Values are of course the first indication of a company’s culture. They give a new starter or business partner a good indication of what the company stands for and what life within might be like. Values also provide a sense of direction for those who are already working there, reliably guiding their behaviours and actions.
If done properly, they can even reduce stress.
How Core Values Reduce Stress
April is Stress Awareness Month. This year’s Stress Awareness Month theme is Community. Community represents a sense of belonging and connection for people – a sense of being accepted and supported. We know that feeling connected is good for our mental and physical health. Those who feel part of a community have fewer mental health problems and are generally happier.
Company values can provide that sense of belonging by giving people certainty around the cultural framework of shared values. Having shared values is key to any sense of community, within or outside the workplace. Colleagues interacting with each other within the framework of values they all share provides that sense of connection that is so important for our mental health and the reduction of stress.
Espoused or Lived Values?
Of course, the benefits we gain from our shared values and sense of community can only be realised when we actually live those values. If the values are simply disconnected statements on a company website or words appearing in a recruitment prospectus or the office wall (or screen background), they will provide very little benefit.
The challenge is to know whether core values are truly lived or are mere intentions. It’s important to know how aligned employees are with the stated values or whether they in fact have very different ideas of what is important to them and the organisation. Because, if values are taken for granted or seen as lofty words that don’t appear to reflect the reality of the workplace, they can cause as much damage to the culture as lived values can support it.
One way to find out is to undertake a values audit, to check out how espoused values – for example around inclusivity – are incorporated into lived values.
We do this with our Inclusion Diagnostic – an audit that looks at the gaps in perception and behaviour between the company’s intent to be inclusive and its ability to deliver on this value.
This exercise can be very revealing (see Inclusion Diagnostic case study) by bringing out illuminating – and often uncomfortable – insights that often point to the obstacles in culture that stand between living the espoused values. Once these obstacles become evident, it is relatively easy to develop a concrete action plan that helps the organisation close those gaps and ensure that its espoused values are indeed lived by those who set the tone for the team’s culture.
Walking the Walk
As the quote at the beginning of this newsletter implies, work culture trumps great business acumen. Getting the culture right is crucial, and the starting point to doing so is a set of organisational core values that are lived by leaders, managers and team members. The lived core values of an organisation – the sum of the behaviours of everyone within it – are far more important than the espoused values, however well they are communicated. Getting this right will take you a long way towards becoming more inclusive – and that has got to be on everyone’s agenda.
Take a moment to let us know about the values in your organisation by answering 3 short questions in our poll.
If you would like to conduct a values audit or an Inclusion Diagnostic in your organisation, please reach out.