A passionate HR Executive with over 25 years of experience, Claudine currently leads the people team at Enova.
The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the way people work. More employees than ever are working in a hybrid or fully remote capacity. Their expectations of their employer and relationships with coworkers have shifted. This begs the question: Are corporate values as necessary as they used to be?
I would argue an emphatic yes. In fact, I believe they are more critical than ever. When we peel back the layer of the perks, what is left is a common set of beliefs about how to operate and make decisions, both collectively and individually.
Corporate values can be a tangible asset to companies. They have the ability to drive engagement and company performance. However, this only works if employees genuinely share these values. It’s not enough for organizations to decide on the values and post them on their walls, conference room TVs or laptop screensavers. For values to be fully effective in driving culture and behavior, employees must embody them at all levels of the organization.
The increased workforce distribution has created new challenges and opportunities for companies to foster their values. Organizations have fewer avenues to drive culture through in-person events and signage, but as it turns out, those aren’t the main drivers of culture. Below are a few suggestions for how business leaders can integrate values into the employee experience from end to end, in person or remotely.
1. Begin before day one.
Hiring people who add to your values-centric culture is critical to building a values-driven organization. However, companies should rethink hiring for cultural fit, which can perpetuate bias. Instead, hire for “culture add.” Whereas culture fit implies homogeneity, culture add embraces diverse backgrounds, skills and perspectives. In the context of values, this means introducing values during the candidate experience, early and often—and then assessing if a candidate adds to your focus on values. Ask behavioral questions related to those values. The best candidates will provide fresh perspectives on how they can bring the company values to life. When presenting an offer to a candidate, consider incorporating values-based language. Let them know how they demonstrated your values and why they would significantly contribute to your company culture. Once they are hired, spend time on values during new hire orientation, whether it takes place in person or virtually.
2. Model embodied values from the top.
For values to remain authentic, leaders must consistently act and speak in ways that reflect these values. A distributed workforce requires leaders to incorporate values into their vocabulary in meetings, town halls, emails and inter-office messages. Leaders should consistently tie values to business decisions, company performance and recognition of great work. Values are not an afterthought or relegated to one short agenda item; they should be fully integrated into how leaders think and speak.
3. Incorporate values into recognition.
Encourage functional team leaders to recognize team members for values-based work. This recognition can happen informally at meetings or via email or inter-office chat. Consider companywide quarterly and annual values awards with monetary rewards.
4. Empower employees to see the values in themselves and others.
While leader support and recognition of values are necessary, powerful shifts occur when employees begin to identify and amplify company values in themselves and others. Give employees opportunities to write values-based goals and reflect on how they can demonstrate and uphold company values in their day-to-day work. In self- and manager reviews, encourage a connection between achievement and values. And provide team members with the opportunity to celebrate values demonstrated by others. For instance, the peer-to-peer recognition system at my company lets colleagues award points to their coworkers when they act in alignment with one of our five corporate values—no matter where our employees work.
5. Measure your effectiveness.
How can companies know if their values are driving culture and engagement? Measure it. At my company, we conduct an employee opinion survey twice a year and push out shorter vibe surveys monthly. We can analyze correlations between business performance and engagement. Informal data is equally valuable. Company leaders can seek qualitative feedback from employees about their experience during one-on-one meetings or focus group discussions.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to building a values-driven culture for today’s distributed, hybrid and remote workforces. Company leaders must be intentional about incorporating values in new and effective ways. Experiment with approaches and seek feedback from your teams, and over time, you will find approaches that work best for your unique organization.
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