Developing a high-performing organization starts with defining and aligning employees around the things that matter, or what I refer to as the organization’s core values – the actions and behaviors essential to the organization’s success. Customer service, reliability, and financial sustainability are three examples of core values that every company needs to explore.
To do this successfully, you must engage your employees in a series of conversations about what it means to be a values-driven organization, what behaviors support the core values, and how important employees are in the daily realization of the core values.
Here are some techniques we use here at LRI in aligning employees around an organization’s core values.
First, we use focus groups. Managers, supervisors and employees get a chance to discuss the core values and explore what they mean and what behaviors are most important to supporting them. We spend time brainstorming and then narrowing lists of specific, measurable behaviors.
Second, growing from the focus groups, we work with the senior management team to hone the core values and develop a list of “we statements” that everyone agrees are the behaviors most critical to supporting the core values. The management team commits to measure these behaviors consistently over time.
The next step is for the management team members to measure how well they are currently upholding the core values and related behaviors. They then publicize the results and make commitments to improve in areas where the scores are weaker.
Next, we assess how well people in the organization exemplify the core values. Internally, a survey goes to all employees. Externally, we survey customers and other constituents. We systematically track the results and provide feedback, focusing people on those areas that score low and devising strategies to improve them.
To deepen the alignment, we make sure that employee recruitment, orientation, training and promotion are tied to the core values. All employees get regular orientation and training. People who demonstrate alignment are promoted over others.
Finally, we retool the company’s performance appraisal system so that it is aligned with the core values and we statements. That cements the pieces, creating an integrated system of communication and performance measurement that assures continued attention is placed on the things that matter most to the company’s success.
Those are the ways we align people around an organization’s core values. Above all, it means creating a culture in which the core values truly live in the organization – not simply as words on paper, but on a day-to-day basis in people’s hearts and minds.
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