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Creating a vibrant, values-driven company culture

How do you bring an organization’s values to life in day-to-day operations? It’s a transformative process that requires commitment and strategic effort. 

 

I was a green Learning and OD specialist many moons ago and my manager then would always quote Peter Drucker:  “Culture eats Strategy for breakfast.”  And that has stuck with me all throughout my career as a change agent and proponent for People development.

 

It emphasizes  that you could have the best of plans, equipment, software, marketing campaigns, and still lose the game to the company who deliberately shapes and strengthens their culture. 

 

Organization Culture is the set of values, beliefs, norms, and  unwritten rules shared, fostered by the team that guides how they feel, think, and behave.  It emerges from the moments that are celebrated to how mistakes are handled.  It is borne out of who we allow in the team and the “worst” behaviors we “tolerate” and allow to stay.  It is the palpable energy that one senses when they are new to the organization.

 

But what happens when the culture is “broken” or “toxic”?  When the Values — or what we deem important do not line with the behaviors that we see?

 

A company can have Teamwork and Collaboration as a value, but still allow gossip, backbiting, and politicking to prevail.  Another example could be saying Innovation is important but not creating the safe space to experiment, make mistakes, and iterate.  

 

In Acumen, we aim  to help our clients align their Values and their behaviors, believing that this is one of the ingredients to a high performing team.

 

Behavior is how one conducts oneself in response to an action, a stimulus, an environment.  It is something we can observe, see, hear, and measure.  Because it is observable and measurable, feedback can be factual, improvement tracked, and progress rewarded — in a fair, timely manner. In today's competitive business landscape, values are more than just words on a wall. They are the lifeblood of an organization's culture and the driving force behind its success.

 

But how do you bring these values to life in day-to-day operations?

 

Here's a step-by-step guide to infusing your values into every aspect of your organization, ensuring they are lived and breathed by every employee.

 

Defining Purpose and Ambition

The journey begins with defining your organization's purpose and ambition. These elements provide a clear direction and framework for identifying what you truly value. Purpose is the reason your organization exists, while ambition is what you strive to achieve. Together, they set the stage for meaningful value identification.

 

Identifying Core Values

Next, engage stakeholders at all levels to uncover your core values. What principles are non-negotiable? What beliefs guide your decisions and actions? Involving a diverse group ensures that the identified values resonate across the organization. This collaborative approach not only enriches the value identification process but also fosters a sense of ownership and commitment. 

 

Translating Values into Behaviors

Once you've identified your core values, the next step is to translate them into specific, observable behaviors. Again, these behaviors should be actions that can be seen, felt, touched, heard, and measured. For instance, if one of your values is "integrity," an associated behavior could be "always delivering on promises." Clearly defining these behaviors helps employees understand what is expected of them and how they can embody the organization's values in their daily work.

 

Integrating Values into the Employee Experience

Bringing values to life requires embedding them into every stage of the employee experience. From employer branding and talent attraction to onboarding and training, values should be a constant thread. During the hiring process, communicate your values clearly to attract like-minded candidates. In onboarding, emphasize how these values shape the organization's culture and expectations.

 

Performance Management and Feedback

Values should also be integral to your performance management system. Incorporate value-based criteria into performance reviews to reinforce their importance. Train managers to provide feedback that highlights how employees' actions align with the organization's values. This not only promotes consistent behavior but also helps employees see the tangible impact of living the values.

 

Recognition and Reward Systems

Effective recognition and reward systems are key to reinforcing value-driven behaviors. Design programs that celebrate and reward employees who exemplify the organization's values. For example, if "collaboration" is a core value, recognize teams that achieve outstanding results through teamwork. By linking rewards to values, you encourage employees to internalize and prioritize these behaviors.

 

Measuring Impact

To assess the effectiveness of your efforts, establish metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) that measure how well values are being integrated and lived. This could include employee engagement scores, retention rates, and customer satisfaction levels. Supporting these metrics with qualitative data, such as employee testimonials and case studies, provides a comprehensive view of your progress.

 

Bringing values to life in day-to-day operations is a transformative process that requires commitment and strategic effort. By defining your purpose and ambition, identifying core values, translating them into behaviors, and integrating them into every aspect of the employee experience, you create a vibrant, values-driven culture.

 

The benefits are clear: increased engagement, innovation, and retention. 

 

At Acumen, we specialize in guiding organizations through this journey.

 

 

Written by: Carla Noelle Perfecto - Organization Transformation Strategist, Acumen Strategy Consultants  

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