Article: Breathing life into your values

Employer Branding

Breathing life into your values

A 10-point checklist on how an organization can breathe life into its values without making it a drag exercise
Breathing life into your values

All organizational processes need to be aligned to the values you are espousing


Organizational Values are hardly the newest buzzwords in town. Most organizations small or large have an identified set of values, the very least for branding purposes. So why does it just remain a dusty poster for some organizations and become a way of life for some others?

When we decided to define the values at Jardine Lloyd Thompson (JLT) India in 2013, we first defined the need to have values. As we became an established organization, JLT India looked to redefine what success meant for us in the next phase of our journey. We defined success as Excellence—excellence in providing both ‘great transactions’ and ‘wow experiences’.

For an organization that had been extremely metric-focused, the move from a number-driven culture to one that looked towards deeper understanding of end user needs and delivering customized, yet process-driven solutions meant many changes. It meant that we had to create a culture of focusing on client needs for every assignment and strategically planning the delivery. It also required us to realign the way we assessed, rewarded and evangelized not just what we did but also how we did them. To create a compelling proposition for our employees, to change the way they worked, we set out on what we call our values journey.

Here is a 10-point checklist of how we breathed life into our values.

1. Keep them real

Make sure that your values are relatable in your organization. Choosing your values because they seem fancy or are being used by organizations in your sector will not be able to create the impact that you expect. Employees need to be able to relate and recognize the values in their workplace. In articulating how you would like to achieve your goals and what your organization should stand for, you will be able to come up with cues for what your organization’s values will be.

We began our journey by undertaking a survey, which threw up the values, employees in JLT India related most to. The survey gave us some interesting insights and a starting point for us to build on.

2. Get the Leadership sponsorship in place

You cannot hope to drive any successful impact from a values exercise till such time that you have very clear and strong sponsorship from the leaders in your organization. This means not just the CEO, but also the functional leaders. Make them a part of the design phase and get them to be equal partners in this journey. At JLTI, we involved two senior Business Heads to run a workshop for the entire senior management team (CEO and two levels below) to articulate what our values could be. They listed the behaviours, as opposed to outcomes, they believed were required to deliver excellence.

The cumulative inputs from the organization helped us in coming up with our final four values of Rigor, Agility, Customer focus and Collaboration.

3. Don’t make it an “HR” initiative

Don’t let this exercise get lost in the multitude of HR initiatives that a team of two to three HR resources chase and drive. This is an organizational initiative and employees need to see and feel that from day one. We setup a cross functional team of Value Ambassadors representing every vertical within JLT India to become the ambassadors of Value Behaviours. Each Value Ambassador played a specific role of a Value Architect, a Value Broadcaster or a Value Event Organiser. They then front ended every activity related to the Values Journey as per their role.

4. Make them memorable

The first big challenge in this exercise is something as simple as getting employees to remember the Values (statements or words)! Keep it short, snappy and simple. Use visuals to get them to remember and relate to them. We created short films of 5 minutes each for each Value where we showcased great and inspiring examples of these Values being lived across the world. They were examples that were not related to JLT or the kind of work we do. We took all employees (in groups of 20-25) through the films in short 90-minute sessions and asked them to share examples of these Values they had witnessed. The idea was to get people to have a strong image in their minds relating to each value such that recall could be instant. We followed this up by building a physical Values Wall and a Values discussion board on the company’s enterprise social network.

5. Get them to experience it!

Once employees start relating to the values, to keep the buzz up, get them to experience the values in their day-to-day life at work. Create opportunities for them to apply the values to their decision-making process in a safe and controlled environment. These could be through mock-role plays, games etc.

We did this in two ways. One, getting them to play two games on the floor that letting them experience the value behaviors in a group setting. Two, creating an online video game where they could, in the privacy of their work station, take value-based decisions and play an exciting game. They could share their value scores with their friends and even challenge their friends to beat their own scores.

6. Break it down

If employees are not able to see active opportunities to live the values in their daily work lives, even the most engaging marketing and communications pitches will fall flat in their efforts. Also, employees across various levels will see these opportunities differently, for e.g. - What being Agile means for an executive could be very different from what it means for a Senior Manager. Without complicating it too much, articulate the differences for them. We created a Values Behavioural Framework that set out expectations of the behaviours at every level. The framework provided a common language that could be used across the organization. It helped us calibrate around desired behaviours, have conversations around these behaviours, and align it to the way feedback, appraisals and rewards were given.

7. Walk your talk!

Make sure that all organizational processes are aligned to the values you are espousing. Bureaucracy in an organization that values agility, visible silos in a company that has collaboration as a value are dichotomies that employees are quick to zone in to and get cynical about. Ensure that every employee experience within the organization is in sync with the way you want him/her to deliver an experience to his/her customer. We relooked at our entire core HR processes and realigned them basis our values. Be it hiring, induction, learning interventions, performance assessments, reward and recognition, career development and potential identification employees could see a strong alignment with the organizational values.

8. Shout it out!

Help the employees recognise what “good” looks like in terms of value behaviors. Call out the success stories and make them look achievable. Be sure to set the right benchmarks so that people don’t aim too low. Don’t lose steam on your communications. The more you say it, the more people hear and retain it, the more it becomes a way of life. We do this by sharing value stories on a regular basis. We celebrated the Values Weeks where we focused on every value for three weeks each and conducted a contest on the most interesting stories, the best video blogs and the most interesting photographs depicting the values. We also conducted calibration sessions across various levels to identify great examples of value behaviours (both demonstrated as well as possible ones) to help set benchmarks that people could aim for.

9. Customer Feedback

Your customers’ experiences have to be aligned to your values. Customer feedback can be an excellent litmus test to check how effectively your values are being lived. Make sure your customers know what behaviors they can expect from your employees and make them a part of this journey by actively seeking inputs as well as feedback. We have made our customers our partners in this journey and continuously reach out to them to get them to share positive and not-so-positive experiences so that we can improve every day.

10. Keep it Alive

Don’t look at this as an one-time initiative. It is an ongoing journey and needs steering at the required points of inflection. It also needs continuous reinforcements and role modeling from the leadership team. Make sure that you keep them engaged by showing them the impact created by the values. The major success factor for us in the first year is that in an internal survey 84 per cent employees responded affirmatively to the statement—I can identify opportunities to exhibit the JLT India Values in my daily business activities. The values journey is a long one and requires structured efforts from the organization. The resultant output, however, is worth the investment!

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Topics: Employer Branding, #HRMetrics

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