What are companies doing to convert core values into tangible behaviors?

Posted by Allan Steinmetz on 15 June 2017

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What are companies doing to convert core values into tangible behaviors? - Talk is not enough.

Over several months I have read several articles and blog posts, about core values. It dawned on me; I’m tired of listening about the need for core values; everyone knows that!. What’s missing from the conversation is “WHAT ARE COMPANIES DOING TO CONVERT THEIR CORE VALUES INTO TANGIBLE BUSINESS PRACTICES?” After hearing what the core values are, what are your employees supposed to do and perform their jobs differently? How do you get your employees to live and change their behavior and be aligned with the core values?

When your core company values are exhibited in everyday behavior, it can attract more of your ideal customers, foster a successful company culture, and grow your business faster. Hard, Simple. Easy.

Consider this. What are the behaviors that companies need to STOP doing which plagues them with an inability to change? What are the behaviors that they need to START doing to send the message that the company is going in a new direction that supports their core values? What are the behaviors that they need to CONTINUE to do, which enhance their strategic goals, flexibility, ability to change and adapt innovation?

Unfortunately, from what I’ve seen, most companies just talk about values, but don’t do much about it. They haven’t modified how they hire people, evaluate and appraise people. Behavior and living the core values is what is critical. Talk is cheap.

It’s not enough to state what the values are or what the culture is, rather, it is important to explain why it matters and how it translates into tangible behavior that people can relate to. Values must have meaning. Values represent beliefs that are most important to the way the company operates, such as teamwork, creativity or diversity. A values-based culture exists when employees associate MEANING to their behaviors based on specific company values. Values need to be followed by prescriptive actions and behaviors that are required. Unfortunately, values are often open to interpretation if left on paper as words.

Inward’s prescription to evolve from core values statements to behavioral change and advocacy

Here are seven steps and an approach to achieve values-based behaviors over time.

DISCOVERY/EXPLORATION - This is often achieved through interviewing the leadership team, middle management and general employees at large to understand what are the traits and behavior that distinguishes a company apart from competitors. What are they are most proud of? How would they describe the values and behaviors that reinforce the culture? Ask them to share stories and examples that accentuate these values.

OFFSITE WORKSHOP/WITH THE HELP OF A TRAINED FACILITATOR - We find that companies often have difficulty identifying differentiating values and behaviors necessary on their own. Companies should allocate time for a special dedicated offsite workshop and employ the help of trained professional facilitators who do this work day in and day out. This activity does not come naturally and requires a process just like any other business practice. It requires productive conversations, consensus, multi-voting, working as teams and finding agreement. A highly capable facilitator helps get a company there faster, saves time and money in the long run.

IDENTIFY NO MORE THAN 5 CORE VALUES – Identify and agree on five core values through leadership consensus. All too often, values include everything plus the kitchen sink, to represent what they stand for and to describe their culture. We once had a client that had 12 core values that no one could remember. Through the facilitated workshop, your efforts will be “HARD” and difficult at first, but as you get towards the end of the workshop, your value statements will be “SIMPLE”, so that they can eventually be communicated to the organization with “EASE”. “HARD, SIMPLE EASY”

ARTICULATE THE CORE VALUES SO THAT THEY ARE EASY TO UNDERSTAND - Avoid platitudes or implied meaning. For instance, saying that “Respect for diversity and inclusion of cultures” is a lot different from vague statements such as “Reshaping our People Culture” - how are your people supposed to behave when they see or listen to this statement? Be clear, say what you mean and avoid trying to be overtly creative with your words. Use action words.

EXPLAIN THE DESIRED BEHAVIORS ASSOCIATED WITH EACH CORE VALUE AND HOW THE BEHAVIORS REPRESENT A DEPARTURE FROM THE PAST - Communicating the core value and allowing it to linger on your website without showing or explaining how the values comes to life is a lost opportunity to reinforce who you are and what you stand for.  Demonstrate and explain the desired behaviors and how they correlate back to the core values. For instance, if a core value is to be customer centric, the behaviors associated with that value would be to become brand advocates, to understand the company’s products and services so that one can explain the benefits and enhance the reputation of the company in the marketplace. If the core value is to be “Innovative”, explain that the company won’t tolerate slow decision-making for quick fixes, but rather desires disruptive ideas and behaviors that make it more responsive with decisive decision-making that is appealing to customers and employees alike.

COMMUNICATE WITH AN INTEGRATED INTERNAL DIALOGUE MARKETING® PROGRAM - It is not enough to simply launch the values and hope that they stick. Like any other business process, such as logistics, procurement or HR planning, internal communications of the values require a codified process and methodology. It requires allocation of people and resources, program management and a budget to match the priority. Don’t treat it as “a NICE to have” but rather ”a  MUST have”. Your integrated plan must have four sequential component parts; 1. an experiential awareness building program, 2. An education component that builds understanding and comprehension on a personal level. Use effective on boarding, tools, consider training and development in gamification techniques so employees understand “what’s in it for me” (WIIFM), 3. Peer to peer recognition that reinforces employee commitment on internal/external social media. Content should focus on behaviors and acknowledgment of others who live the values, 4. An incentive and reward program that recognizes individual contributions and performance for living the values. These can be public acknowledgments, monetary incentives, gift certificates and generally making people heroes by showcasing their contributions.

ACCOUNTABILITY AND LIVING THE VALUES – Once the core values are defined, desired behaviors identified and an integrated Dialogue Marketing® is launched, it’s time to measure performance and adherence to the values over time. The current best practice is to measure and receive feedback on engagement and values as frequently as every 10 days to every month. This has replaced the annual engagement survey. Additionally, behavior should be aligned into annual performance appraisal systems, learning and development systems and ultimately, annual financial ROI and results. Consider creating KPI metrics for functions, regions and companywide. Furthermore, provide reporting and share results in the internal Dialogue Marketing® Communications program.

There you have it. Seven tangible steps and a process to establish new behaviorally to support your company’s core values program. If you would like some guidance and counsel to create a program that is outlined above, please give us a call.