The knowledge: find out what you stand for

Discerning a set of organisational values can be a helpful way of building a sense of identity and staff cohesion. Just Recruitment Founder and Managing Director Jenny Wrightson shares tips on how to do it.

Values can’t be imposed on a workforce. They have to grow organically from what people perceive to be the character of the organisation. If you’re developing a values statement, it pays to be as consultative as possible.

    It’s great to let your customers know what you stand for. But you need to deliver against that vision.  

Every organisation needs something to live up to. While values tend to emerge from what people think about their corporate identity, they function best if they have an aspirational element. They should set standards of behaviour that help people aim high. That’s the way to build a positive workplace culture.

Empty words don’t compel action. A clever PR consultant can develop a values statement in five minutes. But it won’t resonate with the workforce unless it rings true. Better to have a set of values that are messy, and don’t permit easy expression, than a set that your people don’t believe in.

People need space to understand who they are. If you’re serious about developing a set of organisational values, give your people the time they need to do it properly. Take them out of the office to think. Give them a change of scenery. Buy some decent coffee and cakes. Set up the right conditions at the start of the enterprise, and you’ll be far more likely to reap the rewards.

Values help motivate your team by giving them a shared sense of purpose. If you know what you’re working towards, and what your employer stands for, you’re far more likely to give your best. That’s why values play such an important role in staff motivation.

Reminders are helpful, but don’t go overboard. Once you have your values distilled into some kind of statement, it’s worth sharing it throughout the organisation. Post it in the staff room or give people laminated cards to stick up near their desks. When they need a reminder of what they’re working for, they’ll have it readily to hand.

Don’t become complacent. A values exercise isn’t something to be done once then forgotten. You should revisit your values regularly, at least every three years. Be honest if you don’t think they’re accurate. Let your staff refine them. Every business changes. So why should your values stay fixed in time?

Build your customer offer around your values. It’s great to let your customers know what you stand for. But you need to deliver against that vision. With your values in place, you need to embody them throughout your organisation.

An objective eye can make all the difference. Sometimes it is hard to see the wood for the trees. By bringing in an external consultant or adviser, you’ll get a fresh perspective on your business. That will help you refine your self-understanding – though you need to be prepared to hear some hard truths if the process is to be truly worthwhile. 

Nobody’s perfect. So why should your business be any different? Don’t plan to fail. But do be realistic about what you can achieve. You may fall short of the ideals you set out in your values statement. But that only makes it all the more important to have one. Then at least you have a way of measuring performance.

Don’t forget the bottom line. Values are one of the means by which you optimise business performance. Don’t let them become a distraction. They’re a business tool: a way of saying “this is who we are” and “this is what we want to achieve”. 

© 2019 Just Recruitment Group Ltd

Published: 18 December 2019

If you liked this article you may like to read: Keeping pace with a fast-moving industry

You may also like to read: Ten ways for an employer to engage their employees

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