The need for value alignment
Companies often hire (perhaps problematically) for culture fit. Over the past few years, however, the tables have turned a bit. Now, job seekers are closely scrutinizing the culture of companies they are considering as future employers. A key concern? Whether or not their personal values align with those of the organization.
In 2019, Glassdoor conducted a survey of 5,000 adults in the US, UK, France, and Germany. They discovered over 50% of respondents felt a company’s culture was “more important than salary when it comes to job satisfaction.” An even greater majority, 79%, said they’d examine a company’s mission and purpose prior to even applying.
Clearly, aligning personal and corporate values within your business is important. Below, we’ll explore the nature of these values, the importance of aligning them, tips for implementation, and how this connects to your organization’s sustainability goals.
What do we mean by values?
Social psychologist Shalom H. Schwartz developed a theory wherein ten human values were determined to be universal. The values he found recognized across cultures are universalism, benevolence, tradition, conformity, security, power, achievement, hedonism, stimulation, and self-direction.
Schwartz defined these as what’s important to people in their lives and the criteria by which we judge our actions. They are also closely linked to motivation. Understanding these values can help explain individuals’ behaviors, including habit formation and goal setting, useful information for the workplace.
Within a business, core values take significant time and consideration to craft. They “are the deeply ingrained principles that guide all of a company’s actions” and “often reflect the values of the company’s founders” (Lencioni). These values are, at least in theory, the most respected and inalienable elements of an organization. Accordingly, they should be the guiding forces of stakeholders’ conduct.
As Fearless Culture founder Gustavo Razzetti explains, “the core values of an organization impact both internal and external affairs.” Additionally, “they define not only how employees treat each other, but also the behavior expected toward clients, partners, and the broader community.” As such, there is a tremendous potential benefit in making connections between the personal values of employees and the core values of an organization.
Why aligning personal and corporate values is important
Unfortunately, there is often a disconnect between a business and its employees when it comes to defined organizational values. As noted in the 2019 Return on Culture report by consulting firm Grant Thornton, “75% of executives say their organization has defined values that are communicated and understood.” However, “only 33% of employees agree” (Grant Thornton).
To bridge this divide, businesses must first realize the importance of improving the alignment of personal and corporate values. Then, they can focus on properly communicating that information to stakeholders. This will help employees feel more at home and invested in the company. It should also improve the cohesiveness of the organization’s message to the outside world.
“A good fit feels like the organization gets you, values the same things as you do and shares some of the same goals that you feel are important. A bad fit feels like you are always having to compromise what you believe in to achieve progress and success in the organization.” – Ian D Boreham, 2016, Matching Personal Values to Organizational Values – What The Theory Says
When values are misaligned
From an employee’s perspective, working for a company with values not aligned with their own can be frustrating. The article “Engaging Employees to Create a Sustainable Business” references a study of young employees conducted by Harvard Graduate School of Education researchers. According to this research, often “employees suspended their own values temporarily” to act in accordance with their organization’s core values rather than their own. Additionally, employees didn’t believe they had “the support from others within the company to voice their values and question the work they were being asked to undertake” (Bhattacharya and Polman).
Unsurprisingly, when employees can’t identify their values in the workplace, they’re more likely to report lower levels of job satisfaction. The negative impact of this for the employee is clear—but what about for the organization?
According to McKinsey’s April 2020 Quarterly, employees are “agitating for decisions and behaviors that they can be proud to stand behind and gravitating toward companies that have a clear, unequivocal, and positive impact on the world.” Being unable to satisfy this need in the workplace leads to disengagement, increased turnover rates, and bad press. In 2019, organizations “witnessed hundreds of thousands of employees walking out over climate issues and recurrent high-profile petitions about business practices that have raised the ire of socially conscious interest groups” (Gast et al).
The benefits of value alignment
As jobseekers’ interest in finding a culture fit grows, companies should similarly increase their work toward aligning personal and corporate values. Grant Thornton’s report noted that “public companies with extremely healthy cultures are 2.5X more likely to report significant stock price increases over the past year.” They’re also “1.5X more likely to report average revenue growth of more than 15% for the past three years.” The payoff for creating a more desirable working environment for employees can clearly be substantial.
“Corporate values when used effectively are much more than hyperbole; they have substance which, when lived, create more efficient, effective and productive organisations.” – The Institute of Leadership & Management, 2019, “Colliding or Aligning: Reconciling organisational and personal values”
Some businesses are quite successful at aligning their core values with those of their workforce and ensuring those values guide “the targets and strategies at all levels.” When done properly, “making this connection between staff and organisational values…is motivational and associated with increased productivity and performance” (Institute of Leadership & Management). Ultimately, companies want productive employees, and employees want to work for an organization with values similar to their own.
So how can your company accomplish this?
How to align values in your organization
As we previously discussed, most businesses’ values are firmly established and function as the cornerstone of all operations. But this doesn’t mean they should never change. Your organization’s core values should evolve as the company does. Periodically review these guiding principles to help you determine whether any are outdated, inappropriate, or irrelevant. Then adjust the values in a way that better suits the current time, industry demands, and stakeholder preferences.
Below are 4 steps your company can take to attain greater alignment.
1. Help employees identify their values
Though our behaviors are guided by our personal values, it can be challenging for many to put those into words. Many resources exist to help people discover, define, and live by their core values. Use these to organize a session where you facilitate exercises that assist employees in naming their values. One guide to try is “Six Steps to Identify and Align Your Personal Core Values” by Harris Whitesell Consulting’s managing partner Lori Harris.
Just make sure you’re not attempting to change their values. Instead, focus on sharing information that will generate meaningful conversations within your workforce.
2. Lean into co-production
Once employees better understand their personal values, invite them into a conversation about the values of the company. Requesting feedback from stakeholders is common practice for many businesses, but try pushing one step further into co-production. When employees feel empowered to help design the goals, “there is a move from engagement and reviewing content, to being actively led by people within the organisation who hold the least power” (Institute of Leadership & Management).
As Table Group founder Patrick Lencioni notes, this co-production positively affects the creation of “values that are more easily translated into practice and more readily embraced.” This is “associated with increased productivity and performance” (qtd. by Institute of Leadership & Management).
3. Tie personal goals into professional goals
University of Pittsburgh professor CB Bhattacharya writes about the concept of psychological ownership, the sense of “possessiveness and connection that we develop toward an appealing object.” Employees are already invested in their personal agenda, but they may not see how their goals can be accomplished within the framework of the company they work for. Getting your workforce to experience “feelings of organizational ownership” can result in “greater job satisfaction, engagement, productivity, and profits (Bhattacharya).
To see these results in your organization, take advantage of coaching sessions, team meetings, and your employee communication platform. Highlight for employees the connections existing between the values and goals they’ve identified for themselves and those of the business.
4. Increase transparency
Slack’s 2018 Future of Work study found that 87% of surveyed employees desired transparency out of their next employer. A survey by Label Insight showed that 94% of consumers would be loyal to a completely transparent brand. When businesses are transparent, they are more likely to gain the trust and loyalty of stakeholders.
It’s crucial, then, that a company has “clear and transparent” values “and that leaders are seen to live these values by modelling behaviours that reflect and embed them.” If employees understand the values and see them being consciously acted upon by others within the organization, they are more likely to stay focused on work that supports these as well (Institute of Leadership & Management).
Regularly share information with stakeholders using straightforward language and candor, and make the decision-making process more visible whenever possible.
Value alignment and sustainability
The connection between personal and corporate goal alignment and sustainability may not be immediately clear. However, it is certainly there, both when it comes to establishing a sustainable business policy and working toward the SDGs.
In an analysis of how human values are related to companies’ human resource management practices, there is an implication that “ethical and multicultural values are important for planning and implementing effective management practices and organizational sustainability” (Florea et al). Businesses should aim to create an environment wherein employees are aware of and understand the corporate goals.
Employees should see their values reflected within the company’s, and, ideally, even have a say in creating or refining them. This should help future-proof a company by retaining talent. As Glassdoor CEO Christian Sutherland-Wong explains, today’s job seekers “want to work for a company whose values align with their own and whose mission they can fully get behind.”
Make sustainability one of your goals
Something these employees can “fully get behind” is sustainability. In fact, “about two-thirds of millennials take a company’s social and environmental commitments into account when deciding where to work” (Gast et al). One way to connect modern employees’ values to those of the organization? Make sustainability itself a common core value.
Businesses need to hit sustainability targets, and employees want to feel good about the work they are doing. Bhattacharya notes that companies can tap into the current yearning people have to address problems like climate change. He writes, “Companies can fill this need and gain competitive advantage by transforming their stakeholders from bystanders into owners and making sustainability, including as it pertains to social good, part of their purpose.” Embedding this value into the corporate culture can benefit the employee, the organization, and the world at large.
How can 2030 Builders help?
We understand how important it is to align personal and corporate values. Our platform can help you do this by implementing sustainability within your organizational culture. We offer employees opportunities to engage with, offer and receive feedback on, and make deeper connections to sustainability content. They will also gain a deeper understanding of the company’s commitment to meeting sustainability goals and how they can contribute.
The results report we provide will give you insight into what your employees value and which steps your organization can take to hit your sustainability targets. To hear more about what we can do to help increase your brand visibility and trust while building toward a more sustainable future, schedule a demonstration with us today.