Why your organisational values matter

Chris Andrew
By Chris Andrew
Strategy Director

Over the last 18 months, you probably learned the value of human bonds. As we emerge from a time of change and uncertainty, we are seeking to reconnect with one another and to redefine what is important to us.

Reconnection is the theme of this year’s World Values Day on 21 October. The annual campaign raises the awareness of values around the world. One of its aims is to encourage organisations to think about their values and to use them to create positive change in communities.

So, what are company values?

Our values define who we are; they guide our behaviour and interactions with one another. When we share common values, we feel a sense of unity and understanding. In an organisation, they shape workplace culture, motivate employees, and influence how a business is perceived by stakeholders and members of the public. Values are not to be confused with an organisations purpose, the difference in short, purpose inspires, values guide. Purpose is about why we do what we do, values are how we achieve our purpose.

As employee comms specialists, we've identified five reasons why your organisation values matter now more than ever: 

1. Strong values attract top talent

It’s tempting to think of an organisation’s values as corporate wallpaper – they exist in the background and are useful for adding some impressive-sounding words to the corporate website. 

However, values are a lot more than that. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that companies with strong values will help with talent attraction. This is truer of today’s jobseekers than it has been in the past. A survey from Glassdoor found that over 77% adults across four countries, including the UK and the United States, would research the company culture before applying for a job. 

This proves that people want meaningful experiences at work, and increasingly want to find companies that align with their values, and it’s even more true of Gen Z. While salary is still important to them, this generation would also review what a company stands for before contemplating a job. 

Deloitte believes that companies and employers will need to prove they are “good global citizens” to win this generation over.   

If you want loyal employees who are likely to stick around, it’s a good idea to have values they can get behind. But before people can do this, they need to be clear on what the values are. Communicate them internally and externally. Prove that they matter by “living” the values in the workplace, avoiding high turnover. 

2. Values define your company culture 

Like all companies and organisations, values evolve over time. COVID-19 upended our working lives and had us relying more on trust and flexibility to get things done. Remember working from the living room or your kitchen counter? You might still be!

For many employees, working life no longer means five full days in the office. As a business, that might mean re-evaluating what values are important in light of changed employee expectations.

Assess your current workplace culture and decide whether your values need an overhaul. Ask your employees and stakeholders for their opinions. It could be through a survey through one of your employee channels. Create a communications plan to engage your employees and make sure they’re listened to. 

World Values Day has produced a useful guide that can help you identify new values for your organisation. Remember that your values should sound like your tone of voice. Put them into words you’d use to talk to your employees or customers, avoid jargon and use simple language.

3. Values are linked to our wellbeing 

Avoiding stress and burnout should be the aims of any organisation hoping for a productive and happy workforce. Research suggests that having meaningful values can offer some protection against stress and lower the stimulation of the stress hormone, cortisol.

Another way of reducing stress is to invest in employee wellbeing and show that you care. When COVID-19 hit, Microsoft acted quickly, telling all their hourly employees that they would get their usual pay, even if their hours were reduced. By making the announcement public, they were transparent with their intentions. It proved that their company values – integrity, respect and accountability – are not just lip service. 

Other companies acted in similar ways, putting their company values and employee wellbeing at the top of their response to the pandemic. Some, for instance, started group yoga sessions online as a way of bringing teams together to do a healthy activity. 

When you show that your company values are important, employees feel valued themselves, increasing their wellbeing at work and making them more productive. 

The pandemic has put many people through several months of disruption and stress. By talking about how you are putting employees' health first, it confirms you care and have taken on board their recent experiences. An always on approach is best practice to ensure buy 

4. Values can help support your strategic goals 

When employees feel connected through shared values, they are more likely to be motivated and energised. A workplace culture where people thrive and can express themselves will lead to more creativity. You can harness this power to achieve your organisational aims. 

PwC found that companies with a distinctive culture are twice as likely to experience strong growth compared to the industry average. In other words, your workplace culture has a direct effect on productivity and the bottom line. 

Make sure any business plan or organisational shift reflects your values. Ask yourself if it’s aligned with your stated aims as a business. Before communicating any big changes to employees, ensure the values are at the heart of your plan. You will have better buy-in. 

5. Company values simplify decision-making 

When you don’t have a clearly defined purpose or set of values to guide you, it’s easy to get lost. This is as true of people as it is of organisations. It's easier to take decisive action when you know what you stand for. 

Take PayPal as an example. The company cancelled its plans to open an operations centre in Charlotte, North Carolina. It followed the passage of a law mandating that people in the city use a toilet based on their gender at birth. PayPal considered this law discriminatory and not aligned to its values of inclusion. 

In a statement, Dan Schulman, PayPal’s CEO, said: "Becoming an employer in North Carolina, where members of our teams will not have equal rights under the law, is simply untenable.” 

In this case, the company values guided their decision and made it logical to take a stand. Organisations that don’t have strong values, however, will be less likely to take strong action in the face of controversy. 

As consumers increasingly look for companies that act in the interest of the planet and communities, this could be seen as a sign of weakness and less attractive to prospective employees. 

Make your values count 

Once you know your values and have them embedded in your organisation, make sure you don’t neglect them. An organisation with values that are aligned with that of their employees and stakeholders is more resilient, collaborative, productive, creative, and attractive to others. 

As we have already said, having strong values can engage employees, make them feel energised, and on board with your goals. Reconnect with what’s important to you and your colleagues this World Values Day. 

Looking to communicate your values more effectively and align them to your organisation’s goals? Get in touch. That’s what we’re here for.