How valued are your organisation's values?

Does your organisation embody and uphold its values?

Organisational values refer to both actual and espoused values. A small number of organisations are very clear about what their espoused values are. They promote them through their internal and external communications, proudly stand behind them and often make bold claims about how their organisation lives by its values.

However a survey by global communications agency Hotwire of 200 local marketing and business leaders on values alignment related issues found only 34% of organisations communicate and live their espoused values. Which-50 argue the communication of organisational values has never been more important following the Banking Royal Commission, the #MeToo movement and the significant environmental stances being made by major organisations.

Branson argues that an organisation is not considered to possess a set of values until most of the organisation’s employees personally and authentically embody each of the values. In addition, research has shown that misalignment between espoused and actual values can result in personal and interpersonal conflict, negatively impacting on employees’ job satisfaction and commitment.

To assess whether there is a gap between your organisation’s actual and espoused values, look for ways your organisation assists its employees to embody each of its espoused values:

  • Do you experience your organisation’s espoused values on a day-to-day basis?

  • Are they publicly endorsed and enacted by senior management?

  • Are they incorporated in policy and procedure?

  • Are they reflected in workplace accreditations and certificates?

If the answer isn’t a resounding “yes – my organisation’s actual and espoused values are closely aligned!” there are steps both you and your organisation can take to bridge the gap and bring the two into alignment.

At the individual level, while you as an employee may not feel empowered to make structural changes, you can still make a difference. You can incorporate strategies that locate and frame your work in ways that align with your organisation’s espoused values. Importantly, you can also call out behaviour that doesn’t align with the espoused values as well as endeavour to enact and model the values yourself.

At the organisation level, it is first essential that senior management engage in strategic values clarification to ensure the values they want their organisation’s employees to embrace are the right values. Second, senior management must be committed to the organisation’s espoused values and demonstrate their commitment by publicly endorsing and, more importantly, living them. Third, the espoused values should be incorporated into policy and procedure wherever possible. Finally, another way that your organisation can embody its espoused values is by obtaining any workplace accreditations or certificates that can further demonstrate your organisation’s commitment to the values. For example, if your organisation values flexible work you could seek to obtain Flex Able certification.

Rapid Context can help your organisation to assess and respond to the gap between your actual and espoused values by providing a rapid feedback loop to senior management and key stakeholders on your current organisational values. We can work with you to develop and implement targeted workplace changes and tailored strategies to bring your organisation into alignment with its espoused values. These services will help you to ensure your espoused organisational values are your actual values.

Alicia is a senior research consultant at Rapid Context with expertise in the area of organisational psychology. Her portfolio of research includes IS alignment, emotional intelligence, complex project management, major project manager competencies, major projects in the Defence industry, interpersonal work relationships, and stakeholder relationships.

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