Beginning to value your values
Future success is only going to come from the core values of the company switching from finance to social values. In this article I will discuss how to get people on board and the areas companies should be focusing on to improve this environment.
In a world where scandals in the business world form part of everyday life, company values are becoming increasingly important, not just to the stakeholders and staff, but also to the customer.
Core values support the business vision, shape and reflect the company culture and are the essence of a company’s identity. They are timeless (should not change) and are sustainable in the longer term. Would they still be true during an economic downturn? Enron, after all, had values of respect, integrity, communication, and excellence.
When you spend most of your waking hours at work, you want to be doing something enjoyable for a business with great company culture set by strong values. After all, company culture is important to business success. The culture of an organisation is the principal source of its competitive advantage and brand differentiation. Values are what motivate and sustain behaviour over the long run. I constantly ask myself ‘what do we stand for and how are we showing this to our stakeholders, staff and customers?’
Core values are predisposed to your employees. You cannot “install” the core values into people; it’s within them already. And values are how you hire.
• Values and behaviours drive culture
• Culture drives employee fulfilment
• Employee fulfilment drives customer satisfaction
• Customer satisfaction drives shareholder value
Building a stronger brand all round
The theory of “a happy worker is a harder worker” stems from this. When values are aligned, the culture of an organisation is able to attract and retain talented individuals. This gives organisations a significant commercial advantage because your employees want to be there, are happy to be there and work to make a contribution under your company brand. These values aligning build a stronger brand. Brand values and company values are two sides of the same coin. The strongest external brands are always those with the strongest internal cultures.
The best way to optimise this is by employee engagement. All companies, however big or small, should invest in an internal communications strategy for a strong, collaborative workforce. Keeping your employees engaged and motivated is key to earning their trust. Being honest about things like company performance and areas of improvement, and most importantly, asking for their feedback – are priceless, and aid to turning them into brand ambassadors. Always listen to what staff and stakeholders have to say. And use this information for the better.
Staff and stakeholders need trust in their products and services, and trust is no longer linked to financial performance or even the status of scale it used to bring. Today, it is more about what I call the five fingers of trust:
1. What is the organisations purpose and its values? Do I believe in the same?
2. Does it have a positive side effect?
3. Does it create environmental acceptance or defeat?
4. Does it take diversity and inclusion seriously?
5. Does it create positively or negatively in my world?
On the career pages of a company website, it is not uncommon to find case studies / success stories of how employees have progressed up the career ladder within the organisation and some have even filmed a short video about it, often used as a recruitment tool. These happy employees have become brand advocates having been nurtured by their employer.
Review sites like Glassdoor are also opportunities for advocates to shout great things about the company they work for. Not everyone is a happy employer so the unhappy / poor reviews need to be managed, LISTENED and reacted to.
Social media has encouraged global information sharing. People are keen to understand the wider implications of actions from across the sea such as politics, conflict and how environmental issues affect them. Because of this behaviour of information sharing (and through stronger media and press influence), you will notice that Gen Y are more interested in the ethics and values of potential employers. They want to work for a company who has a good track record or is seen to be / have strong values - making them the employer of choice. Everything is more topical.
The global financial crisis has also made Gen Y look at things in perspective. They are sceptical about working for a company who chases the bottom line. These digital kids have been exposed to the progressive conversations of having a work life balance, work stress illnesses, suicides from job pressure etc. so they care less about risk and debt.
Gen Y want to see output from their job; they want to see value and add value. They want to feel proud about who they work for as much as the role they do. But they want to have a career path, understand how it’s structured and believe it will come true in however many years.
External communication and customers
External communication is just as important as internal communication. Brand advocates can be anyone who embodies the brand, and many companies forget how important their core values are for their customer as well as staff & Stakeholders. This applies to both the B2B and B2C worlds.
When Gap was exposed for their sweatshop / child labour scandal, it massively threatened their ethical image. With endorsements from celebrities including Madonna, Lenny Kravitz and Sex and the City star Sarah Jessica Parker, Gap has become one of the most successful and iconic brands in fashion. But this scandal lead consumers to question the integrity of the brand, and part of rebuilding their reputation included a $200,000 grant to improve working conditions hosting an international conference to come up with solutions for issues related to child labour.
Corporate governance and stewardship
Corporations play central roles in communities and with their power and wealth, they have an ethical responsibility in broader social, environmental, and ethical goals, and delivering expanded value to the communities and stakeholders they serve. Not enough companies shout about this or share about this. With the advancement of global connectivity through social media, now is the perfect digital age to strengthen this imagery and make advocates out of customers.
So the techniques needed for the future is the same as what was once practised in the past - that duty to create and sustain trust is not a man shouting at his troops. It’s a CEO trying to find the mix of purpose, performance, trust and honesty that resonates with the largest most satisfied, interconnected groups of savvy users the world has ever seen.