While an individual’s value system defines how they are likely to behave, an organization’s value system largely defines ‘who’ it really is. Our values help us decide between appropriate and inappropriate modes of behaviour, and eventually define who we are. Similarly, most organizations induct their new team members into the value system that they hold to ensure that they are aligned on the culture of the organization. In all probability, this team member has also been assessed for how much of a ‘culture-fit’ he/she is at the time of hiring.
Why is this alignment to values and culture so essential? And how does it happen?
Values lead to the culture that the organization has grown to demonstrate. However, it is the people in the organization that drive it. People more in line with the organizational culture are more likely to express satisfaction with the place that they are at because they are likely to understand why certain decisions are taken and believe that they should be taken in that way. In contrast, those misaligned with these values will perhaps engage in more actions that separate them from the organization and its work, for example, looking for another job.
I think of it as being similar to cognitive dissonance. In the most ideal scenario, I would consider myself as one with the organization. If my actions match with my thoughts, I would face the least discomfort. However, if my actions do not align with what I hold closely as a belief, I would most likely face some form of discomfort or anxiety. This leads to a feeling of wanting to reduce the discomfort and therefore, I would engage in actions that would either challenge the values in the organization or those that will help me find another organization more aligned to my values. In the case that I do agree with the values, I am likely to be far more committed, thereby directly making a positive impact on the organization.
Coming up with these workplace values, however, is not just the leadership’s role. While this may seem very time consuming and challenging, think through a way where you can involve different people across your organization to help you identify these. One way of doing this is by identifying team members who have been known to be very committed to the organization’s mission and vision. Find out from them what they hold most dearly about the work that they do, the people that they work with and the organization that they work for. Then work through sieving down to a select few so that it is easy for people to keep in mind and demonstrate even in the smallest acts every day.
Think through how you would like to drive this. What is most essential here is that the leaders in the organization and on the teams, as well as the people that they hold as examples, must demonstrate these values. If not, your value system could very quickly fall through the cracks. It is the most visible way through which people in the organization will test the strength and validity of this value system and thereby be a part of it.
Keep coming back to it. Times change and organizations evolve. While at large your values might remain the same, those that you will highlight and want every team member to keep in mind may change. Some values may become intrinsic, and you may know through well tested means that you are hiring for them. Most importantly, the nature of your workforce may change. Like with any other work that you may do, keep revisiting your values to know that your teams feel as committed and in love with the workplace that they come to every single day.