Corporate values – why bother?

The Zentricity Blog has been in retirement, along with its author who only comes out for cameo appearances as a blogger and consultant these days.  But the blog is making its own cameo on this occasion, in a post for a special client –  it might also be of interest to anyone who is wondering about the worth of corporate culture, or “values”.

What are corporate values?

Values have been described as “the collective behaviour of a company’s employees”.  They are the “how” in your organisational design – how you behave towards your colleagues, your clients and your broader stakeholders.

 Why are values important in an organisation like yours?

  • You are working in a knowledge based economy, in which  your people are your primary asset
  • Your corporate reputation is vital to your business
  • They are another way to differentiate your brand, especially when competing with the big players in your segment
  • You are a comparatively small team working at close quarters with a serious workload
  • Acquisition and retention of good people in a talent-constrained market is challenging
  • The employee value proposition (especially, they say, for Gen Y) is more than just $$ – a values based culture can help drive employee engagement
  • Your clients operate in a highly regulated, highly visible environment where their, and your, probity is crucial.

How do can you see values working in an organisation?

  • They are used as an integral part of the process for:
    • Recruitment
    • Induction
    • Giving and receiving feedback
    • Performance discussions
    • Calling bad or non-aligned behaviour
  • You hear people referring to them in the office, and in conversations between colleagues and with clients
  • You see them referenced in your new business pitches
  • They are embraced and role-modelled from the top down – it is clear that the senior executive team is on board with the promotion of a positive, values-based culture.

What do values look like?

  • They have been discussed, agreed, clarified and articulated – your people and stakeholders can see exactly what your culture is
  • They must be engaging – they need to make a connection with your people and your clients,  and really push their buttons
  • They must be reflective – of the essence of the business you are in, and they way you do things around your place – though they may evolve and change over time as your organisation develops
  • They are referential – you need to be able to test something proposed against them – strategies, new hires, new clients, interactions with colleagues
  • They are aspirational – they represent what you know you ought to be doing but sometimes fall short of occasionally.

Some examples of corporate values:

 The Vodafone Australia values, circa 2001, articulated as part of the recovery process when the company was in a dire situation both market-wise and culturally:

  • Supportive
  • Excellence
  • Fair dinkum
  • Fun

 The evolution of the Vodafone values, circa 2006, when the company had its mojo back and wanted to align is values with its brand essence:

  • Red
  • Rock solid
  • Restless

 The values for a small arts organisation focussed on the development of great Australian literature:

Our Values – The Varuna Way

  • Valuing heritage and place
  • Making writing and creativity matter
  • Bringing rigour and commitment to the writing craft
  • Building a respectful and inclusive community

The Zentricity values – a pro bono consultancy focussed on the not-for-profit sector:

  • Inclusion
  • Integrity
  • Compassion
  • Chemistry
  • No judgements

And I just saw the Atlasssian “core values” in a report about their highly successful float on the Nasdaq:

  • Open company
  • No bullshit
  • Build with heart and confidence
  • Don’t #@!% the customer

Brilliant!

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