Driving Value, with Values.
Updated: Dec 11, 2021
One of the most important learnings I had in my early career as an HR professional was on the importance of Values for any organization to orchestrate the acts of dozens or hundreds of their Leaders, which then move hundreds or thousands of workforce.
What are these Values?. Values are the underlying principles of what really matters to the organization, hence it helps govern everyone's attitude and behavior at work. It's like a manifesto, code of ethics.
When I joined as a graduate trainee in HR, I was assigned to help company projects on socializing the Values. It was six statements, with clear "DO-s" and "DONT-s", and every desk in the office has a plaque of it for people to read and remember. Not only that, the company activates these Values by holding thematic leadership engagement events and "bang in" single-mindedly to one Values at a time.
Who organize these campaigns and activation event? If your answer is HR, then you are still in the 'prehistoric era of engagement'. The answer is the business leaders themselves. We selected the rising stars in the business to lead the activation.
Why? Because we want them to be the role models of these values. By owning it, and conceptualizing the whole activation of those values themselves, these future leaders of the company get the grasp on it, champions it, and hence, be able to translate it into activities that the business can relate to. Remember, the end in mind of Values activation is both the understanding of it and (the most important of all) how it is being done on a day-to-day basis after the activation event and the confetti pops over.
One real example was when we activate the value of Agility - in "making things happen" and finding ways in a street-smart manner to win in the market. I remembered that the young leaders of the 2004 batch decided to take the Asterix cartoon theme of activating the Values and run a food-selling competition in a "mission-impossible" setup. The day was filled with fun and vigor, yet they experience what it's like to really be agile to deliver the mission. Plus that with the satisfaction feeling of seeing things happen, despite how difficult it was being thought-of-first before people rolled their sleeves and make it together.
With Values being set, Value will come as a consequence of these. Most of the Values-driven companies thrive well in difficulties, as they have an unshakeable code of conduct that makes them come out from the storm strong. Keeping these Values alive is the mandate of HR and the Leadership Team, as to remind everyone in the company on what the organization believes as "what matters most".
When it comes to values such as Integrity, or the classic ideals of "Putting People First", etc, most of the conversations are inconvenient when going gets through (i.e. restructuring). But great HR leaders stand-up as an ambassador for those Values and counsel Leaders to rethink alternative ways to undergo business crisis in the most sustainable avenue.
So, when you need to deliver Value out of your business, think of Values first.