Communicating values Open CPT

 

Communicating values

From posters on the wall to something we live

By: Kristina Malther, Managing Director, Open CPT (August 8, 2018)

 

We recently did a Dialogue Matters session on Ethics and values that gave me an opportunity to gather a number of cases and examples – as well as my thoughts – on what really works when it comes to communicating values internally.

Why values matter

First off, corporate values are sometimes laughed at or dismissed as corporate b…s… but I must say, that I have seen many examples of values that truly work when it comes to:

  • Building a strong culture. Especially in large organisations with multiple geographies, demographics, businesses etc. Values act as the glue that ties it all together.
  • Helping people make the right choices on an everyday basis. When values work, they help us navigate effectively and make decisions in a complex world.
Iceberg model - Open CPT
Iceberg model

With free inspiration from Edgar Schein, I often use the iceberg model to illustrate how values are driving our behaviour on an often unconscious level – alongside our beliefs. In order to succeed with real behavioural change, we need to make sure that our values are in sync with the behaviour, we are trying to foster.

Another perspective, offered by Cynthia Schoeman from Ethics Monitor at our session, was this: when it comes to ethical behaviour, rules and regulations (compliance) is the stick, whereas values are the carrot. Values can proactively drive ethical behaviour when they are fully lived by employees.

Off the wall – and into our hearts and minds

Truth be told, there are many corporate values that never make it off the wall and into the hearts and minds of employees. And that is when they are shrugged at.

At Open, we have helped implement or revitalise corporate values in many organisations. And I can happily report, it’s something that is only growing in importance and focus. Alongside the focus on compliance communication. Carrot and stick.

These are some of the things we know work well and help get the values off the wall and into the hearts and minds:

Get values off the wall and into the hearts and minds

Tip 1: Storytelling and authenticity

We need to tell real stories about the values and what they mean to people. Stories that are at eye-level with all employees – not just management – and stories that allow for imagination and interpretation. So less corporate lingo, less bullets, less instructions – more stories, more people, more authenticity.

And try to incorporate a storytelling element in your engagement activities e.g. bonfire talks where people share stories about how colleagues have truly exemplified and lived the values (I can promise you, that these can be some of the most heartwarming talks you’ll ever hear in an organisational setting).

Tip 2: Engage and activate

And most importantly: instead of telling people too much about the values and how they must be understood, allow them to fill in the gaps themselves, reflecting on how they understand the values – and crucially – how they apply the values in their particular job. This can only be done in true, open dialogue, which is why every values roll-out must incorporate tools and templates to facilitate this at every level of the organisation.

If I am the cashier at Pick ‘n Pay, I need a chance to figure out how ‘We take individual responsibility’ and how I translate that into everyday actions at the till. Dialogue tools and dilemma exercises in a team setting will help this process along – also in a large organisation.

Tip 3: Make it fun

It goes for most things: people are much more likely to engage with anything if it’s fun and entertaining. And this doesn’t mean silly or superficial. Use gamification: do a values quiz, create a values Black Jack card deck, or maybe a values charades game that will kick-start reflection and add a bit of team building at the same time.

And then show emotions and allow for real conversations to happen. People want to talk about people, and people want to talk about what matters to them. Values are a great opportunity to do just that.

Integrate values in the employee lifecycle

To stay top of mind, values must be an integral part of your onboarding of new people, your performance management, your strategy and your leadership communication to name a few.

It’s a good idea to look at it from an employee lifecycle perspective: when and how should a prospective employee experience the values? How should the values be reflected in the ongoing development activities? How do the values come into play in the day-to-day operations?

Values must be activated and applied constantly to be relevant. And to become an integral part of your culture.

Finally, remember that living values doesn’t happen overnight and with one campaign – it takes constant focus and activation at every possible opportunity.

Get in touch for more examples and ideas on how to communicate corporate values internally.

 

 

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