Month: October 2021

Values and Governance

Word Cloud with Corporate Governance related tags

Your organisation’s values are the heart and foundation upon which everything you do is built. They serve as signposts or as a compass, guiding the way to fulfilling your organisation’s mission and purpose.

When you have strong organisational values, they shape how your organisation runs and is governed, allow your employees to feel aligned and connected, and make it simpler for customers to build a bond with you, when they know clearly who you are and what values you stand by.

Values-driven Culture

Having a values-driven culture means having clear and present organisational values that enable employees to align with your organisation emotionally as well as physically. Centring your company culture around your values will bring your entire workforce together to deliver on your mission and purpose.

With 94% of executives and 88% of employees believing a strong culture at work is important in a successful organisation, there has never been a better time to ask yourself, who are you and what does your company value.

Culture can be created and driven from both ends of the employee scale. New employees don’t learn about company culture from leaflets and 5-minute briefings. They learn by observing the behaviours of the leaders and colleagues around them, especially long serving ones.

Even though it is the leadership and governance teams that decide the culture and direction of the organisation, it will be the employees that are responsible for embodying those messages and passing them on to customers through their words and most importantly their behaviour and actions.

If you want a strong values-driven culture, ask yourself; do I really know and believe in my organisation’s values? Do I behave in a way that aligns with them? Or only pay them lip service.

The most important thing to remember when creating a healthy workplace culture is that ‘do as I say’ cultures are hardly ever successful in the long term, they breed resentment and unfairness among the organisation and are a barrier to full employee alignment. When you focus on a ‘do as I do’ approach and embody your values in all you say and do, your employees and customers will recognise and reward it.

What makes for good governance?

Understanding values and why they are important can also help play a role in establishing and maintaining good governance at your organisation. There are five key considerations, that serve well as a structure within which to plan culture and behaviour going forward.

The first of these is fairness. Any organisational planning that takes place needs to frame your company values in how they affect everyone that engages with you. Planning that only considers the needs of senior management will always result in an unhealthy culture, especially when other employees taking part in the work are not represented or treated equally.

They say ‘the bad’ always rolls downhill. This kind of culture is completely toxic to an organisation’s performance. Cultures of blame and blame shifting don’t serve anyone and only hurt the relationship between different levels of employees. Take accountability for your plans and actions. If something is going wrong, don’t ask “what did they do wrong”, ask, “what did I do wrong?” Especially if you are in a position of power and influence. What could you do to better communicate the values and culture of the organisation so that failings are mitigated?

Good governance needs responsible thought and action. It requires people who are able to see the whole picture and willing to bear the weight that comes with being both a governor and a leader. Too often, governors don’t get involved at all levels. Ask yourself, when was the last time I spoke to a customer or front-facing colleague?

The last two are the hardest to find among organisation culture. Having the integrity to do the right thing, (even when it costs) and the transparency to be open and honest when mistakes are made.

The pandemic highlighted this in a dramatic way. The organisations that have been most successful at navigating these complex and unexpected developments, are those that have spoken publicly and honestly to their uncertainty.

Employees, customers, and shareholders, it turns out, all much prefer organisations that are transparent, even when faced with challenges, compared with those that would hide how badly affected they are. Publicly doing the right thing can be hard, its hard to predict how others will react, but overall being honest builds trust and allows people to feel aligned with and bonded to the culture of the organisation because of it.

What can you do to encourage the above approach as a framework for effective governance? You might have noticed that we have not referred to audit, inspection, and reporting because, whilst these might have a place, they represent a means to an end and need to be handled with care to avoid an unintended consequence (which might be the opposite of the objective!). Focus on what you can do to move away from box ticking to pass inspections, or blame shifting to shirk responsibility and move into well considered, authentic governance. Quality governance is a combination of heart and head, in that order.

SERVICEBRAND

Why not connect with us and see how the SERVICEBRAND approach can help you determine the right courses of action when the desired standards aren’t being met and transform sentiment and platitudes into real and affirmative action.

Values and Reconnection post COVID-19

Some of the greatest ‘awakenings’ in the world have come about as a result of disruption. Disruptive events allow for a brief surfacing, a moment of crisis that generates a pause, and in that pause, there is space for reflection and rumination on what is truly important, as well as room for spontaneous and adaptable inspiration to strike.

For individuals, as well as organizations, values sit at the gateway between our inner and outer worlds. They describe what is fundamentally important and meaningful to us and relate directly to our sense of purpose and to our needs as individuals to survive and thrive.

The measures taken to combat COVID-19 enforced a new normal of separation and isolation. As we are gradually emerging from this crisis, perhaps we will come back together with a new and better understanding of who we are and what truly matters to us.

We are shaped by what we care about, the way people feel about their offices, homes and work are important factors in the overall success of the organization. Employees who feel their values are being met, those that are engaged by a clear and consistent set of values with which to align themselves are far more likely to be reliable, productive, and fulfilled.

Employee disconnection

Individuals and organizations face disruptions all the time, sometimes they are minor and manageable, like the retirement of valued colleagues or supply chain issues. Other times they are more serious, like the recent wave of increased cyber-attacks, and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

One of the most startling findings to come out of the pandemic, and the rapid shift to remote working, has been the dramatic increase in productivity. At a time when people were panicked about trusting their employees to continue performing well without near constant oversight, they have risen to the occasion with over 71% of organisations saying that remoting work either boosted their productivity or didn’t limit it.

Identifying values

Communication is key in identifying values. A select group of senior leaders distributing a list of values and demanding that employees embody them is not likely to be successful (surely no organization would entertain such an approach – you might be surprised!). Neither is it necessary (nor sometimes appropriate) for all employees to have the same degree of influence in making the decision. What is required is clear and consistent communication explaining the process to arrive at the values, the reasons behind it and the opportunity for questions and answers..

Communication can be tricky. As William H Whyte said in ‘Fortune’ magazine in 1950 “The great enemy of communication, we find, is the illusion of it.” Having a full office doesn’t necessarily mean you have good communication, and, in the same way, having remote workers doesn’t always mean they will be left out of the loop to fend for themselves.

Seeking to identify your organizations values will help to drive performance (and profitability), by aligning everyone with the same sense of collectively built purpose and establishing ‘the way things work around here’.

What matters to me?

Before we are able to fit in with a group, we need to spend some time identifying what matters to us as individuals. The impact of the pandemic forced a dramatic shift in consciousness, with many people reassessing the relative importance of family and work and some realising that an office environment is not the most suitable for them.

Figuring out what matters to us is not an easy task and it can become more of a challenge when we try to then align ourselves with an employer that fits our self-perception and matches our values. In the long term however, this values aligned approach can lead to greater clarity and a sense of fulfilment.

Hybrid disruption

Some people thrive in a fast-paced office environment with clearly marked start and finish times, while others prefer working in solitude at a pace that is suitably flexible to their needs. How well your organization manages the balance between rigid structure and flexibility will define how well it bounces back from the disruption of the pandemic.

According to Microsoft, 73% of employees want flexible remote work options to stay, but this is contrasted with 67% who also want more in-person office work/collaborations. This study highlights what we are all becoming aware of; Hybrid work is here to stay. But care needs to be taken not to make this a binary conversation about working in the office and working from home. The place of work is just one dimension, and the real question is “How can leaders enable employees to be as productive as possible, individually, and collectively, in delivering the organization’s values, purpose and business objectives?”

Flexibility will be the key to navigating this new normal. Changing from a micromanaged office environment to a hybrid one is going to take some getting used to. But it also presents an opportunity to dial your values, and to practise trust with your employees. If your purpose as an organization has been clearly communicated, and your values are lived, it becomes easier to trust your employees to make decisions aligned with that ethos.

Inclusivity

Inclusivity is not about micro managing, it’s about well-being, ensuring that all colleagues, whether working from the office or remotely, know they can count on the support they need when they need it. Are you making sure that remote workers are still offered a (video) seat at the table, to keep them represented and involved. How will you protect office colleagues from bearing an unfair amount of the workload purely due to their proximity or ease of access.

It will be trial and error, and a strong set of working values will help align everyone with new working practices and minimise the risk of an ‘us verse them’ culture developing.

Lastly, don’t panic, people had similar reservations and fears when adapting to the increase of a night team/working culture, but over time that has become a key part of our infrastructure, as Hybrid arrangements are becoming now.

SERVICEBRAND

The impact of COVID-19 has demonstrated how we are much less restrained by location and traditional working hours than we previously thought. It has helped us see how we can build fit for purpose work environments in our living rooms and offices, to maintain our organisations in a time of severe uncertainty.

Having everyone in the same room doesn’t automatically mean they are connected; the connection comes from a sense of shared values. These values support employee security, wellbeing, confidence, and resilience, while also driving performance to achieve the organization’s purpose and objectives. To see how the SERVICEBRAND approach might help you build values-based connections in your hybrid workforce, please get in touch.

Values in Crisis

Directions to crisis and opportunity

The Covid-19 pandemic, while bringing with it immense suffering, has also brought the opportunity to re-examine and re-evaluate our values and beliefs. It has let us bear witness to those companies and corporations that have shown a reaffirmation of their values, and also those that have shown a complete disregard for their espoused values in the way they have treated their employees and customers during the pandemic.

Examples like amazon sellers price gouging on PPE, and companies profiteering on other medical supplies, furloughing and/or laying off staff while still paying enormous bonuses to senior executives and capitalising on the lockdowns to force smaller companies out of business.

But there have also been positive examples such as businesses re-tasking their products and services to help their employees retain employment and their customers continue to access the goods and services they need in times of limitation and restriction.

Global health pandemics aren’t the only type of crisis that can dramatically affect a business. But a crisis of this scale gives a much wider view of the cultural and moral landscape our societies are built on.

Finding value

Understanding and assigning values to your business can be a difficult process. It requires a great deal of reflection about who you are, what you are offering and most importantly why you want to sell that product or offer that service in the first place.

We become who we are (consciously or not) through what we care about. We only need the space and safety to follow our values and we can create lives and companies that are successful because of how well others can relate to our message.

Our values set the tone for everything to come. They act as a frame of reference in our decision-making structures. They cast a spotlight on our individual and collective behaviours, engaging and directing us to better align with the kind of businesses we want to support and the people we want to be.

But the most important aspect of defining and operating in a specific set of values, is that they are consistent. In this way the reputation and heritage of the company can begin to grow, this builds trust with the consumer base, and other stakeholders letting them feel secure in where they have placed their purchasing power or other type of relationship.

Authenticity in a crisis

Whether facing a crisis or not 86% of customers are driven by a desire for authentic interactions with the businesses and services they engage with, especially when those offerings demonstrate core values that closely align with those of the customers.

Those companies that have been upfront and authentic in their handling of the pandemic are the ones that have retained and seen the most support from their customer base. We hope that this is a sign that honesty really is the best policy, even during uncertain times.

Both individuals and organisations share common needs for safety and security, and while the go to may be to project an image of strength during a crisis, it is far more impactful and better for business to be up front about what is happening, being open about uncertainty with customers will build stronger bonds and connections through shared experience.

Repositioning

The companies that have been more able to the pandemic comfortably have done so because of their ability to be agile and flexible without compromising on their values. Companies like 58 Gin, that rapidly switched from producing gin, to the distillation and creation of hand sanitizer.

Maintaining operation, ensuring that employees still had work and the business remained profitable all came because of having strong core values, but being flexible enough to express them in different ways.

Repositioning a brand is often necessary as the times change and we head into an ever more uncertain future. Don’t fear having to make changes that are necessary for the survival of the business. Just ensure those changes don’t come at the expense of your values or authenticity. Consumer trust is hard to build and near impossible to regain once broken.

SERVICEBRAND

Whether its help choosing core values or assistance in implementing them, SERVICEBRAND GLOBAL can help you navigate the crises facing your business, shape your brand identity and align you authentically with your consumer base.

Companies that will successfully navigate any crisis are those with a strong and consistent set of core values, that have a purpose beyond profit.

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