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It's Time for a Core Values Audit

It's Time for a Core Values Audit

by Nate Dvorak and Niraj Patel

Leaders, picture the last time you roamed the halls of your organization.

How many of the employees you saw or spoke with that day would you guess believe in your organization's values? How many of them do you think apply those values to their work?

Chances are, fewer than you might think.

Gallup analytics show that just 27% of employees strongly agree they believe in their company's values, and 23% of employees strongly agree they can apply their organization's values to their work every day.

Why do values matter?

A values-driven culture can fuel organizational growth and attract top talent. Talented people want to work for an organization with a thriving culture.

In turn, employees who belong to fulfilling workplaces are more likely to serve as brand ambassadors who recruit talent and deliver compelling customer experiences.

Leaders who want the benefits of a value-driven culture should consider revisiting and maximizing their organization's values.

With so few employees believing in their company's values and applying those values to their work, it stands to reason that most organizations need to revitalize their values and intentionally foster an exceptional work culture.

Business circumstances, such as mergers and acquisitions, a new strategic direction or changes in leadership often necessitate value optimization.

Employees who belong to fulfilling workplaces are more likely to serve as brand ambassadors who recruit talent and deliver compelling customer experiences.

Even minor problems with culture and values can create major barriers to success during times of change.

Many forward-thinking leaders have used a data-driven approach to redefine their values and develop a culture in which employees embody those values.

Analytics help leaders choose values that attract the right type of talent and customers. Analytics can also help define tailored strategies for bringing leaders' desired culture and values to life.

No two work cultures are identical; a customized approach helps leaders ensure their values are relevant and inspirational to employees.

Here are three questions for leaders wondering whether to revamp their values.

  1. How were our values created, and do they resonate with employees and customers?

    Many leaders who objectively evaluate their organization's values discover that their operating philosophy has evolved and their values are no longer relevant.

    An organization's values should be easy for employees to understand, applicable to their day-to-day work, and pertinent to their actions and decisions.

    Relevance to customers is also instrumental, because an organization's values proclaim why a company is unique and what it stands for.

    When values are defined and articulated correctly, they ring true with current customers and employees -- and simultaneously attract potential customers and talented job seekers.

  2. How do our leaders set an example?

    At the end of the day, organizations don't have values; their employees do.

    This starts at the top: Executives and senior leaders must demonstrate the behaviors they want to see from employees. Leaders should communicate their support of core values and illustrate how those values influence their decisions.

    If this doesn't happen, employees get the idea that their organization's values are nothing more than words on a wall.

    For example, leaders can add value to customer experiences by demonstrating how employees should embody the company's values when interacting with customers.

    Actions speak louder than words, and leaders should support actions, goals and policies that align with the company's purported values.

  3. How do our best employees embody our values?

    Values set the tone for how employees represent the company, and they influence the messages an organization communicates to customers and the experiences customers have.

    Studying how an organization's best employees bring core values to life helps leaders encourage all employees to embrace and actualize core values.

    Analytics are instrumental when it comes to translating values from words into customer experiences.

    The right analytics capture qualitative insights about how high-performing workers exemplify core values to benefit internal and external customers.

    With such insights, leaders can develop a tailored strategy for promoting desired behaviors and boosting value adoption.

Answering the aforementioned questions requires in-depth qualitative and quantitative analytics, ideally from an objective third party.

With the right data in hand, leaders can make data-driven decisions about what their values should be and how to bring those values to life.

This might mean simply reinvigorating existing values or starting fresh with values that fully capture the organization's desired identity.

Then, leaders can develop a targeted strategy for cascading core values throughout all levels of the company.

Holding leaders, managers and employees accountable for representing core values is critical for keeping values alive for the long term.

An organization's values can -- and should -- be more than feel-good sentiments.

With the right approach, leaders can realize a value-driven culture in which employees and customers want to belong.

Gallup can help you develop a culture where your employees believe in company values and perform better as a result:


Bailey Nelson contributed to this article.

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