Are your company values fancy words or a measurable compass?
Building a company and a brand today is very different from building one 50 years ago.
It used to be that a couple of executives would meet in a boardroom, write some quirky and aspirational words on a flip chart and Bobs your uncle, company values and brand positioning were decided.
Today, this strategy is opposed to the creation of a sustainable, profitable and committed company that will survive in the modern world.
Virgin’s Richard Branson and Zappos’s Tony Hsieh agree that one of the most important elements of a high-performing, productive, and aligned company culture is a set of core values that are measurable, tangible, and observable. And with the ‘pen’ in everyone’s hands, so to speak, with the wonder of the Internet, businesses are becoming more and more transparent, whether they like it and are ready for it or not.
If your company values were the brainchild of you, your leadership team, or a couple of old men with a glass of wine many years ago, it might be time to revisit them. How will you know if they need a review? Basically, if they are not measurable, that is, you cannot touch, see, hear or feel the values in action, then you are way behind. If you can’t describe what your values look like in action, how can you hold your managers and staff accountable for them?
The best way to build a brand that is sustainable and create values that are a measurable compass for your actions is to focus on your company culture. As Tony Hsieh of Zappos says, “Your company culture and your company brand are just two sides of the same coin.” Unless you get the inner culture to work well, what shows up on your outer brand will never reach its potential and market hold.
In most organizations, values are defined in lofty terms that are difficult to translate into practical day-to-day application. Therefore, what is needed is the active engagement of everyone in the company to determine what values should look like when fully lived and in action. Without clearly defined behavioral guidelines that describe exactly how an “honest” employee behaves, each leader and staff member can define those values according to their personality, role, and activities. If you don’t behave according to my unique definition of “honesty,” for example, my trust in you erodes. The result over time? Loss of respect, increased stress and anxiety, and inconsistent treatment of employees and customers.
So what steps can you take if you want your values to be more tangible and practical? Here are a couple of ideas:
Step 1. Define your values in practical terms. Bring a group of staff together and work with them to brainstorm potential behaviors that you would be proud to see all staff demonstrate when they are modeling this value. Which does not mean what they think about that value, but the actual visible tangible behavior that they would be doing and that would tell you that they are living that value.
Step 2. Ask your people: is this value related to observable behavior? How would you evaluate the demonstration of this behavior by someone? Remember that what gets measured gets done. If it can’t be measured, it won’t happen.
Step 3. Review your hiring procedures. Consider how you can incorporate behavioral questions into your hiring process to ensure that you are hiring not only with the competence for the position, but also with the right attitude that will best fit your guiding values and company culture. For example, if one of your values is “thinking outside the box,” you might ask recruits, “What was the best mistake you made at work? Why was it the best?” Make this cultural adaptation aspect count as much as your skills and experience.
Step 4. Consider your orientation or ‘onboarding’ process with new recruits. Do you give them a clear idea of what it means to work in your company? Are you showing them the importance of their culture and values and what is expected of them to adapt to the desired behaviors?
Step 5. Check and revisit regularly. Having the values on the wall or in a company coffee mug is not enough to keep you angry in the long run. Make sure they are not only integrated into your performance review, planning and decision-making processes, but also check every year or so to make sure they remain relevant to who your business is and where it is going strategically.
Why bother? Because not only does it make good business sense, but the rules of the business game have changed – we are not in the same industrial environment we were in 50 years ago – Adam Lowry, co-founder of Method said it well:
“Business, as the largest and most powerful institution on the planet, had the greatest opportunity to create solutions to our health and environmental crises. Since the dawn of the industrial age, business has changed people’s health and the state of the world. planet for growth. and profits, but it doesn’t have to be this way … I am convinced that companies are the most powerful agent for positive change on the planet. But they are not companies as we know them today. It is fundamental and profoundly different. It’s a redesigned business. “