Bringing words to life: driving greater employee engagement

I think it’s fair to say that most businesses create a set of organisational values. Designed to be the DNA and closely tied to culture, they are generally on display in receptions and/or on websites. Why, then, does the mention of company values seem to elicit a collective eye roll from so many workers, and do little for employee engagement?

Firstly, too many businesses parade their company core values front and centre but do nothing to embed them or live them. And secondly, the values many businesses identify are so descriptively generic that nobody cares or is interested anyway! Boorrinnggg!!!!

Any company that wants to receive an “A” for disengagement is invariably guilty of either or both of the above workplace sins…and, yes, it is all far too common.

Having a set of business values that are alive and kicking can be a huge motivator for employees at work. Why?

Our digital world drives our love affair with technology and spews constant superficial information at us. Fake news, celebrity and sporting player obsession now dominate our mainstream media. The bad news bears feed us little to be happy about and this proliferation of information, immediately on our iphones, tablets and televisions, is overwhelming.

This rapidly changing world has driven many to search for more meaning in their lives, to be part of a bigger conversation. Employees want to have purpose in their work, therefore. They want to be heard and to have their opinions validated. They seek identity.*

When values are embedded with associated meaningful behaviours to support them, a more engaged and inclusive culture can be created. In this type of environment of improved employee engagement, respect, communication and collaboration all happen more easily. It’s the real deal.

Identifying, living and breathing the behaviours are the crux of the culture message, “How we do things around here?” And if you get it right, your business will benefit. Deloitte, amongst others, have found that as well as creating far more engaged employees, customers and clients also increasingly seek to do business with organisations who share their own values.**

So how can you make your business values really drive engagement?

  1. Allow your staff time to spend thinking and discussing what their own values are and what the principals are that they live by. This will encourage them to think more openly about how their values relate to the organisation’s.
  2. Form diverse groups from throughout your business to identify what behaviours should be associated with each existing workplace value. It is these behaviours that will form the breathing, pumping soul of your culture. Allowing your staff input will also then encourage them to have buy-in.
  3. Make it happen!
  4. Review, review, review. Are these core values still appropriate or do they need re-naming? Are there others to add on? Most importantly, is your organisation, from leaders downwards, living, breathing and recognising the behaviours that make up these core values on a minute-to-minute basis?
  5. Reward success. Highlight often and publically those that are demonstrating the behaviours that matter associated with each value.

The work and time you invest in a personalised, collaborative approach to employee engagement will be worthwhile. Your employees will thrive in an organisation that cares, and your clients and customers will respect your organisation much more readily.

Lexie Wilkins, Culture and Employee-Engagement Expert and Director, Lexie Wilkins Consulting

* https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/2017/09/13/the-new-workplace-where-meaning-and-purpose-are-more-important-than-ever/#742b06325a46
** https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/global/Documents/HumanCapital/gx-dup-global-human-capital-trends-2016.pdf

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