If you’ve been paying attention to Forbes , the Harvard Business Review or any place in-between it’s unlikely you’ve missed the growing buzz around “company culture” & “company values” or their more contemporary big sister “purpose driven.” That said, when HR Resolved polled a random sample of professionals none of them could explain to us how these 3 buzzwords have benefited their employee experience or furthered the businesses they work within.
To the contrary we have all read about a handful of “purpose driven” companies who are actually benefitting from a stellar implementation and use of “company values” to drive “company culture” (Patagonia, Whole Foods, Zappos, …) and the resultant benefits felt by employees and the business alike.
The difference is often concept or talk vs. deployment or implementation!
Years back I had the opportunity to play a part in creating one of those organizations. At the time, an emerging high tech renewable energy company under the mentorship of a nearly unmatched leader. In short, we tackled establishing and implementing a company values statement that would eventually be titled “Who We Are.” Among the many learnings that came from leading this experience, the one that stands out to this day was the remarkable impact this initiative had because everyone in the roughly 330-person organization was able to have a part in establishing it!
Everyone’s involvement, even in a smaller company, may sound overwhelming and frankly to represent ‘how we did it’ is likely the subject of a much longer paper.
But it’s not the only way.
Today, years later and after my detailed exposure to Danaher Business System, Waste and Value Stream Mapping I would even advocate to approach the deployment of company values, culture and purpose incrementally different. One thing however remains constant, each employee in the organization must be explicitly clear on how they will be held accountable to that purpose, culture and values.
Conceptually understanding company values and their influence on culture or purpose is a far cry from deploying, or making actionable, those values into the organization. After all values are not visible!
What is visible, and therefore actionable and measurable, are the behaviors we demonstrate and the behaviors we expect of others while executing our daily work. These behaviors are a direct reflection of the values from which they are based.
As Human Resource leaders, it’s our job to lead the business in defining the values it holds dear, translating those values into behaviors appropriate for each level of the organization (Executive, Leader, Individual Contributor, …) and most importantly establishing a structure to leverage those values / behaviors toward beneficial results across the entire employee experience (Value Stream).
Leveraging behavioral expectations starts early with organization design, job need identification and eventually interviewing & selection. Behavioral expectations may be quickly revisited in the assimilation & competence building process that speeds new employees to autonomy in their role. Annually, behavioral expectations are used to illustrate “what success looks like” for each employee in each role, complementary to functional goals. Finally, behavioral expectations are leveraged in the unfortunate but inevitable dismissal of underperforming employees. As the saying sadly goes “we all too often hire based on skills & fire based on values”.
Does HR Resolved think company values are a critical piece of Performance Management, Employee Experience and The Organization of the Future? Or simply put, critical to employee & company success? And do we believe the only way to effectively deploy values is through the establishment and communication of behavioral expectations?
Heck yes, we do!
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Still curious? Want to continue challenging classic HR paradigms? Please reach out to start a conversation.
Our friends at Wolf & Heron have added to the conversation with a young professional’s (dare I say millennial’s) perspective on — looking for that next place to work, and paying attention to how that company’s values line up with their own.