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Values - 1 April 2014

More likely than not, your organisation has a set of values, quite possibly promoted on wall posters, fancy brochures, stationery, and cool videos.  If so, that’s great … except for one important detail: they probably don’t work.  Here’s why.  

Each individual has his or her own distinct values.  There are hundreds to choose from such as accomplishment, accountability, adaptability, adventure, affluence – and that’s just the A’s.  There are seriously hundreds.  So whenever an organisation selects five of these and dictates to employees that these are the ones they’re supposed to follow from now on, it’s rarely possible for them to do so.

Your values are inherent to you as a person.  They’re a fundamental element of your character, and that makes them difficult to change.  There’s an organisation in Australia, for example, with a company value of ‘entrepreneurship’, which is fantastic for employees who share that value and uncomfortable for those who do not.  It’s tough making people act entrepreneurially if that tendency doesn’t already exist within them.

That’s why a new research paper published in The International Journal of Human Resource Management has made reference to how challenging it can be to obtain high levels of commitment from employees when their values are not aligned with those of their employer.

Employees who fall into that group end up experiencing what’s known as values conflict.  It’s a near certainty (if your organisation has a prescribed set of values) that a significant proportion of your workforce feels that way.  The challenge for you as a leader is to avoid forcing your employees to adopt your specific values and to instead assist them in overcoming the inevitable conflict that ensues.  There are four ways you can do this.

   -   Connections:  Identify each employee’s personal values and demonstrate how they’re connected to those the organisation has selected.

   -   Behaviours:  Rather than focus on values, focus instead on ideal behaviours that still result in the same outcome.

   -   Prioritise:  Create a longer list of company values and then give employees the freedom to choose the five that resonate the most with them.

   -   Redefine:  Rather than being specific about what each value means, let employees define them based upon the ways in which they’re able to apply them at work.

The alternative is to continue as per normal, which means company values are mocked (and cynicism proliferates) all because people see little value in values … unless they’re their own.



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