The Power Of Having A Set Of Values

Recently while working with clients to design interventions based on their core values, I have had the opportunity to study the value systems in different organizations across sectors.  Seeing the importance some organizations placed on their core values and the seemingly lackadaisical approach by some others, led me to reflect on the importance of the concept for organizations.

What are core values? As some experts put it, values for an organization are the guiding beacons for corporate behavior.
Core values

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They also represent the boundaries beyond which no individual can step with respect to their actions in the work environment.

Anand Mahindra talks about the importance of core values for the Mahindra Group using a beautiful analogy of a child’s painting in this video address; you can watch it here, http://www.mahindra.com/News/Media-Library/AV-1295013390

The signs of change are already out there in the market place. World renowned marketing Guru, Philip Kotler talks about values based marketing in his book “Marketing 3.0”. The book offers revolutionary insight into how marketing has to evolve to keep abreast of an increasingly sophisticated customer set, whose value systems play a vital role in their purchase decision. Companies which have welcomed and embraced this change have experienced first –hand the business benefits of doing so, larger mind share and unshaken loyalty amongst them. Ask any Apple aficionado – “Why Apple?”  and more often than not, you are likely to hear about that “something” in the products which they cannot measure and “I like the company!”  Starbucks and Harley Davidson have also managed to turn around their fortunes by embracing this change early.

So are organizational values fundamentally different from personal values? Ideally, they should not! If you look at core values of organizations across different segments, you will be surprised to notice some of the common threads which run through. A lot of organizations list integrity, creativity, team work etc. as their core values, which sound great but mean nothing if not captured more clearly. Even Enron’s core values included integrity and respect! So if majority of organizations share say, creativity as a core value, does it mean the same thing for all of them?

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team work - core values

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This is where most organizations falter. After listing down the core values, it is also important to articulate them further into measurable actions and behaviours which can be used by leaders and managers to drive employee performance.  Leaders also need to articulate how these values present the organization to the external world. See the video below on the Apple Core values being shared by the late Steve Jobs in his inimitable style.

Personal values are shaped from childhood, and influences include the environment in which people grow up, the values they have seen people around them exhibit and what they like the external world to perceive them as. If personal values are so diverse, how do organizations bring together a large number of disparate people under an umbrella of the organization’s values?  It has to start right from the time of hiring an employee. Other than the qualifications and skill sets needed for any job profile, the prospective employees’ fit with the company core values needs to be given importance in the overall hiring decision itself. Few organizations do this well, and the ones who do gain themselves excellent employees, who love coming to work and flourish in an environment which encourages their own value systems. How do you hire people basis their fit with core values? The answer lies in first having well-defined core values and behaviours associated with them.

Steve Jobs - think different

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These can be then used in interviewing or assessment stages in the hiring phase to get a reasonably good measure of whether a prospective candidate shares the same values that the organization stands for. So the next time, you need to make a hiring decision, ask yourself that all important question – “Does the candidate’s value system match the organization’s?”

Do share your thoughts on the same.

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