Why Values Matter and How to Define Them

Purpose and values
Written by Annicken R. Day
February 28, 2022

Values are like fingerprints. Nobody’s are the same but you leave ém all over everything you do.

– Elvis Presley

Our personal values guide our choices, priorities, behaviors, influence our relationships, and ultimately, they shape our lives. What we deeply value and believe in influence the way we think and behave. Our values, whether consciously aware of them or not, make up the foundation of our identity.  

The same goes for corporations. A company’s core values influence people’s mindsets, choices, priorities, behaviors, and they shape its culture. Whether clearly defined or not, a company’s values, and the way people show up every day, becomes their identity and ultimately, their brand.  

In an ideal world, we are aware of our values and live accordingly, both as corporations and people. When we are who we say we are, and do what we say we will do, we are perceived as consistent, authentic, and trustworthy.  

The brutal reality, however, is that those kind of qualities are quite rare to come by.  

 

In Businesses We Trust

Edeleman Trust Barometer 2022 confirms there is a cycle of distrust in the world today. However, while trust in governments and media has declined in the last years, people’s trust in businesses remains at a 61 percent. In a world of societal change and unpredictability, we tend to look to what is close to us. 77 percent say they trust their employer more than they trust businesses in general.  

At last year’s Davos meeting, one of the key themes was how businesses can be a force for good. Companies are slowly but surely waking up to the fact that they have a greater responsibility than only making their shareholders happy. Not only because it’s the right thing to do, but because if they don’t, they may very soon be out of business. 

The Newly Awakened Employee

There’s been a big change in the global job market the last few years, triggered by the global pandemic.  

A record number of people left their jobs in 2021, a phenomena that has been named The Big Escape, The Great Resignation and The Great Reshuffle. But people aren’t quitting work as such, they are just changing the way they work, what they do, for whom they work, and from where. Some have started their own businesses, some have shifted careers, others are moving homes and choosing to work for companies that let them work remotely 

The pandemic has given many the opportunity to pause, reflect, reevaluate, and experience a different way of living and working. “Have we now entered The Great Reflection?” Gartner asks in a recently published piece. Their workplace survey shows that 65 percent are rethinking the importance work should have in their lives, 52 percent question the purpose of their day-to-day job, 56 percent want to contribute more to society, and 62 percent say they long for a bigger change in their lives.   

Employees are migrating from “crummy jobs” to “better jobs” and from “companies that don’t seem to care” to “companies that really really care,” HR industry analyst Josh Bersin writes.  

In December 2021 there were 4,6 million more job openings than unemployed people in America. This has led to a huge power-shift in the US job market and we are seeing similar trends in other parts of the world. Therefore, business leaders who want to stay on top of their game, attract and keep their talents, build high-performing organizations, and secure business results for years to come will need to pay attention to what employees want and are looking for right now.  

Values-driven Organizations 

When people realize that they can choose where to work, they will be looking for human-centered workplaces that allow for work-life balance, flexible work practices, fair pay, inclusion, equity and diversity, great cultures, and leaders who genuinely care about their employees´ happiness and well-being.  

The newly awakened employees don´t want another soul-sucking job, they want to work for companies with an inspiring purpose and whose values they share.  

Values can be defined as something you believe in so deeply that acting against them can feel like crushing your soul. OK, everyone may not define values as dramatically as I do, but the point I’m making is that you shouldn’t take your company values lightly.  

Your values will attract the right kind of talents and align, inspire, and provide direction for the people you already have. Values are guiding principles on what´s considered OK and what isn´t, and they empower people to make decisions based on your values instead of (old?) rules.  

Values-driven organizations are flexible, dynamic, and fast; qualities you need in these times of uncertainty and constant change.  When something happens that requires quick decisions, people won’t need to ask for permission. They look to the company values, make choices based on them, and feel they are trusted to do so.  

What separates values-driven organizations from companies that only have them as marketing slogans or posters on the wall (if they have them at all), is that their values are lived, real, experienced, and most of all; authentic. 

Authentic Values  

Authentic values capture the spirit and the soul of the company, they resonate with people on a deep level, create a strong sense of identity and belonging, and make people say “this is us” with pride.  

Authentic values describe the kind of people working there, what they value, how they show up, the way they treat each other, the values that make them special, and the human qualities of the team that inspire them to give their best every day.  

Authentic values in action are felt, seen and experienced by people inside and outside the company. The attitude, energy and magnetism they create will most likely have people say : “Whatever you guys are on, I want some of that too!”  

Authentic values are one of the most powerful business strategies you can have. Yet, many leaders have yet to realize the impact their company values (whether defined or not) are having on their organizations´ ability to deliver results, engage employees, build culture, and strengthen their brand. 

Defining Values, The Corporate Spring Way 

When the Corporate Spring team help companies define their core values, we always emphasize that employee involvement is key. Involving and engaging people in the process creates a level of ownership and commitment that one-way communication never will be able to achieve.  

We typically start with engaging teams around their company purpose, why they exist and what they are here to do. Then we move into discussing how to deliver on that purpose.  Through creative exercises and facilitated discussions around both personal and collective values, what’s important, what’s needed, what is experienced and real, the team lands on a number of values that they share. Then the process continues. By sharing real-life stories and talk about challenging situations, we look for friction and discrepancies between what people say they do and what they actually do 

Authentic values are honest and real, and so must the discussions around them be. When the final values have been tested and challenged and checked against the Authentic Values Check-list, the team has typically landed three to five values that they share, believe in, are committed to, and that will guide how they work, communicate, make decisions, solve problems, treat their customers, and how they behave towards each other.  

 It becomes “their way”. 

Purpose is your why, values are your how. 

Authentic Values Checklist: 

1. Guide and inspire your “how” to your “why” (your purpose).  

2. Describe the “soul” of your company/team, who you are at your best.   

3. Are real and authentically you, while inspiring you to stretch, develop, and grow.  

4. Can be translated into behaviors, choices and priorities.  

5. Invite to connection, belonging, and trust.  

6. Have stories and examples that back them up. 

7. Can be seen, felt and experienced throughout the company (or team.) 

Purpose and Identity/Values are the two first building blocks of the Corporate Spring model, our effective and unique framework for building thriving, high-performing organizational cultures. When you involve your organization in defining your values, the other elements of this model tend to be strengthened too: increased levels of trust, growth mindsets, passion, and joy, along with improved communication, collaboration, and leadership 

And voilà, you have started building a solid foundation for a values-driven, human-centered organization that will attract and retain the greatest talents, inspire for performance and make your people and business grow and thrive in the future.  

If you’re curious about how we can help your company or team define your purpose and values, have a look here

annicken-day-corporate-spring-founder-contact
I’m Annicken R. Day, Norwegian-born leadership and culture strategist, entrepreneur and bestselling author, based in Los Angeles, California. As founder of  Corporate Spring I’m on a mission to make the (corporate) world a happier place. As author of the novel Fly, Butterfly I tell a story, not unlike my own, about a corporate executive who finds purpose, freedom and joy in her life. And as a woman, I live as I preach and make sure to enjoy my life to its fullest!

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