The Covid-19 crisis is causing many of us to reevaluate and restate our personal values to give us hope and stability during a time of great uncertainty. It’s no different for businesses. Crises will often expose the stress fractures in an organisation and many without strong core values to underpin their response, will suffer.
Values are the core principles, ethics and behaviours a company and its employees will agree to abide by at all times. Rather than being a threat, a crisis can be an opportunity for an organisation to operationalise its values and emerge stronger. Here are five ways to make sure your company values are working as hard as possible to motivate and inspire employees during difficult times.
- Test your values
Look for evidence of your values in your organization and consider whether they just window-dressing. PWC reports that the cumulative effect of crises will reveal the gaps — be they cross-functional or cultural — within organisations that made them vulnerable in the first place. Now is the time to examine the weak points and put plans in place to mitigate.
Some examples include:
- Integrity – This is the value most valued by FTSE 100 companies. How are you making it your own?
- Innovation – How has innovation been important in connecting people, beyond using Zoom?
- Safety – How have you put the safety and wellbeing of your people first?
- Transparency – How transparent have you really been about the impact of Covid-19 on your organization?
- Teamwork – Are people working better or worse as teams and what issues have been exposed?
- Reset and restate
Reframing your values in the context of the current crisis is a good next step. Define clearly what your values are and what they aren’t. Then clearly and simply articulate the supporting behaviours for each of them. For example, where you have always prided yourselves on ‘Trust’, now is the time to really show it by allowing your employees to manage their own working pattern to remain productive and well. ‘Teamwork’ isn’t about everyone doing everything together all the time and isn’t practical when many are working from home. It could mean setting priorities and checking in on one another in a ten-minute video call at the start of each day.
Your senior leadership should be the first to talk about why and how values are important in a time of crisis. Focus on one or two values or behaviours in particular that are the most relevant and don’t try and shoehorn any in that don’t fit the current narrative. Keep the references light and keep the conversation going by referring to the values regularly.
- Look to your people
Your people and are the best place to see your values at work so ask yourselves who is already successfully living them. Who do others look to as a role models? (They don’t always have to be the most senior people in the organization.) This shows the values are owned by people rather than being driven from the top down. Imagine who you would you send to Mars as an ambassador of your values. Nominating a values champion to keep the topic live within the team. For example, one of our clients’ core values is #AlwaysReady. With a current focus on employee wellbeing they have identified #AlwaysReady Wellbeing Champions throughout the organization.
- Show and tell
Your narrative and key messages should frequently reference your values, without being forced. Communication of your values is key and employees want to get it via a mix of digital channels – email or newsletter (48%) posts on the company website (33%) and phone/video conferences (2%).
But, remember, actions speak louder than words. Encourage team members to share stories of where they have seen particular values in action. Reward and recognise these efforts. A values moment, nominated team member or story at the beginning or end of calls works well.
If you don’t have strong values, don’t scramble to create new ones – midway through a crisis is not the right time. Don’t look at this as a chance to promote weak values. Take the opportunity to ask yourselves if your values are right. Evaluate how leaders and managers have been role-modelling them to motivate and unite staff. If your company values don’t stand up in a time of crisis, they never will.
If you have tested your company values and found them wanting, it may be time for a refresh. Find out more about how we can help: contact Shehra@106comms.com