This isn’t an afternoon whiteboard thing.
This is much bigger and takes a lot more thinking that that. If your workplace culture is one of just showing up, completing assigned tasks and collecting a pay cheque with little thought applied to anything or one else, then you’ve got work to do. The flipside of that is, if the people you work with care enough about what they do and how they do it, the crafting of meaningful company values to use as your north star is going to be an incredibly worthwhile and rewarding experience for everyone.
Start by talking to each other about why you should commit to a set of company values
People need to get it. They need to understand the why. There are plenty of people who will need to understand why it’s not enough to show up, work hard and collect a pay cheque. An open discussion around the importance of having a higher purpose beyond making money that is more in step with being a force for good is important. It’s also important to understand that being a force for good doesn’t need to cost a million bucks. Having a hiring policy focused on diversity is being a force for good.
Once you have buy in on the why, it’s time to think about the Higher Purpose: existence beyond profit.
That first discussion went well. Now what? Start with the higher purpose – aka The Vision Thing. The values follow the purpose, because they help you get to the purpose. Do this and the people in your organisation will find meaning – and its wonderful travel partner, happiness, in their work. Remember, Who Gives a Crap makes toilet paper, but their higher purpose is to improve sanitation in developing countries. Agreed, not every organisation can manage nobility on that scale, but plenty can have visions that are absolutely achievable – like being an equitable and fair workplace enabling people to be their best selves. That in itself is a great vision that will inspire meaningful values. Here’s the other important thing about having a higher purpose, it is a solid indication that work people do will be valued.
Time to draft the values
If this isn’t collaborative with your employees, you’ve already failed. Tony Hsieh, CEO of famed online retailer, Zappos really leads the way on organisational values, purpose and decision-making. His approach to the development and setting of company values is worth thinking about. In a wide-ranging interview with McKinsey, Hsieh says one of the most interesting things he’s learned from his research into values, isn’t what they are, but, “What matters is that you have them and you commit to them and align the entire organization around them. That means you’re willing to hire and fire based on them.”
Live by that Creed and your values won’t just be a savvy piece of company PR or words to paint on the wall, but a culture you build an entire organisation – big or small – around. It’s important the team understand the values they are deciding to live by will become part of their everyday culture – or in the case of Zappos, the company values became a crucial part of the employee mindset.
Think about the Behaviours Behind the Values
One of our company values is to ‘Be a Pioneer’. The people in the company who worked on drafting, developing and finalising our values know exactly what it means to be a pioneer at Curated Content and how we interpret it through our behaviour. But we also need to make sure that everyone who joins our company in the future also understands what it takes, because by agreeing to it, they are putting themselves on the line. When we think about behaviour behind the values, we’re unpacking the commitment. We’re working through what it is going to take to adopt a values-based mindset. It’s not difficult to hire smart people. But smart people who don’t behave in a way that demonstrates the company values can destroy the culture of the entire organisation. In this instance, hiring the smart person might be the dumbest move, ever.
Make a Big Deal out of launching the Values, Behaviours and Higher Purpose, because it’s A Really Big Deal.
Now get out there and lead! Publicly own the values and behaviours behind them and make the same commitment you’ve just asked of everybody else – stake your job on it. Going back to Tony Hsieh and Zappos, you’ll find a company filled with people who are so much more than just their job description. Just Imagine the potential…
Integrate the Behaviours and Values into the daily work routine
Remember the bit about the everyday mindset? There are tons of ways to do this until it becomes so ingrained there is no need for a ‘reward the good mindset.’ Daily rituals are a great place to start. Sharing the load is another. If I’m asking my team to be pioneers, then I’m going to see that in action when they run the meeting – because I’ll see their take on doing things differently, their way. And I’ll learn from them – which is exactly how it should be.
Values as a hard metric.
It drives me crazy when people categorise values as a soft metric. Even more so when those people work in HR functions. If you’ve come this far and then measure an employee’s commitment to living the company values as a second-tier indicator of job performance, then you may have a profitable company. Maybe even a good company. But you’ll never truly know what it’s like to work in a great company.
Words: Cath Pope
Image credit: Søren Astrup Jørgensen