are serving a higher value.
With all of that being said. Get down to the truth about your company’s values. What are the core values that you already have and that you could build a better company culture with.