Do Your Employees Live Your Core Values?

For the past few days, Corporate India has been buzzing with news of a leaked conversation recording where an unfortunate tech employee was asked by HR to put in his papers by 10 am the next day, or get terminated immediately. Expectedly, it caused a furore in the industry.

The company’s top management was quick to express regret and promise corrective action. Remarkably, the Group chairman tweeted a personal apology and said that the company’s core value is ‘to preserve the dignity of the individual,’ and acknowledged that it clearly did not happen in this case.

Largely, the debate isn’t really about the sacking per se. Everyone understands that sometimes, companies change course due to shifting business dynamics. When they do, they need to reorganise their staff. Like we wrote in our last post on Leadership in the Age of Automation, automation is changing the way we run businesses and pushing us to relook how we run business and engage with our people. But ensuring that core values are preserved throughout this change is crucial.

‘Living the Values’ is always a challenge

While ‘to preserve the dignity of the individual’ is undoubtedly an admirable goal, the question is, how does it translate into the organisation’s operations, culture and processes? In this instance, the values simply did not percolate into on-ground actions. Translating core values into actual business processes is a challenge that organisations of all sizes encounter, especially during tough times. In our work with clients, we see that leaders are often deeply driven by the why or raison d’être of the organisation, but this doesn’t get effectively filtered down even to the second rung of the organisation, let alone to the whole organisation.

Many times, organisations do make an effort to ensure that everyone knows what the core values are, whether through corporate videos or by displaying them prominently throughout the office etc. However, communication is only part of the solution. Simply knowing the values is not enough if they aren’t embedded into the working of the organisation.

Aligning Business Processes with Core Values

To be truly effective, values need to be implanted into company goals, performance assessment, rewards, and structure. If employees understand that alignment to values is a factor in ensuring their success within the organisation, then they are far more likely to take it seriously. If the actions on ground are not in sync with the stated values, then the values simply don’t matter.

Like this Harvard Business Review article captures perfectly, “Values that everyone knows mean nothing weaken an organization’s confidence, integrity, and ability to compete, rendering its culture a liability….. If a company isn’t willing to do the very hard work of embedding its values into every fiber of the organization and hold people accountable for living them, they ought not bother writing them down.”

How does one ensure that values are part of an organisation’s DNA? Well, that’s the topic of another blog!