The Importance Of Values & Culture In The Workplace

The Importance Of Values & Culture In The Workplace

The Importance of Values & Culture Within Your Team

By Mark Wager

Values and Culture are the most discussed topics when it comes to effective teamwork but it is also the most misunderstood. Values and culture creates a framework which attracts the most desirable candidates, helps retain the most valuable employees and creates an environment which motivates and inspires the team. That is when it’s successful and done well.

The first thing to understand is to define the differences between values and culture because they are often discussed within the same context. Your values describe who you are as a team, what you believe in and what qualities you value most highly. Your team culture is how your values become real. They are a combination of your policies and what behaviours the leadership tolerates. As an example, one of your values may be looking after people and if so then your culture would be your people focussed policies such as sick leave allowances, Holiday leave, bonuses etc.

Your company values are the lenses through which all decisions should be viewed before they are made.The reason why your values are so important is that as human beings we crave two things when we form groups and those are connection and clarity. If you think about all the people who you have met in your life, there are  most likely hundreds or thousands of people and out of all those people you have a few close friends. Ask yourself what is it that’s different about those close friends that makes them different from all the other people you have met. It’s likely that your close friends are people who you have shared the same values and believe in the same things and who have similar outlooks on life as yourself. In Leadership Psychology this is called the Similarity Attraction Effect. We naturally form close relationships with people who share our values. Even if we have friends who are different from us, you will have a certain sense of clarity over their actions, you know what they will do and why they will do it. People like clarity because it makes us feel comfortable and safe and we are attracted to relationships that provide clarity and when we have those relationship we will go to great lengths to keep them.

Your company values provide a sense of connection and clarity for your employees and can best be described as your internal “brand”. If I said to you let’s go and see a “Disney” you would know exactly what to expect, you know it would be a family movie. This clarity is why the Disney brand is so successful. Yet unfortunately many companies fail to make their values work.

Too often companies go to great lengths to put together their values and place them on a plaque in the reception and that is where they stay. They become a token of intent and never become real because values are worth nothing unless they have the culture with them that makes them feel alive on a daily basis. When I do employee satisfaction surveys for companies, the most common reason for why staff feel unhappy at work is because the values they personally share are not reflected in the company they work for. Your company values are not what is on the plaque. They are the values that people see in the decisions made every day in the workplace. This is why your culture is so important.

Leadership within a team provides clarity on what behaviours are acceptable and what behaviours are not. Acceptable behaviours are ones that takes the team closer to its goal and unacceptable behaviours takes the team further away from their goal. This clarification on behaviour is never found in manuals or in codes of conduct. The energy company Enron has a 64 page manual on ethical behaviour yet the company famously went bankrupt when the senior leaders were arrested for fraud. Netflix, a company that has gone from the brink of bankruptcy to becoming a media giant with a turnover of over $6 billion, don’t have manuals on behaviour they simply request people to ask themselves a simple question “is this in the best interest of Netflix?”  If the answer is yes, do it and if it’s no then don’t do it. Guidelines on acceptable behaviour can only be found in what the leadership tolerates. You can have pages and pages on how important respect is in the workplace but if people are being disrespected and the leadership do nothing then what the team is truly hearing is that it’s ok to be disrespectful. The workplace culture is defined by what behaviours the leadership tolerates. 

If you want to improve motivation within your team then the answer is found within the relationships of the team and its members. Look at your own relationship in your personal life, what works and what doesn’t and apply these principles into the workplace. Make it clear what you believe in, your values, and what you will do everyday in order for people to see those values and understand your team culture. Use your values as a lens that all decisions go through and you will find that your team will become successful.

Posted: Monday 22 January 2018

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