The concept of Company Values is so fascinating.
I worked for many years in a multinational and traveled the world, training salespeople on all continents. When I arrived in our offices in Buenos Aires, Johannesburg, Milan, Yokohama, or wherever, I always felt “at home”. It was because I saw the same symbols on the walls, the same awards people had been awarded and the same Company Values on the walls. The interesting thing was that these values were like community laws. They were embodied by everyone. When a person would violate a Company Value, they were pulled back in line by their managers, their peers and even by their subordinates. Everyone lived them, from the most junior clerk to the most senior executive.
When I started working with SMEs, I had discussions with executives about their Company Values. Most of these executives declared that Company Values had been defined. However, when pushing the topic, I came across a number of recurring discoveries such as:
- The Company Values were defined. It was the board who had defined them so that they could be published on the corporate website – Full stop! No-one else in the company was familiar with them, and definitely no-one could articulate them. They were like a secret list of values.
- The Company Values were defined and they were published. They were not lived. Sometimes people even had them in a nice frame on their desk, but nobody really cared about them and they were not an integral part of “this is how we interact”. They were only there for show. But as we all know, this is of no value to anybody! It actually makes you wonder why they were created in the first place.
- The Company Values were defined, they were present, and they were lived. But that was it. This was pretty good, but there was more they could do to get the best out of Company Values.
Company Values are like the unwritten laws that encompass our behaviour and our actions. They should be published and they should be embodied by everyone in the company.
I was intrigued to identify that most companies don’t use their Values for the right reasons, such as:
- Performance management: most managers want to just stick their head in the ground when it comes to addressing employees who perform well, but violate the company values on a continuous basis. The typical example is the salesperson who meets their targets, but is no team player and creates a lot of problems for the people who have to deliver upon their unrealistic promises. Or the top salesperson who creates a bad company image in the market by not adhering to your agreed values.
Company Values are an excellent compass to filter out undesirable behaviour, and they can create a lot of relief to colleagues when that undesirable behaviour is addressed.
- Rewarding: Company Values can form excellent guidelines for rewarding people that display the behaviour you want in your company. Whether it is through recognition (like awards) or monetary means, is not as important. What is important is that everyone in the company hears about it and that the values are continuously reinforced.
- Hiring new staff: when recruiting new staff, you sometimes have the feeling that a person will not fit in your company culture. Although it may be difficult to express what the feeling is about, nine out of ten times it is because you feel that you don’t share the same values. Talking about values during an interview is important and asking a candidate how they have displayed their values in the past, may give you important insights. It is better to recognise a mismatch during the interview process, rather than 9 months into the employment.
- Firing staff: as an extension of performance management, when a person continues to violate Company Values, there is no place in the company for that person anymore. It is like a person who breaks the law and does not adjust their behaviour. This person will be isolated from society and locked away. It is the same in a company. Either the person fits in, or there is no place for the person. Making compromises about violating Company Values never ends well. It is like a disease that will infect more and more people. Until someone intervenes.
Want to know more?
Feel free to contact us if you feel you can get much more out of your Company Values. As you will understand, we are passionate about them!