Creating a values-driven culture

Creating a values-driven culture

We recently held the second roundtable event in our Perspectives series in collaboration with Hilary Berg Consultancy. Following the success of our first event which focused on the role of communications in delivering social innovation, this discussion centred around the creation of a values-based culture in an organisation.

The evening was opened by a captivating presentation from Lesley Dixon and Rachael Stott of national health and social care organisation PSS, who outlined how they have created a culture that inspires ownership, engagement and action amongst the 1,000+ employees of PSS.

Following on from this initial presentation, a fascinating discussion ensued amongst all fourteen attendees who were drawn from a range of backgrounds including housing, culture, professional services and the third sector.

While the discussion covered many divergent aspects of creating a positive culture, there were a number of key themes that emerged throughout the discussion:

1. Authenticity

Values have to be true to the passions and core beliefs of an organisation. They should be guiding principles that never change, and influence both attitudes and behaviours. Authentic core values should reflect the genuine heart of an organisation as it is today, and not seek to represent an aspirational future; as that could create a discord with the real experience of employees, customers and leaders alike.

2. Co-ownership

As humans, we all want to feel connected to, understood by and involved in a trusting relationship. This is true whether we are at home, with friends or at work, and so the development of a true values-based culture is no different. Through defining the underlying core values together with people from across the organisation, and not just issuing a top-down directive, we can not only establish the right set of value-statements but more importantly we can engender a powerful sense of co-ownership and commitment amongst our key people.

3. Make it everything

A key challenge that many organisations face is how to keep values fresh, front of mind and a key part of day-to-day business. At PSS, it is clear that they have found a formula that overcomes this challenge – embed your values in everything the organisation does. From values-based recruitment and personal development through to inspiring quotes on office walls, retainable printed materials and employee awards, PSS have fully committed to the integration of their values into everything they do. And they are reaping the benefits. This goes far beyond a neat list of values in the employee handbook and makes them a real part of an organisation.

4. Simplicity works

For many, the sheer mention of the term ‘values’ can disengage and distance people from a business narrative. This provides a challenge to many leaders who can often fall-back upon familiar and comfortable corporate terminology to convey their strategies. PSS have seemingly tackled this challenge head-on and made a deliberate decision to use simple, accessible language across all of their corporate plans. This is evident throughout their value-statements and also across their wider corporate materials, for example the ‘Strategic Plan’ has been replaced by the ‘Big Plan’ to keep it friendly, digestable and accessible for everyone in the organisation and not just those in the Board room.

5. Stories

A wealth of research shows that humans have relied on stories for thousands of years, and they have the ability to transcend age, gender and culture, across nations and societies. In fact, neuroscientists explain that we rely on stories and on story-architecture as the primary roadmap for understanding, making sense of, remembering and planning our lives. And so organisations can draw upon this and inject the magic of storytelling into their internal communications to tap into people’s emotions and support a values-based culture. This could be as simple as a story of how a colleague is living the values in the company magazine, through to digital storytelling hubs and cross-business challenges. It also provides huge potential for leaders to inspire others by demonstrating their own beliefs and commitment. Whichever technique is used, stories can be used to deliver powerful business narratives in compelling and engaging ways that people can connect with emotionally.

Our next event is taking place on 26th January 2017 - to find out more, click here for details.