A reliable, sustainable organisation and brand reputation – one that will earn the trust and support of its stakeholders – is determined by more than brand-building activities, such as accomplished corporate advertising, public relations activities, and visual displays to present favourably to stakeholders. While these activities certainly do play an important role in acquainting stakeholders with the organisation, it is the authentic identity of the organisation that matters. This identity is strategically and consistently presented through behaviours that align with the organisation’s espoused values. Stakeholders then come to know and form an opinion of the organisation based on its shared, established self-presentation of its identity, making it noticeable and different from other organisations. The organisation’s ethical values and normative rules are also judged as part of its identity.
Having a good understanding of values and their impact will give you a vital tool for being your best and getting the best out of your team.
What are values?
“Value is co-created through people inspired by a common purpose, working to shared values, inspired and engaged, giving more of themselves to a common and shared endeavour.” Tony Manwaring, Chief Executive of Tomorrow’s Company
Values are often seen as the most important element of an organisation. They can transform an organisation’s mission and vision into reality. Values are the things that are important to us – the groundwork of our lives. Values are extremely powerful! They motivate us, drive our behaviour, stir up passion in our hearts, and explain why we do the things we do and feel the way we feel.
“The Latin root of the word values is ‘valor’ meaning strength…In understanding our values we equip ourselves with a perennial source of motivation, focus and strength to achieve those things that matter most to us”- Michael Henderson
Values can further be defined as how we describe our collective motivations. Values are the glue that connects people in the organisation. Values lead how the organisation is seen by the rest of the world and guides stakeholders to keep them focused and on track. Above all, values support and sustain the collective wellbeing of the organisation and all the stakeholders connected to it.
What values are not
Values are often confused with beliefs, ethics, morals and behaviour. There may be an overlap, but they are not the same. Values explain what is important. Values are supported by beliefs. Beliefs are why we think something is important or suitable (or not suitable). This may not be ‘correct’ or ‘true’, but we believe it to be. Ethics and morals include a sense of right and wrong, whereas values in themselves are neutral – they are not ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Others don’t judge us by our values. They judge us by our behaviour, what we say and do. We show in our behaviour what is important to us.
The value of values
Research has revealed that an organisation’s reputation can be managed, modified, and improved by external and internal factors such as industry forces, culture and behaviour. But, to achieve the strategic objectives of a brand, the company’s reputation should be firmly grounded in a value-based identity.
Organisations classified as ‘financial leaders’ in research conducted by Booz Allen Hamilton and the Aspen Institute were more successful in linking values to their operational and management practices. For example, 94% say they have practices in place to ensure that their values are aligned with those of their suppliers, distributors, and partners, while only 64% of other companies do.
The benefits that values-based companies experience through their use of operational and management practices that focus on values are as follows:
- Competitive differentiation: A focus on organisational values builds specific lines of business and strengthens an organisation’s brand. Competitors who attempt to copy initiatives without a proper foundation of organisational values will always be playing catch up.
- Public accountability via end-to-end responsibility: Organisational values help meet the public’s request that companies should know, care and communicate about all aspects of their products and services. More contact with stakeholders across the value chain builds an organisation’s brand and prompts opportunities for innovation.
- Rationale for long-term thinking: Organisational values that include principles of sustainability help organisations to create continuity. They become value-based organisations that have purpose beyond their current business focus. Such values help them make decisions with the future in mind and avoid short-term thinking.
- Common terminology and guidance for consistent choices: Organisational values are an important guide to organisations that need to make quick decisions and take swift action. Their clear articulation guides staff to select among alternative courses of action in a consistent manner.
- Talent attraction and motivation: Talented people are attracted (and faithful) to organisations whose values match their personal ideals and aspirations. Organisational values should help ensure that staff are proud of what they are doing and are inspired by their work.
- “Human” control systems—peer review and a self-control system: Organisational values strengthen peer responsibility for keeping one another accountable and aligned. They also generate self-guidance. Value systems do not work perfectly, but they decrease the need for rules and help make people feel free and independent.
Having sound organisational values and living the values can also assist in coping with a rapidly changing environment. Digitalisation changes the way we work and interact. Social media creates direct, visible and mutually dependent engagements between individuals in society and organisations. Furthermore, computers are starting to outperform human thinking. This raises the question: How do we connect – heart to heart – with all our stakeholders, including the communities we belong to?
Having a strong purpose and clear values with aligned behaviours serves as a guideline for our actions now and in the future. It allows others to hold us accountable for our actions and increases our reputational value when we get this right.
Ninety-six per cent of CEOs agree that it is imperative for leaders to spend time explaining how values impact business decisions. The power of values can be used to achieve key organisational objectives by understanding what they are and how they drive behaviours. Values can also be used to address and conquer whatever challenges get in the way.
Research from Strategy & shows that organisations with a distinctive culture are:
- 9 times more likely to grow revenue faster than competitors
- 7 times more profitable than their industry peers
- two times more likely to quickly translate important strategic and operational decisions into action
When values are aligned with staff and stakeholders, energy and creativity can be fully harnessed. It will enable a culture that is collaborative, resilient, productive and fully motivated to achieve strategic goals and objectives and ensure the heart of the organisation continues with a strong beat.
By Ilana Bisschoff