Be Crystal Clear About What We Value!

clear expectations employee engagement employee experience employee retention leadership culture organizational culture and values organizational culture definition the importance of organizational culture values Apr 06, 2022
Organizational Culture and Values

What are you just not willing to compromise? Where have you drawn a line in the sand that you absolutely will not cross, or allow anyone in your organization to cross without being held accountable immediately? Lying? Cheating? Stealing? Harassment of any kind? I’m sure each of those things rate fairly high on most lists… But how do they tie back to a value that you hold dear, and how can you be sure you’ve communicated the importance of that value well enough to every single member of your team for it to become deeply embedded into your organizational culture?

I recently helped the new owners of a local company put together an employee handbook. From what we could tell, this was the first time in the organization’s history that anything of the sort had even been considered. For what it’s worth, I’ve been known to suggestion to each of the hundreds of new employees I’ve done orientation for over the years that about 80% of any handbook covers the crap the government requires a company to have in place while only about 20% is something that anyone who ever reads it will get any value from. Now that I think about it, that falls right in line with the Pareto Principle and it probably comes close to how our tax dollars are used too - but  I’ll stay off that soap box here even though it could serve as a great case study on values and culture…

The first thing we addressed in their new handbook was a list of the values they had been talking about with every member of their new team since they took ownership of the business; compassion, integrity, humility, family, and dependability. As I discussed this list with the owners, we bounced around the idea of including something that touched on profitability because without that, any business will struggle to provide for team members long term. Ultimately, we didn’t add it. The owners decided that if they were effective in communicating the behaviors they believed to be necessary for each of the values already listed, the profitability would be there.

I’ll spare you the details of how we finally got the rest of the handbook put together, but I can assure none of us enjoyed the process. That said, I experienced something when I rolled the handbooks out to their team members that I would have never expected - especially tied to close to 40 pages of policies… To a person, the entire team was excited about having the handbook in place! As strange as that sounds, I’m completely convinced that this was a result of the focus the owners had placed on defining those values and explaining how they supported any decision they made, in group discussions as well as in one on one conversations with team members for months leading up to when we put the handbook in place.

When we invest the energy into clearly defining exactly what we value as an organization and how we expect those values to be lived out on a daily basis, then we actually exemplify what we’ve said, the team we’re responsible for leading understands what’s expected of them. With ambiguity eliminated, those values build our culture!

So how do we figure out which values we want our culture to be built on? And how can we define them so our team develops that crystal-clear understanding? We’ll pick up there next time…