March 23, 2021
Values to Stand and Work By
It was 16 years ago that Jim Collins and Jerry Porras came out with their highly-acclaimed book, “Built to Last.” In it, they cited hundreds of examples from successful companies of all sizes that endured through the years and analyzed each besides their competitors over a period of six years.
A couple of the findings of what they referred to as “visionary companies” were that these companies made a lasting impact on the world and were greatly admired by informed business persons.
Even the Business Roundtable, a nonprofit group composed of CEOs from America’s largest companies, changed its long-held “statement of purpose” for corporations that focused solely on making a profit for its shareholders.
The 2019 change included taking all stakeholders into account whom they identified as employees, customers, and society at large, in addition to its shareholders.
Profit for owners would no longer be the sole driving force.
Events of last year and heightened consciousness by millennials and Gen Zers have further escalated calls for brands to have meritorious values. These recent actions gained the attention of many companies and have caused some to enact or consider changes to their statements of purpose or values. That’s where some really deep consideration in how to broach the topic is warranted.
Companies seeking to adopt a statement of values should consider several things. The first would be to agree on no more than four value statements so everyone can remember them. Each should be brief, memorable phrases that begin with a verb. Prioritize them.
Values should also support the company’s mission. If not, something has to change. They should be clear enough that it empowers autonomy and leads everyone to the same conclusion when faced with a decision. Finally, they must be real.
Know that some values can be painful and uncomfortable. Some workers, as well as customers and vendors, may not agree with them and may leave. But also be aware that meritorious values appeal to the younger workforce.
An earlier article delved into how many Gen Zers considered this factor alone in deciding whether or not to even apply to work with a company.
When considering framing a statement of values, be sure to avoid these landmines. Do not pursue the adoption of a value statement to generate more revenue or to reassure customers.
Companies that focus on the latter often push words like “quality” or “integrity.”
People see through it by the company’s actions and know it’s just cosmetic.
A statement of values should help a company communicate what it feels is important. If something needs fixing within an organization, e.g., employees waste a lot of time so “efficiency” will be a value, don’t frame a company value around it as an excuse for enforcement.
This is not the platform to remedy employee behavior.
Once a statement of values is finalized, be sure to share it with every audience as well as all social media platforms the company uses.
This audience includes not only customers and employees, but also shareholders if publicly traded, vendors, news media, community partners and leaders, local government leaders. Be transparent.
Invite comments and log all feedback for future review and assessment. That may give brand ammo to add even more value.