Values only become valuable when they are turned into behaviours
Let’s agree that employee behaviour determines the identity and culture of the organisation. Now let’s suppose that achieving your organisational ambition requires employee behaviour that is radically different from your current norm. You need to change the organisation’s behaviour. You’re not alone. Many organisations, especially now, are thinking about their values and behaviour – what their employees share with each other – both because of the coronavirus and regardless of it.
The importance of values
Values matter enormously. But only when they become ingrained in behaviour. When organisations fail do this, those values become nothing more than empty words for many employees. Values such as ‘reliable’ and ‘accessible’ are generic and can be applied to any organisation.
The same applies to ambitions. The ambition of many banks and insurers, for example, is to ‘put the customer first’. If employees are used to giving advice from an organisational point of view, it becomes a huge challenge to advise a customer against taking a certain product when this advice would in effect be bad for the company. Or think of cultural change. If a strongly hierarchical company decides it wants a ‘start-up mentality’, this will place heavy demands on managers to demonstrate and encourage this start-up mindset.
Clearly, changing behaviour structurally requires a lot of effort. For this reason, the foundation for behavioural change lies in formulating clear organisational values, as it is organisational values that underpin what employees share in common with each other.
Things to bear in mind
The following factors are important when establishing and communicating organisational values:
- Clarity about the situation, what it requires in terms of employee behaviour and a sense of urgency around the need to formulate values.
- Employees can contribute ideas and participate in the decisions about the values. This helps to ensure the values are actually lived.
- Management acknowledges the values, because you cannot expect your employees to exhibit the ‘correct’ behaviour if your managers don’t.
- Clarity about how the new values contribute to the organisation. When the organisational goal is clear, people can see the effect of their behaviour.
- The values are concrete, recognisable and directly applicable. Abstract concepts are of no use to anyone – everyone needs guidance on how to act in certain situations.
- The values are anchored in the organisation. The degree to which the values are anchored determines to extent to which the values are observed.
How to anchor your values in your organisation
It is essential that any values you create are truly anchored in the organisation. Values are not a one-time agenda item; your organisation should be living them every day, so they need a permanent place on the agenda because.
5 steps to anchoring new values in your organisation:
- Emphasise the values in your communications.
- Stimulate continuous dialogue about behaviours, best practices and the things employees encounter.
- Ensure your board and managers model exemplary behaviour.
- Address behaviour that is not in line with the values.
- Use the values to manage the organisation by incorporating them into assessment systems and coaching and feedback conversations.
To measure is to know
Having introduced and anchored the values in the organisation, the next step is to measure them from time to time. This is essential if you want to know how people feel about the values. Do people know what the values mean? Do they agree with them? Do they feel they can work with them? Do they understand what the values imply for their own actions? Are they willing to change their behaviour? To what extent does their current behaviour match the ambition? Do they see management modelling the desired behaviour?
In this case, we are not aiming to measure satisfaction, but to measure involvement. The more individual and personal the results the better, as this makes it possible to develop an individual approach for each phase – for example, through extra guidance and coaching, but also through the use of appropriate means of communication and HR instruments. Achieving behavioural change involves customisation. Making change as personal as possible increases the organisation’s overall power to change.