Most companies do not have effective assessment systems to measure ROI on values
Articulation and embedding the values into each pore and follicle of the organisation is important. But more important is to ensure its sustainability
Though people try to envisage corporate values in many forms, they simply are the ‘operating system’ of the organization. “Corporate values create stakeholder values and are the bedrock of growth and progress towards building the great organizations of the future,” says Dilip Mohapatra, Vice President, Suzlon Energy Ltd.
As a kid, when I first read the story of Jack and the Bean Stalk, I was more intrigued by the stupendous growth of the stalk than Jack’s encounter with the giant on top! My tiny but curious mind was full of wonder about the bean seed that encapsulated some magical elixir, which perhaps made the plant grow. Man’s obsession with growth is manifested in many such imaginary tales and a lot of real world episodes, that depict man’s quest for exponential excellence. When one looks for various growth drivers which fuel organizations to mature, diversify and expand, one perhaps would discover that at the root of it all, lies the seed of organizational vision and values that gives the organization continuous sustenance to survive and succeed through time.
Though people try to envisage corporate values in many forms, they simply are the ‘operating system’ of the organization. Corporate values create stakeholder values and are the bedrock of growth and progress towards building the great organizations of the future.
As you Sow, so you Reap
There is ample evidence in studies and surveys which cite the benefits of corporate values in the perspective of employee behavior and performance, which in turn drives growth.
I am tempted to quote from a December 2003 Corporate Leadership Council brief, which looks at how six select Fortune 500 companies from diverse industries recognize, implement and manage values, and assess effectiveness of their value initiatives. The reasons why these companies focus on the value initiatives comprise the following:
• To generate future growth
• To leave behind a legacy
• To refocus company business objectives
• To respond to large scale organizational change, and
• To serve customers better
Profiled companies use multitude of means to introduce values in their organizations, which include a variety of communication mechanisms like posters, banners, CEO presentations, road-shows, town-hall meetings, newsletters, manager discussions, video presentations, and the like.
These companies have put in place dedicated and designated individuals to be custodians and overseers of organizational values, which include Brand Manager Committees, Value Managers and Values task force. They have created support systems to reinforce corporate values through continuous improvement, leadership by example, value awareness through continuous communication, value-based leadership programs, ethics training, values embedded into performance management systems, linking recognition systems to values, values-driven decision-making and through institution of value accountability.
These companies go beyond the confines of their own organizational boundaries and communicate corporate values to external constituents like general public, investment community, candidates looking for employment, shareholders, customers, vendors and suppliers, and thus add to their brand value.
Most companies do not have effective assessment systems to measure ROI on values since a large number of factors affect the bottom line and it is not easy to isolate the effect of values from other causes. That said, the profiled companies have made some attempts to evaluate whether employees understand and believe in the espoused values and have developed metrics around diversity, employee opinion surveys, environmental record, organizational climate studies, focus groups, performance appraisals, productivity, recorded incident rates, turnover, and the like. These companies believe that a value-based culture would result in many tangible and intangible benefits which include achievement of financial objectives, fulfillment of customer service goals, heightened integrity in decision-making and actions, enhanced cost savings, improved safety, increased diversity and reduced attrition.
Nurturing the Nursery
Reinforcement of employee understanding and appreciation of corporate values is best achieved when companies hold employees across all levels accountable for practicing the espoused values. The most popular tactic used to promote accountability is to link employees’ performance appraisals to their demonstrated behavior reflecting corporate values. Nokia is one of the pioneers in embedding its values directly into the company’s performance management system.
These values and associated behaviors also serve as the basis for screening and selecting potential hires. Nokia has translated its values into a set of 35 behaviors that are believed to be a practical manifestation of those values. Eligibility for bonuses, promotions, etc., is dependent on demonstration of these behaviors in addition to achievement of business targets.
Articulation and embedding the values into each pore and follicle of the organization is important. But more important is to ensure its sustainability. Constant reinforcement through several ways as cited above is necessary for the values to remain alive and ticking.
At Suzlon, the corporate values are branded as ‘Big Bond’ and seen as the glue to promote oneness through a unified culture binding a multi-cultural and multi-ethnic team globally. In the words of Mr Tulsi Tanti, CMD, Suzlon, “We should recognize and live by the values that represent who we are and what we believe in. Values that are being created, not for any short term motivation, but for a more enduring future as an organization, will finally help each one of us to blossom from within and realize our true potential.”
Suzlon’s Five Espoused Values are:
• Agility: Rapid and decisive action on matters important to company’s progress
• Creativity: Innovative work practices leading to a more efficient, more competitive and more responsive organization
• Adding Value: To all work-related matters, and contributions to team and all stakeholders
• Committed: To partnering with all stakeholders, both internal and external, and towards achieving corporate objectives
• Integrity: To abide by truth, transparency, honesty and sincerity in all facets of work, with highest standards of ethics and respect for all laws that apply to company’s business.
All these values have been translated into action statements applicable to individuals and shared with the employees. To add the desired symbolism, all the values are color-coded, agility by blue, the color of speed, flow and action; creativity by pink, the color of novelty and spontaneity; adding value by yellow, the color of light depicting new perspectives; commitment by deep green, symbolic of evergreen association, youth and longevity and finally integrity by white, signifying purity, truthfulness in thought and action. The Big Bond is created by braiding each of these strands into a complete multi-hued yet, single plait.
Instilling the Values: The 6-A Approach
The process of total transformation can be seen through a step-wise realization by taking a leaf from our ancient scriptures. Just as the ‘being’ transcends itself to finally merge with the ‘supreme being’ through the six steps of spiritual realization, i.e., Salokya, Samiipya, Sayujya, Sarupya, Sarshthi and Kaevalya, the framework envisages the six stages of realization for instilling values within the organization, namely:
• Adaptation, and
Salokya refers to the first discovery by the ‘seeker’ that the ‘sought’ is there somewhere at close reach. This is the first stage when the desire to move up the path of realization is born. In organizational context this refers to articulation and definition of the espoused values, the first discovery of the inherent values that are intrinsic to the organizational beliefs and the vision.
Samiipya, which translates into the word ‘proximity’, depicts closeness between the seeker and the sought, while Sayujya signifies intimacy, where sense of hearing, sight and touch prevail. The operating domains are cognitive and reflective. This is the phase when individuals are made aware of the values in definitive terms and they are able to recall them. This would lead to appreciating their true meaning in the context of their roles in the organization and the values get translated into demonstrable behavior and actions.
Sarupya and Sarshthi denote the phases of adoption and adaptation. In the spiritual sense, the seeker sees the sought in multiple directions and dimensions and then tries to imbibe the infinity into the finite, the soul into the body and attain ‘oneness’. In the organizational context, the values are embraced, practiced and demonstrated in all activities and behavior. The process is that of complete absorption and internalization. That is when the state of actualization is imminent. One starts operating from the affective domain.
The last stage of supreme spiritual realization, Kaevalya takes one beyond the confines of any conceivable domain and the seeker feels that he/she has been totally accepted by the sought - and when infinity seeks the finite - and the sought seeks the seeker! That is when the individual becomes the source from where values originate and radiate across the cosmos.
Sky No Limit
Values give a sustainable competitive edge to organizations to survive in the present and propel them to become great organizations of the future. Dis-values disintegrate and destroy. While racing ahead to become good to great, organizations must recognize that these races are open-ended. They have starting lines but no finish line. Organizations of the future, which are value based, chase horizons. For such organizations of the future, sky is the limit. Or perhaps, even sky is not the limit!