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Do you value your values, or are they just words on a wall?

(Olivier26 / Depositphotos.com)

(Olivier26 / Depositphotos.com)

According to recent data from Gallup, only 27% of employees actually believe in their company’s values. This is alarming because values describe an organization’s culture, which is defined as “how we do things here.” Values also describe who you are, what you believe in, what you hold to be dear and true, and the attributes that everyone should experience when they interact with anyone from your organization. Examples of values include accountability, innovation, results-orientation, fun, continuous improvement, and bureaucracy-free.

Jill Christensen

Jill Christensen

If two-thirds of employees do not believe in their company’s values, it’s not surprising that two-thirds of U.S. workers are also disengaged. This is no coincidence. Great cultures produce higher levels of employee engagement.

Perhaps employees do not believe in their company’s values because those values do not accurately reflect the organization’s culture. For instance, more than a decade ago I worked for a company that touted accountability as one of its six values. However, virtually no one was held accountable in that organization and worse, favoritism and unfairness were pervasive. We employees knew this was the case and it showed in our low employee engagement score.

Talk to a employee engagement survey expert.

Honesty makes the difference
While it’s okay for an organization’s values to be aspirational (yet achievable), it’s not okay for an organization’s values to be a flat-out lie. Why? Because everyone who interacts with your organization will discover it, which will prove detrimental to what people think about your organization, and your ability to attract and retain great talent. Now, more than ever, former and current employees are actively posting about their experiences on social media sites, sharing with the world your organization’s achievements, strengths, incongruences, and weaknesses. If you are dishonest about who you are, you will be found out and the consequences could be great.

Conduct a values audit
So, what’s my culture hack? Conduct a values audit. In the audit, conduct a survey as well as face-to-face focus groups to ask employees if they believe your values truly reflect the organization and “how we do things here.” This can be incorporated into your employee engagement survey. If the outcome is poor, start over and ask employees for their help creating a short list of positive, inspirational values – five to seven – that describe who you are, what you believe in, and the attributes that people will experience when they interact with the organization.

By engaging employees in the process of drafting your values, you will increase engagement, because every person in this world wants to have a voice at work and know their voice is being heard. In addition, you will get an accurate picture of your culture– one that employees can believe in, buy into, and role model.

Bring your values to life
Once you have a set of values that accurately reflects who you are, bring your values to life. Allowing your values to be nothing more than a plaque on the wall – or a list on your website – would be a mistake. How do you make your values come to life?

  1. Hire for a values match.
  2. In the performance management process, rate people on their ability to meet their goals and their ability to live your values – 50/50.
  3. Reference your values in every company communication.
  4. Create a recognition program that enables employees to reward people who live the values or  exhibit behaviors aligned with the values.

A priceless reward
Building an amazing culture is not difficult. It starts with a short list of values that honestly reflect who you are and what you believe. It ends with everyone living those values and holding them in the highest esteem. Priceless.


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