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Values are the foundation for everything that your business represents. Business heads invest intellect and articulate core values with immense passion and pride. They give direction to the company and motivate employees. Ironically, more often than not, they rarely make the journey from the boardroom to the workplace. 

Most management teams can recite the values, mission, vision, and corresponding action statements in their sleep. But for the employees, it’s a different story altogether and in Latin!

Let’s walk a mile in the employee’s shoes.

One of the first things that hit employees joining most organizations is a bundle of Core Values! It comes with fancy cards, kits, wearables, HR-led sessions – the whole nine-yard!

Here the good news is that more than 80% of companies have well-articulated albeit not so well thought out core values. The big question – Do the employees even know them, not as phrases but what it is in action.

At the new joiner’s orientation, the newbies look at with bewilderment – what new “….” is this now?

Just the beginning of the great chasm in what the organization hopes its employee thinks of its core values and what the employees truly understand, believe and display. A reality check is closer home when you take a walk around the workplace, speak to tenured employees, and discover that few believe in the values and even fewer apply them. 

Yes, it is rightfully worrisome! Your employees are the flag-bearers of your brand and their experiences, handholding, and nurturing either enrich or devalue your corporate culture.

So, what can you do to create a richer employee experience?

Let’s get the first trap out of the way – Value initiatives are not about getting employee consensus. They are to align them to the organization’s strategic beliefs, by design.

With this end in mind, the three most effective ways are to communicate, model, and reinforce.

How do you communicate values to your employees?

Commonly used tools of posters, emails, calling cards, workstation displays are effective in increasing recall value, but not so much in conveying the base meaning. It’s like a screensaver pops up one day without any explanations. In all likelihood, it will get shoved to a side by a confused employee, not a happy one.

Leaders who want to build a value-driven culture invest time and effort in tutoring their employees first-hand. A belief shared by leaders is an unparalleled experience for employees. They get to feel not only “what” the value is about but also the “why” and “how” of it. This instantly creates a long-term connection for the employee.

Once the starting is nailed, the messaging needs to flow into an annual communication plan, which will cascade the value system across levels. This communication needs to be sustained and not a one-time event. Employees should find it easy to comprehend, apply it in their daily workflow, and relate it to their workplace decisions. 

After you have embedded the values into systems, promote those values at every turn. 

Remember that the best communication plans can be laid to waste if values are not modeled by appropriate behavior. 

Why is model behavior so significant, you may wonder? 

Imagine the core value of collaboration. At a new project launch, high-performing managers announce in team huddles that team support alone cannot drive performance and individual contributors need to keep the boat afloat, and that will be rewarded.

Yes, you can hear the crashing sound! 

Saying something and acting radically opposite, brings instant disillusionment that core values are just fancy words to adorn learning room walls. This ethical gap between what they must do and what they end up doing leaves an employee unhappy and confused. 

Organizational programs are an excellent avenue to model core values. “Developing employee talent and leadership” breathes and grows in a business that invests in the educational opportunities of its employees. “Empower & Inspire” can be brought to life only when managers enable their subordinates to take baby steps in decision making, in small but significant ways. Nothing empowers like the actual act of allowing an independent decision to be taken and executed. It sends employee engagement soaring.

With the growing skepticism around values in the present times, executives would do well to lead by example every chance they get. Think, speak and act consistently with the core values to build credibility.

Building and recognizing brand ambassadors of model behaviors is an effective way to reinforce desirable value actions. Look for opportunities to weave values into every process of your organization. A simple “respect for the individual” needs to be honored not only at onboarding but in the exit process too. Every operational process has the scope to be reworked to comply with your core values and should be aligned as such.

The rewards and recognition program has huge potential to reinforce action anchors, due to its tangible nature. A recognition solution that allows colleagues to reward each other for living values is effective in two ways. One keeps people from checking each other behavior and the other is to motivate employees to be on their best behavior at most times!

When employees see core values in the limelight consistently and at every step, it keeps them enthusiastic and motivated to strengthen the fabric of culture. Linking employee benefits programs to value metrics strengthens the message – acts that align with company values will be incentivized and promoted.

A zero-tolerance to value contradictions by warning, counseling, or termination will do well to ensure that your employees necessarily represent the beliefs your brand stand for.

 As a parting thought, take a moment to revisit your policies and procedures. Are they in sync with your values? If they are – rejoice! If not, do revise them to enable your people to walk the talk of your core values!


Key Takeaways

  • Value initiatives are meant to align with the organization’s strategic beliefs.
  • Communicate, model, and reinforce are the three most effective ways are to infuse organizational values.
  • Organizational programs are an excellent avenue to instill core values.
  • Brand communication thrives on behavior that models organization value.
  • Policies and procedures should sync with organizational values
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