Identifying organisational values and turning them into behaviours

February 2020

Company values are ubiquitous. You’ll find them declared in the employee handbook, posters on the office walls, featured on the company website – and that’s great! But they can often be absent in the place they are needed most: the culture. If there is a disconnect between the values of an organisation and the actual behaviours, attitudes and actions of its people, then they won’t mean anything.

It’s natural for values to change over time as an organisation grows and evolves. It’s therefore important to review values if you feel they are a little out of touch or the organisation is simply not putting them into action.

So, what do you stand for? Where do you want to be? By asking these kind of questions, real values will emerge.

In the first instance, you need to uncover what people say and think about the organisation both internally and externally. This can be achieved through interviews, surveys, focus groups, or group sessions to identify an initial set of values they believe represent the organisation. At this stage it’s important to find out what values the organisation is already acting out and showcasing – ask participants to give examples of when they have experienced these values in the workplace and what attributes their team members possess. A lot of words, phrases and statements will likely surface from these exercises and so it is a good idea to group, theme and eliminate. A draft set of values will then give you a clearer idea of what your stakeholders believe your organisation represents. Understanding their vision for the organisation can also help to understand what culture needs to be achieved through values.

Throughout this research and reflection process, values can shift and may need to be revised in order to meet your strategic goals. Once a final set of values are decided by the executive team, it is time to define them. Clarify the specific behaviours, attitudes, actions, and processes required to live up to these values in the workplace.

To turn these values into behaviours they must be embedded into organisational processes, such as within recruitment and on-boarding, in performance reviews, and through interactions with key stakeholders (e.g. service users and providers). For example, in candidate interviews ask them to describe a time when they have demonstrated at least one of these values to ensure you are recruiting people with beliefs and personalities that align with what the organisation stands for. You can also reward staff who are living these values through their work, acknowledging their achievements and encouraging others to act out the organisation’s shared values. The power of storytelling is also a great way to promote and reiterate values to teams, e.g. videos of leaders, managers and staff sharing their stories of when they have seen values come to life within teams.

Embedding organisational values will likely take time to have a real impact on the culture of the organisation and turn into everyday behaviours. They should therefore remain prominent and ‘seen’, guiding all aspects of the business, and the leadership team should also act as role models by living these values through their decisions and actions.

A ‘hit-or-miss’ approach to values which are simply implemented and forgotten about won’t make a fundamental difference. Carefully considered values which are woven into the fabric of the organisational culture will drive behavioural change, inspire commitment and improve performance.

Need support with developing and embedding your organisation’s values and behaviours? Give us a call on 01642 713 211 – we’d love to chat!