In the last month I’ve held three group conferences – one with 30 hotel general managers, another with 100 female business leaders and the third with 50 middle managers. In each session I asked everyone to stand up and remain upright only if they felt their organization had values in place. A small minority sat down – a positive start. When I asked who could recite these values, most remained standing, but I warned them I would be putting this to the test. Unsurprisingly, at this point every time, almost everyone sat down. Tellingly, when I asked if they lived their values on a daily basis, only 1% continued to stand.
Do you know your values?
This is indicative of the situation at large. The results of our newest research, carried out in partnership with Changeboard, suggest that just 50% of employees know their organization's values. This implies that in half of all businesses across the Middle East, the individuals who actually make, deliver or offer your products or service are not aligned towards one vision. So it’s easy to see why those with poor value-led cultures have to work harder to improve their bottom line.
For some companies, being values-centric means putting a nicely engraved list of ethics on a plaque, which means very little to the person on the ground. When it comes to company culture, it's easy to assume people will ‘get it’ – but values have to be communicated often and lived and breathed in everything your business does.
One example of a values-centric organization is Apple, where CEO Steve Jobs was once famously quoted as saying: “We believe that people with passion can change the world for the better.” Apple continues to revolve around this and only recruits those who can commit to this ethos and help create some of the most innovative technologies around.
From the moment a potential employee makes contact with you, throughout the recruitment process, induction, learning and development, performance appraisals, team building, meetings and everyday conversations, values must be considered and referred to at all times. Products and services should be built upon these values so your external brand matches your culture.
Every employee needs to understand what you stand for and where you’re going. They need to know what this ‘looks like’ to them and the business and how they’ll know when they’re achieving it.
Living the message
If you’re struggling to articulate your organizational values, it’s time to do something about it. Define values now and involve your people – ask them what they think the business purpose is. Next, establish five or six core values which underpin everything you do and can be talked about every day.
It's crucial that you make these memorable, referring to them and ensuring leaders and 'value champions' live the message – it’s the only way your people will actually remember, relate to and truly live them every day.