Corporate Values. I bet your organization has some. Are they on a wall in a frame, in your employee handbook, displayed in reception, on your careers site, or even on the side of a mug or a pen? Do they have a whole section to themselves on the intranet?
Does your organization live and breathe them, do they guide your decision making and behavior every day, do they reflect your culture? Does every single one of your employees know what they are?
I’m guess you can answer yes to the first question. But not so many companies can answer yes to the second. And if you can’t, just how much time and money did you spend developing and launching them?
‘Words on a Wall’ or True Corporate Values?
Most companies have corporate values. They have become an accepted part of corporate life. I’ve certainly been involved in creating a few, and I bet many readers of this blog post will have too. I have absolutely nothing against the principle of an organization articulating what they stand for, what their culture is all about. Or indeed what they would like it to be. When developed, implemented, communicated and embedded properly they are capable of driving organizational culture and behavior; they can become a shared language.
Unfortunately, many more companies fall into the ‘words on a wall’ list than really make them rock in their world.
Think of your own espoused list of corporate values. Do they really reflect what your company is all about? Do they feel true? More importantly, what purpose are they serving? Because if they aren’t recruited against, managed against, rewarded and recognized against, talked about and believed, then what did you spend all that money for anyway? Launching values that are then ignored or sidelined is more damaging than doing nothing all. It’s just lip service.
Another bug bear of corporate values for me is just how generic and homogenous they tend to be. Flexible, innovative, excellence, customer first, trusted. Sound familiar? Check your own values. Do they say something unique about you, or do they just make you sound like everyone else?
New values are launched in a frenzy of internal communication, but end up being nothing more than a list of words owned by HR that appears in the handbook, in the pretty frame in reception, somewhere in the depths of your intranet site.
I know that there are organizations where values really matter and are part of the fabric of daily working life. From my own experience they are in the minority. But I bet whether they are embedded or not, the majority have spent plenty of time, money and effort in their development and launch.
So what is the value of values? If you make them live, make them breathe, then yes, go for it. Your values will explain to your employees, to future employees, to managers and customers alike who you are, what you stand for, just what it might be like to work for you. They will guide and inform your employees and managers alike. But if they are just words on a mug or pen, why don’t you just spend the money on something less corporate instead?