Company Values Create the Foundation for Employee Engagement

by Sharlyn Lauby on November 6, 2012

(Editor’s Note: Today’s post is sponsored by Career Engagement Group. This tech firm introduced careerCENTRE, an SaaS career engagement technology, at last month’s HR Tech conference. Their software facilitates alignment between employee and organizational goals along every career milestone – hiring, onboarding, performance and learning. Enjoy!)

Companies exist to make money. It’s an important thing for them to do. But companies also exist to do something. That “something” might be inventing a new way of doing things or producing a product that consumers love or offering a secure work environment to employees. We all realize “something” cannot happen without money.

career, agility, development, career development, agile, career engagement group, training, engageWe also recognize that there are good ways and not-so-good ways to profit and make money. One way is to threaten employees, make inferior products and cheat customers. Most of us prefer the other way – engaging employees, offering quality products and services and creating a fabulous customer experience. The first step in the process? Building an engaged workforce.

The good news is, engagement is right in front of us. Because there’s a definite link between employees, engagement and company values.

Here’s the connection: our personal values are fundamental to who we are as individuals and the things we do. We operate at our best when we work for organizations that have the same values. That sense of “working at our best” is the essence of employee engagement.

The question becomes, how do we make sure we’re hiring and retaining employees who align with our company values?

Now before we go too far down this path, it’s important to recognize that our personal values can change over time. That’s not bad. It does mean that moments may arise when our personal values and the company’s values aren’t in alignment. Again, not necessarily a bad thing. During my career, I’ve found these moments are when individuals start making decisions about their future with the company.

Let me say it again – it’s not bad. What’s bad is when people misread this misalignment. Employees call it “the company is out to get rid of me” or “my manager hates me”. Managers call it “the employee has a bad attitude” or “now they’re a slacker”.

So let’s go back to values. I asked Anne Fulton, managing director at Career Engagement Group to share with me an activity that someone could do on their own to determine their personal values. Here’s a great 3-step exercise:

  1. Jot down the names of 3 people you admire.
  2. Next to each one, jot down 3 qualities you admire about them.
  3. Rank the 9 qualities in order of importance. (1 = most important, 9 = least important)

Voila! You now have a list of personal values. And you can revisit this exercise any time you wish to see if your values have changed. Or maybe the order of importance has changed.

The next step is to compare these to your company values. If you don’t know what your company values are, there are some places to look for them: employee handbook, corporate reports, company website and performance appraisals. If you come up with a complete blank, think about what values you believe your company represents. Job seekers can ask during the interview process for a one-word description of the company. Those one word descriptors can often be used as company values.

Then see where the similarities and differences are. Don’t be alarmed if there’s not a 100% match! Use the activity to ask yourself if the similarities and differences make sense. Can you see specific examples that demonstrate where alignment is strong? And other examples where it’s not aligned at all?

When you think about the values that are not aligned, take a moment to consider why the alignment doesn’t exist. Before taking any kind of action, ask yourself – can I live with not being aligned in this particular value? The goal of the exercise is understanding.

Speaking of understanding, managers are a key part of the values – engagement connection. Managers should want to understand what their employees’ value. It helps them communicate more effectively with their team. If employees are struggling to figure out how they connect with the company, walk them through the values exercise that Anne suggested.

engagement, values, career, engaged workforce, align, alignment, recruiting, career engagement group

I’ve had an opportunity to test drive the values component of careerCENTRE and it’s a wonderfully flexible tool for career development. Be sure to contact Career Engagement Group and hear about how they’ve been using the tool with Coca-Cola Australasia and many more leading organisations. You can reach them via their website or on Twitter.

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{ 13 comments }

Ali Godding (@EngagementAG) November 6, 2012 at 8:23 am

Hi Sharlyn,

Great post – exploration of personal values in relation to organisational values is a very helpful exercise.

I have just discovered your blog through @Kenexa_HR_Inst.

Having explored your posts I can see your interest in employee engagement and thought you might be interested to hear about the employee engagement movement Engage for Success. You can find us @Engage4Success on twitter or search Engage for Success on LinkedIn. We have a new website going live on Monday that will be http://www.engageforsuccess.org. I think you will have some useful things to contribute to this. Be good to stay connected on it.

Jo Mills November 6, 2012 at 3:58 pm

As a Manager, having a career conversation with my team and talking about their values is incredibly illuminating. The positive response from the individual as they share what is important to them, and then the understanding that I gain as a result is incredible. It means I can tweak their role ever so slightly to support the alignment of their values – micro in scale for me and my business, but macro in value for the individual and the increased engagement and resulting productivity.

Sharlyn Lauby November 7, 2012 at 8:32 am

Great insight Jo. I really like the micro/macro approach you’ve outlined.

Ron Katz November 8, 2012 at 9:42 am

Sharlyn,
Another excellent post, thanks. The identification and connection of personal and organizational values is critical to achieve an engaged and ethical workforce. People need to know what they believe in and then endeavor to find organizations that are consistent with their beliefs if they are to be effective in their roles. Morale dips when people work at odds to their core beliefs, they begin to question the organization’s motives and then their own. I’ve been a manager and an HR professional and I have generally advised managers to hire, or hired on my own, someone who is committed to the organization rather than someone who is merely technically competent. I can teach them a function, I can’t instill a core in a person when they don’t know what they stand for.

Thanks for a thought-provoking and spot on piece.
Ron

Sharlyn Lauby November 8, 2012 at 1:58 pm

Excellent point about morale dropping when values are in conflict. Thanks Ron!

Belinda Coghlan November 10, 2012 at 10:08 pm

Great article and confirms work I’ve done with organisations to identify values, value behaviours and integration of values. The first step in the process is for all staff to identify their personal values and check alignment with the organisational values. In my view, successful engagement depends on how much the leadership are committed to promoting, leading, communicating, reinforcing, rewarding and demonstrating the value behaviours. I work with Management and provide them with a toolkit to help facilitate this process. I also survey behaviours to establish a baseline to compare down the track.
Cheers
Belinda

Stephan Jaeckel November 11, 2012 at 1:51 pm

I feel the times of building an engaged workforce are over.

We now live in the times where the “workforce” builds the company. Self-proclaiming “leaders” who need a “boss-role” for their ego just can’t see this (yet).

No longer do the 200+ years old principles of authoritarian rule dominate businesses and enterprices but the best of all systems we know of – DEMOCRACY – moves into the center of the company processes for building and maintaining values and ethics based on which they operate and in the end produce a profit (which does not need to be the maximum possible).

And this is only the beginning. While everybody talks of Social Business these days it seems too few have an understanding of the deeper meaning behind Social Business and the revolution it is about to bring. Social business will ultimately lead to the customers – no longer any managers – having the major say on the values and ethics the company they buy from will show.

The last managers having a say on company vaues will be those in accounting (naturally) and corporate compliance since in the future more than now we will have to have every step evaluated first by an army of lawyers. Lawerys though do ot stop revolutions. But custoemrs will more and more stop businesses from growing if they no longer find their values in them.

Doubt it? Then have a look at the graveyard of brands out there who have fallen from customer grace. Take them as an indicator what is ahead and what almost no company is prepared for to handle with its processes.

Tony Bennett November 13, 2012 at 9:45 am

First experience of this blog and really enjoyed it.

Loved the 3 step quickie approach to identifying personal values!

Saddened by the fact that it can still be difficult to find out what are the values of the comnpany that you work for!

Interested by Stephan’s comments on building an engaged workforce. Made me think – which is always good! I am sure that you cannot “impose” employee engagement and that listening to the workforce and actively involving them in many aspects of the business is essential for success. I also believe that “social business” will have many of the consequences that he describes (there is a really good article on this in the most recent McKinsey Quarterly). This is a huge topic which is likely to become much more influential in the next few years

On the other hand businesses are not democracies and there will still be a need for leaders to lead – albeit in a different way.

Above all both values and employee engagment are central to long term success for most organisations – and most individuals are unlikely to be fulfilled and happy (and from an organisational point of view at their most productive!!) unless their personal values are reasonably well aligned with the organisation’s values.

Sharlyn Lauby November 15, 2012 at 1:32 pm

Very interesting conversation. I do agree with Stephan that business is becoming very social and customer-centric businesses will have the advantage in the marketplace. But I don’t think it rules out having an engaged workforce. In fact, I think it makes engagement even more critical because customers will start giving their support to companies that treat their workforce right. It’s that whole “happy employees make happy customers” thing.

Welcome to the blog Tony! And many thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Thorsten Ertel November 19, 2012 at 10:53 am

Hi Sharlyn,

great post and interesting exercises. We found it essential to work on values with senior leaders and check the engagement for the employees on behalf of these values.
Great tool to help you identify your personal values is called “My_Motivation” by hpmt. Based on the values model of Graves.

Sharlyn Lauby November 19, 2012 at 7:46 pm

Thanks for sharing Thorsten!

Fred December 7, 2012 at 11:59 pm

How come “making decisions about their future with the company” only means “deciding they will have no future with the company”?

Why is it impossible to decide that there will be a future?

Melanie January 19, 2013 at 9:39 pm

Hello! I know this is kind of off topic but I was wondering if you knew
where I could get a captcha plugin for my comment form?
I’m using the same blog platform as yours and I’m having difficulty finding
one? Thanks a lot!

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