Ever since the Covid pandemic, there has been a great demand for a more values-led culture as a way of ensuring organisational success. A true values-based organisation is one where its culture is shared by its employees and everything the business does is supported by those values, as Judith Germain explains
One of the defining aspects of a values-based culture is that it fosters a common purpose amongst employees – and becomes a tuning fork that attracts and nurtures their stakeholders.
Great leaders use the values of the organisation as a method to guide their decision-making process and provide a clear framework for employees to understand what is expected of them and how to navigate unexpected or unforeseen events. This consistency enables the organisation to have engaged employees who have a clear sense of purpose, thereby increasing productivity and a sense of belonging.
When a culture is aligned with its employees around clearly stated positive values, innovation and collaboration can result as staff feel safe to express themselves without fear of judgement and this can lead to innovative solutions.
Defining the desired culture
A common mistake that organisations make is to define the culture based on the opinions of the executive team without any reference to its internal or external stakeholders. This can often lead to employees becoming disengaged.
Another error is not recognising where culture comes from. Culture begins with the individual. Their behaviours, values, mindset and so on creates a culture of one. When they interact with others, they create a collective leadership culture and that in turn is supported by the organisational culture.
Business culture is really defined by the collective culture. Therefore, the organisation needs to intentionally define the culture and articulate it. By creating psychological safety, cognitive diversity, diversity of experiences, empowerment, an ability to lead stakeholders and collaborate and align others the culture moves from definition to a lived experience.
This is often the reason why organisations seek support from external organisations to help them change to their desired culture and to have that change successfully embedded throughout the organisation.
Organisations that seek feedback from stakeholders during the define and articulation phase stand the best likelihood of achieving a values-based culture to which employees can align. However, it is important to have true engagement with employees during this process, as a top-down approach is unlikely to garner the desired results.
There are many ways to seek feedback, but it is essential that the organisation cultivates an environment that allows open and honest communication across multiple channels. Changing an organisation’s culture cannot be rushed, therefore regular feedback from key stakeholders is vital.
Feedback can be derived via focus groups, surveys and one-to-one meetings, while team discussions can help align employees’ values to the organisation.This is especially true when employees feel that their concerns have been listened to and their ideas respected.
By actively listening and taking a ‘temperature check’ of the organisation, leaders can get a more nuanced understanding of the culture as it is forming and changing.
Assessing the impact
Once you have clearly defined the desired culture and understand your starting poing you have a baseline for assessment. Following a culture change initiative, it is prudent to assess the change to the culture from how it is varied from the baseline that you first took.
Leaders need to develop metrics and key performance indicators that align the desired culture to the organisation’s goals. An organisation’s culture is always dynamically changing therefore, there are several different continuous measurements you can use.
For example, staff retention rates, employee satisfaction surveys, exit interviews, Glassdoor ratings, focus groups and employee stories. The stories that they tell about the company and the culture can be enlightening and provide a good indicator of the success of the culture change.
Prioritising your own personal development
No-one can survive or thrive with a mentality that resists change. As you build a values-based culture for your organisation, it is important to take the time to assess your own values, your purpose and your identity as a leader.
Investment in your own personal growth, emotional intelligence and communication skills will enable you to help align your employees to the desired culture and assist them in their own development.
Judith Germain is a chartered fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development and a leading authority on maverick leadership. She empowers business owners, leaders, the C-suite and organisations to thrive in complex, constantly changing environments as a consultant, mentor, trainer and speaker. Germain is editor of The Maverick Paradox magazine and host of the podcast of the same name, which is ranked in the top 1.5 per cent of the most popular podcasts in the UK and was voted the eleventh-best leadership podcast to follow in 2023