A focus for New Street during all of our assignments is to gain intelligence into the external talent market which will inform our clients’ future talent strategies. In order for our clients to get the most benefit from this information we have partnered up with Blackbridge, a specialist talent communications agency, to provide tailored employment brand and marketing strategies designed around our findings (e.g. brand perception, what does your target talent look for and where).
In this article Charles McIntosh discusses with Andrew Baird, Director of Consulting at Blackbridge Communications, why Business Leaders need to engage with their organisational values.
How would you define the term ‘values’?
In the words of Jim Collins and Jerry Porras, who wrote Built to Last, values are: ‘the organisation’s essential and enduring tenets – a small set of general guiding principles; not to be compromised for financial gain or short-term expediency.’ That’s a hard-line definition. A gentler phrase that we like to use is: ‘values are prompts for productive organisational behaviours’.
Why aren’t they taken seriously?
Actually, values are taken seriously by many successful organisations. But when they fail, it’s because they’re not really part of the organisation’s culture. The HRD of The Prince’s Trust, Martyn Dicker, likes to say that ‘values should be lived, not laminated.’ A big part of living them is the degree to which leaders buy in – when that happens, values can play a huge role in improving performance.
What benefits do they bring to the organisation?
Essentially, they encourage people to behave in the right way. For example, if you want to motivate people to care more about quality, treat clients better or innovate more, values are fundamental. They can also play a big role in attracting better people into an organisation, add rigour to recognition structures and aid decision-making at all levels, not least in the boardroom.
What role should leadership play with regard to values?
Leaders need to model them. Too often there’s a view that leaders are above values somehow, and that values only exist to keep the lower orders in line. Leaders should preferably define the values. They should explore them in conversation, use them to explain strategy and be challenged when they’re not observing them. For example, if a CEO repeatedly acts unilaterally even though ‘teamwork’ is a value, someone should question the wisdom of their actions (or the organisation needs to stop pretending that ‘teamwork’ is a real value).
How do you engage an organisation with values?
Values need to be articulated in a compelling and audience-appropriate way. They need to be associated with desirable behaviours, they need to be a recognised factor in reward and promotion, they need to feel alive and urgent, and (again) need to be an obvious part of the leadership toolkit. If people see that values are a way to reach the top of an organisation, most people will willingly engage with them.
How do you embed them for the long term?
If you’re looking to deliver long-term benefits for your organisation, you need to plan. In terms of sustaining values alignment, there are ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ tactics. Soft ones include creating a new communications campaign every year, asking the CEO to talk specifically about recent instances of values-alignment in his/her all-company addresses, holding a values award scheme or giving line management modest budgets to reward values alignment in an ad hoc way. Harder methods including integrating them into your performance management system, using them to assess worthiness for promotion, including them in project reviews and using them as part of your bonus formulations.
How do you measure their success?
There are direct quantitative measures, established through employee satisfaction surveys, pulse surveys and the like. But often you can draw meaningful direct lines between values and operational performance improvements in areas such as customer satisfaction, cost control and product quality. Some organisations are also setting up internal platforms in which employees are asked to regularly comment on how relevant or useful they think the values are. Then, the leadership review the comments regularly with a view to finessing the values that aren’t quite cutting it.
Blackbridge was founded in 2004 and is a communications agency that helps clients attract, retain and engage talent.
Based in central London, they employ 30 professionals across a range of creative, digital and project management roles. Their work has been recognised by the RAD Awards, CIPD marketing Awards, Corp Comms Digi Awards, AGR Awards and the TARGET jobs National Recruitment Awards.
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