A company's values are an asset, not a nice to have

OPINION: Culture isn't something that can just be left to the HR department.

by Melina Jacovou
Last Updated: 17 Aug 2018

If you think values are a fluffy nice-to-have, best left to the HR department, it’s time to wake up. Those fluffy values and culture are some of your biggest competitive advantages.

For a long time, we’ve focussed on salary as the most important factor in both obtaining and retaining talent, the lifeblood of our organisations. Now with Brexit casting a long shadow on many companies’ ability to secure the staff they need to grow, we’re realising that values are arguably or equal or greater importance, especially among millennials, who will make up 50% of the workforce in two years’ time. A recent Deloitte survey in fact discovered that two out of three millennials said they had chosen their employer based on their values.

It’s not just attracting the right people where company culture and values plays an important role but in actually creating a more profitable business. Jim Stengel, former Global Marketing Officer of Procter & Gamble and author of Grow - How Ideals Power Growth and Profit at the World's Greatest Companies, found companies with a clear purpose to be 400% more profitable than those without.

How to cultivate corporate values

It’s not enough to have a set of values listed on your website and induction documents. Successful company culture and values come from the very top and that means management living the values in everything they do.

A great example of this is The Co-Op, which not only regularly trains its staff in its values but has management travelling across the UK to discuss them with staff in person, in addition to over video and social media.

There’s an even more important point here. The Co-op actively seeks to engage with its workforce in face-to-face discussions of its company values.

This isn’t a company broadcasting a set of values from its management ivory tower. It’s engaging in and encouraging organic discussion of its values throughout the organisation.

This type of feedback loop is an incredibly effective way of both communicating values throughout the company but also ensuring management is receiving regular feedback on how efficiently these values are being implemented in the day-to-day operation of the business.

If this is something you’d feel unsure of being able to do effectively, maybe your values aren’t simply aren’t clear enough. Or maybe you simply have too many.

Authenticity is crucial in being able to buy into company culture. Having ten different values may seem impressive but perhaps it’s better to focus on two or three that everyone can accept and that properly differentiate your business and its purpose.

If you can’t answer what your company stands for and what its values are, how can ever expect your workforce to?

Melina Jacovou is CEO of Propel London

Image credit: Sheila Fitzgerald/Shutterstock


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