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Building Culture: Thinking deeper than Values

Building Culture: Thinking deeper than Values

Our experience highlights that many organisations think and talk about their culture in terms of how employees ‘live the values’ that have been identified as those to which the organisation aspires to internally and wants to project externally. Most often organisations have chosen single words that define those values and therefore their ideal culture – words such as “integrity”, “customer focus”, “innovation” and “commitment” – and then have moved them into the language of the organisation through communication, visual reminders and consideration in appraisals.

 

What is also common in our conversations with organisations is that despite all of this excellent work, and evidence of a real commitment to the agreed values from leadership and employees, the culture isn’t changing in the way it was envisaged or hoped for at the beginning of the change process. So why is this, and what can an organisation do next to build its ideal culture?

 

There are two main reasons why this is such a common situation.

 

Firstly, each value carries with it the interpretation of each employee as to what that particular value word means to them. I am sure we can all recall instances where we have experienced very different levels of “customer focus” from within the same organisation in our daily lives - in shops, restaurants and with service companies for example. In order to help employees to live each value, organisations can be more explicit in describing and communicating the behavioursthat best demonstrate to others what that value means. For example (and of course appropriate behaviours will be different in each organisation) “start and end each customer interaction with a genuine smile”, “enquire after the customer’s wellbeing” or “put yourself in the customers shoes when making decisions” are behaviour statements that can help employees to understand how they can best demonstrate customer focus. Often this is called a behaviour framework and sits underneath each value, explaining in more detail how the value will be demonstrated. Some organisations have multiple behaviour frameworks depending on the seniority of the employee (i.e. one for individual contributors, one for managers and one for executives).

 

The second reason why organisations can feel that their values are not being lived is because employees aren’t always skilled in displaying the desired behaviours, or don’t feel comfortable in displaying them. Enquiring after a customer’s wellbeing or making small talk may be unsettling or daunting for someone not used to displaying that behaviour. Behaviour based training can support people to understand the skills that may be needed, as well as understand the emotions that may be preventing them displaying the behaviours and therefore living the values. A majority of organisations we’ve spoken to spend a large proportion of their L&D budgets on skills based training with little, if any, invested in behaviour based training.

 

For the organisation that is committed to creating its ideal culture, building behavioural detail to underpin the work done to establish values is a sensible next step, as is backing up that work with behaviour based training to support employees to increasingly demonstrate those behaviours and bring the culture to life.

 

If you’d like support to define your ideal culture, to establish behaviours to underpin already defined values, or learn more about our behaviour based training solutions, please contact us

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