The pandemic placed unprecedented pressure on enterprises. Most struggled to meet their financial targets, and many to survive. But some came out unscathed with updated operating models, more appealing employer brands, and healthier financial performance.
What set them apart from laggards were robust decision-making frameworks that guided a tightly aligned workforce to adapt and perform in a turbulent environment. Their core values served as the foundation stones of these frameworks.
What are core values?
Core values are the fundamental beliefs that guide the actions and decisions of an organization. They define the company’s identity and shape its relationships with customers, employees, and other stakeholders. Companies often articulate core values in a formal mission statement and imbibe them into their policies and codes of conduct.
Why are core values important?
#1. Driving Performance and Innovation
Core values are not just feel-good additions to a company’s mission statement. They have a tangible impact on the bottom line by creating a culture of accountability, purpose, and integrity, ultimately leading to better financial performance.
#2. Building Trust & Credibility
By consistently adhering to their core values, enterprises can build a credible employer brand to attract and retain top talent.
Per Gartner Research, 65% of employees want to work for organizations with a strong social and environmental conscience, which includes making statements and taking action.
#3. Engaging Employees
Core values shape the organizational culture, creating a sense of shared identity among employees. They enable employees to balance personal expression and inclusiveness to create an environment that fosters collaboration and engagement.
#4. Navigating Through Crises
Core Values provide a consistent decision-making framework across dynamic business environments and help employees remain true to their purpose.
Why your core values must be defined and not copied?
Before articulating your core values, you must define the goals and vision of your organization. You must carefully assess how each value will impact your organization’s ability to meet these goals.
For your employees to comprehend your values and for you to communicate them effectively, it is vital to prioritize and limit the number of core values to a maximum of six or seven. A long list of values copied from others creates ambiguity instead of clarity.
Under what circumstances can core values go for a toss?
Several internal and external factors may push organizations to deviate from their core values.
#1. Leadership Changes
When top leadership changes, the new leader may have different priorities and values which may not align with the existing organization’s core values.
#2. Mergers and Acquisitions
Ill-planned company mergers or acquisitions that focus only on financial parameters and disregard cultural synergies and compatibility of values can lead to conflicts and a loss of the organization’s core values.
#3. Growth and Expansion
As an organization scales up and expands its offerings, it may be tempted to change its core values to adapt to new markets or competition. Companies may hire employees that do not identify with their values. It can confuse and cause disconnect among existing employees.
#4. Short-term focus
When an organization prioritizes short-term financial gains over its core values, it can lead to a trust deficit among employees and customers. It may throw the company off-track from its long-term vision and damage the organization’s reputation in the long run.
#5. Lack of Reinforcement
If an organization doesn’t reinforce its core values through its actions and decisions in day-to-day activities, they lose their importance. HR Teams must ensure that their rewards and recognition programs acknowledge the employees who personify organizational values.
How companies’ core values got tested during the pandemic?
Few examples of businesses whose core values may have been tested or impacted during the pandemic:
#1. Pharmaceutical companies
Some pharmaceutical companies deliberately capitalized on the unprecedented demand for COVID-19 vaccines and novel treatments to drive prices upwards. The core values of affordability and accessibility that are most crucial for pharma companies got affected.
Customers criticized some airlines for the way they handled refunds for canceled flights during the pandemic. Airline companies that adhered to the customer-centric values of reliability and service built a loyal customer base that persists post-pandemic.
Some retail companies disregarded health and safety measures crucial for employee health. It may have caused employees to question the company’s core values of respect and safety.
Some hospitals faced criticism for prioritizing profits over patient care. It caused employees and patients to question the company’s core values of compassion and quality of care.
How can companies stay true to their core values?
Companies can stay true to their core values by implementing the following strategies,
#1. Communicate and Reinforce
Communicate the organization’s core values to all employees and reinforce them by making them the basis for decision-making. It helps employees understand and align with the company’s purpose.
#2. Lead by Example
Leaders should model the behaviour and attitudes expected of employees and hold themselves accountable for upholding the core values.
#3. Embed in the Culture
Make the core values an integral part of the organization’s culture by recognizing and rewarding employees who uphold them and holding all employees accountable for their actions.
#4. Review and Update
Regularly review and update the core values to ensure they are still relevant and align with the current mission and purpose of the organization.
#5. Be Transparent
Be transparent and communicate with employees about the company’s actions and decisions and how they align with core values.
#6. Embed in the Hiring and Onboarding Process
Ensure new hires are aware of and identify with your company values and use the onboarding process to offer a first-hand experience of your organizational values in action.