On Thursday, 15th October, the annual World Values Day will once again inspire individuals, businesses and communities to think about their most deeply held beliefs. The challenges of 2020 have made the values that move us at the core more critical than ever.
There’s a lesson to be learnt from this year’s theme, ‘Values in Action’. It is a call to bringing values to life through more than words and implement the habits and behaviours that will turn beliefs into long-lasting results. We use the phrase “Values are for living not laminating”.
In celebration of values, we will be discussing the importance of our beliefs in organisations.
Why are values important to businesses?
The current business agenda is influenced by many emerging factors, but there are three that we believe are creating a fundamentally shift:
- Choices. In the past, consumers made decisions based on rational and financial factors. However, people are increasingly making decisions on an emotional level and are basing their buying choices on opinion and identity.
- Communication. In the age of social media, we’re all super-connected. This means that businesses operate at a greater level of transparency, and their stakeholders’ opinions are amplified.
- Control. Customers and audiences now play a crucial role in the marketing of companies. The perception of a brand is often in the hand of the audience, which means businesses no longer ‘own’ their brands entirely. They are what others say they are.
This accumulation of value-driven choices, amplified communication, and new seats of power have created a new paradigm we now refer to as the Values Economy.
Values throughout the last decade
The theme of values has engaged the imaginations of people all over the world. This has been especially true for political leaders, celebrities, and a variety of others. These individuals sought to win support for their causes. In 2018, advertisers moved values onto the centre stage. Toyota published an ad that celebrated unity and social values.
The first World Values Day was celebrated on 16thOctober 2016. Since then, people from more than one hundred countries have taken part each year.
To create a strong and authentic brand, the first step is to put values at the centre of everything an organization does. This matters primarily to service organizations to which people are at the heart of their proposition.
However, these principles need to be sincere and authentic. Various PR campaigns have garnered adverse reactions when they have felt like simple lip service. In that vein, McDonald’s marketing initiative backfired when they flipped their golden arches on social media in honour of International Women’s Day.
Despite organizations increasingly placing importance on purpose and values as fundamental aspects of their brand identity, there’s a long way left to go. Research by Donald Sull and his colleagues at the MIT Sloan School of Management reveals there isn’t a correlation between a company’s cultural values in its published statements, and how well employees think company values are upheld.
Values in Action
Businesses have much to consider if they want to see their values in action. But fundamentally, there are specific areas that will help drive value and effectiveness.
Values are identified not based on imagined ideals, but on the wide-spread understanding of employees and stakeholders that see the organization at its best. These beliefs are then labelled and described in simple and practical terms. Expectations are clarified. These need to be communicated regularly, both internally and externally.
Values must be made clear at all levels, referred to, and activated in processes and policies. Values should be actively considered when making decisions about the direction of the business. They need to be reflected in how funds and time are spent and championed by leaders in the organization.
Businesses should encourage constructive feedback. Everybody is accountable for upholding organizational values. This can be done through a combination of objective assessment and subjective feedback featuring self-reflection. Values and culture metrics should be reported publicly, and achievements in this area celebrated just as much as successes in the financial and business sectors.
Take time to reflect on key decisions, consciously referring to the values. Learn, individually and collectively from all the available information and perceptions and continuously develop to live the values more fully. Tackle the complexity of competing values through open and robust debate. Review and update policies and processes to reflect this learning, share what is learnt with other organisations and groups, and seek to learn and benefit from their experience.
Your values – the same, inside and out.
In a world as transparent as the one we’re living in, it is nearly impossible, and very risky, to present different faces to different audiences. Consumers will realize when values are empty and non-committal. This can have adverse effects on the public perception of a brand. It is far more effective to concentrate on enacting authentic values than it is to control the brand perception reactively through damage limitation of bad practices.
Aligning a company’s actions and its values is the key to success. The SERVICEBRAND approach helps enable companies to reflect and reinforce their values in everything they do. Contact us to learn more about our best practices.