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How to embed and live your values

Core values are those values that are absolutely essential for an organisation to achieve its vision and fulfil its purpose. They guide the behaviour of everyone in the organisation and provide a solid foundation for action. They demonstrate to employees what is acceptable and what isn’t. Yet many organisations stumble when it comes to truly embedding their core values into their culture, and DNA.

Organisations often invest significant resources in designing and articulating their values in order to create their ideal culture. Employees often have low awareness of their organisational values and do not believe they are being demonstrated in the words or actions of their leaders or colleagues. This can be the case even when the values have been communicated and are visible around the organisation.

You’ve clearly articulated your core values, the challenge now is to embed them and ensure they are lived every day.

To become a values led organisation your values need to be integrated into how the organisation does business. They need to be included in everyone’s KPIs and regularly measured in employee and other stakeholder surveys.

There are many practical steps that can be taken to help an organisation become more values driven. Here we share our top four that will help you better embed your values so that they become a core part of your organisational culture.

1. Values and related behaviours must be emphasised, upheld and modelled by senior leaders

History is littered with idioms, expressions and proverbs highlighting just how critical leading by example is when attempting to inspire and instil values in others. The list is endless:actions speak louder than words,monkey see monkey do,do not be wise in words be wise in deeds.

While this can sound a bit dramatic it clearly illustrates the importance of leading by example and that no message, however well written or expressed, will usurp the effectiveness of action.

Senior leaders must be the first ones to champion the organisation’s values. Having senior leaders regularly communicate and model behaviours for others will help with the adoption of these values throughout the rest of the organisation.

Employees might see the values on a poster but it is much more powerful if they can look up and see their leaders authentically living and breathing those values.

2. Clearly define values in concrete terms

People are complex beings and we all interpret things differently. This is what makes the communication of values difficult. For example, innovation can mean different things to different people.

Therefore moving the values from being conceptual (a single word) to tangibly described (a behaviour) enables employees to understand what they need to be doing in order to demonstrate each one.

For example, Insync defines “innovative” as “we always look for better ways of doing things”. Here we have an actionable behaviour that staff can clearly understand and express.

3. Communicate each value will impact employees

Ensure employees understand how each value affects them personally, how each value benefits their team and how they impact the business as a whole. Explaining why each value is important and what impact the values will have makes them both more tangible and valuable.

Explaining the “why” to employees enables them to better understand how they can incorporate the values into their everyday work and creates buy in. Workshops and team meetings are a good place to start as they facilitate discussion and enable people to share their thoughts and examples with each other.

4. Tie values to employee recognition, rewards and outcomes

This is a great way to close the values loop. It encourages staff to express the spirit of the values and also encourages repeat behaviour.

Suggestions include: develop an employee recognition program that rewards employees who exhibit the values and communicate clearly which value they have demonstrated, and how, to all staff; have a value of the month or quarter and refer to that value and the associated behaviours in all communications for that month or quarter, and encourage teams to share their examples of living that value.

As core values are articulated and embedded into organisational systems and processes, they begin to form, mould and forge a new culture. As this occurs, the values and related behaviours begin to become the cultural norm. Over time and with constant reinforcement they determine how employees act every day and become “the way things are done around here”.

Read more about creating a values-led culture:

Insync’s employee survey modules, including values

Article: Is your culture designed to achieve success?

Article: Shape your culture well – it will then shape you

Article: Worried about your culture? Look at your CEO’s habits

Article: Be intentional about the culture you desire

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