Reaffirming Values, Unlocking Growth
Be honest: can you list your company’s values without having to check your business card or your website? Can your employees? Tellingly, if you answered “no” to either of these questions, do you feel that it matters?
A significant majority of companies publish statements of their corporate values; one classic study suggested 90% do so. But we have found client organisations often report weak internal knowledge and compliance with these stated company values. Does it matter if employees have not internalised the company’s values?
There are sound reasons to believe that companies with well-articulated values reflected in the day-to-day behaviours of leaders and employees are better positioned to deliver growth. Better Faster Growth has always incorporated a review of client values, and how these are lived, as part of its core methodology to identify opportunities to accelerate business growth.
Why focus on values now? The COVID-19 pandemic, its impact on employee motivation and the business environment, means it is timelier than ever for companies seeking growth to review and renew their values.
Clear values support growth
The question of a strong connection between company values and business performance is far from settled. Acknowledging the exceptions and outliers, our experience is that, more often than not, companies are better positioned for growth if they:
Making a strong commitment to a clear set of values will be beneficial to the company, and this is to some extent irrespective of the content of these values. Values act as criteria to speed decision-making, underpin the company’s reputation with customers and suppliers, and help employees know “what’s the right thing to do” when they encounter situations of ambiguity or uncertainty in their work.
More fundamentally, values communicate the organisation’s core purpose. Results of studies on this topic repeatedly suggest a clear link between alignment on a common purpose and employee engagement and customer perception. A company with a strong purpose, articulated through a clear and lived statement of values, can rightly be more confident in successfully pursuing its strategic goals.
Reaffirming values in the context of the pandemic
The massive shift many industries have seen towards remote and hybrid working means companies have to work harder than ever to ensure that employees are delivering in accordance with the company values. Remote working is a challenge to developing a cohesive company culture. When the main interactions that team members have are by video call, it is not surprising that something is lost in translation.
The pandemic has given many people an opportunity to reflect on whether they are satisfied with their roles and their employers. Substantial job churn is expected as economies emerge from the pandemic. It is a time when companies will need to ensure their best employees are retained but it is also an opportunity to “manage out” individuals not aligned with company values.
Globally, economic activity has been hit hard by the pandemic and there are credible predictions of strong recoveries in many markets. Companies not already doing so should be positioning themselves for rapid growth. Our expectation is that talent will be a pressing bottleneck for many companies. Reaffirming core values should enable companies and potential new employees quickly understand if there is potential for alignment and mutual benefit.
Rapid assessment of company values
Our clients are often aware of the warning signs of weakly-embedded company values before Better Faster Growth conducts a more rigorous diagnosis. These signals of stored-up problems may include high performers who are excused for inappropriate behaviour, glossing over values and culture in hiring criteria, or a lack of awareness and role modelling of values and behaviours among the team.
At pace, we seek to deepen the fact-base on what might be going wrong with a company’s values, not for its own sake, but to quickly identify remedies and realise opportunities. It is rare that sufficient actionable insight cannot be surfaced through a rigorous and rapid set of interviews, observations and reviews of available processes and decisions.
Unlocking the “value of values”
Once a company has reaffirmed its values, there are numerous interventions available to inspire and reinvigorate the workforce around company values, and embed values in everyday working practices. Some approaches Better Faster Growth has successfully applied in recent engagements include:
Where half-hearted commitment to company values is evident, this should be seen is a major opportunity for future improvement, particularly as businesses recover and seek growth as they move through the turbulent wake of the pandemic. If “culture eats strategy for breakfast”, as the well-rehearsed Peter Drucker quote goes, one might see values as the “recipe book” the company should follow, ensuring it is the right culture that is served on the breakfast table.