Company culture is a difficult concept to define. It encompasses the sum of an organization’s values, beliefs, processes, and habits, as well as the collective behavior and personalities of managers and employees. Because of its many sources and influences, it can be difficult to change corporate culture. But one component of a company culture that is relatively easy to define is company values. What—beyond the desire to make a profit—does your company stand for? You can define these values in stated policies, mission statements, etc., but how do you promote and reinforce those values within your ranks?
In an article for Inc.com, Marissa Levin notes that setting company values “is only half of the equation. Where so many companies fail in this initiative are in the rollout, and in the consistent reinforcement of the values every day.” Similarly, writing for Entrepreneur, Andre Lavoie says it can be difficult to achieve alignment between employees and the company vision, which is very true for younger workers in particular. In order to achieve the company’s vision, “employees need to strongly align with their company’s values and mission,” Lavoie writes.
“Gallup’s 2016 report, How Millennials Want to Work and Live, found that only 40 percent of Millennial employees surveyed felt strongly connected to their company’s mission. This disconnect is sure to cause a lack of direction and create listless employees disengaged from their work,” Lavoie writes. (It’s also going to worsen turnover.)
Understanding this challenge, we thought we’d discuss a few key strategies to promote and reinforce a company’s core values.
Lead by Example
Employees will rarely, if ever, fall in line with a company’s stated values if they don’t see their superiors doing the same. It’s essential that leaders set a strong example of company values. If a stated value is integrity, for example, managers and executives should act with integrity at all times. A single lapse will discredit years of positive messaging.
Reinforce Through Orientation and Training
It’s hard to expect employees to exhibit values if they don’t know that they are. When employees first join the organization, they should be immediately educated on the company values. And whenever appropriate, subsequent training should strive to remind employees of those values and explain how a new policy or training program fits in with the company’s commitment to live those values.
Incentivize Adherence to the Values
If companies want employees to reflect and pursue company values, they must find concrete ways to incentivize adherence to those values. It’s often not enough to simply tell employees what your values are, no matter how often you tell them. If employees see no consequences in deciding whether or not to adhere to adhere to values, it will be tough to get those values to stick. This is where incentives come in.
Performance appraisals and associated promotions and increases in compensation should be driven at least in part by how well an employee’s behavior aligns with stated company values.
Company values represent a key part of company culture, and it’s one of the easiest elements to define. However, defining values and instilling them in your workforce are very different activities. It takes a quick brainstorming session to come up with a list of company values, but it takes constant and consistent effort over weeks, months, and years to instill them.