Following the Porris and Collins article in HBR in the late 90s organisations went to great lengths to define the values they needed to outpace the competition on a scale of 3:1. Brand consultants were mobilised, internal communications teams fired into life and HR departments got to work re-writing the corporate bible on annual appraisals. But did companies think about all scenarios?
A lot of the enquiries we’ve been getting at em(ic)* have focussed on values. The one consistent element being that the values got thrown out of the window when the recession hit. No longer could internal communications companies extol the virtues of those great growth values such as ‘entrepreneurialism’, ‘ownership’ and ‘innovation’. Even more time consuming has been the constant need to justify and explain how ‘integrity’ stands the test of time when employees are being jettisoned.
One, interesting element in all of this has been those small, family like companies who have had clear, open and honest dialogue with employees. They have valued the talent and they have not wanted to lose it. So they gave employees options and in doing so they involved them in the future of the business. Some employees in the UK accepted that for the company to survive they would have to cut down to a two or three day week.
So if you are thinking about re-defining your values and what behaviours are core to your business - don’t just think about your growth aspirations. Think about all the scenarios you are going to face in an economic cycle. But more importantly, if you want sustainable employee engagement, then make sure that you truly involve your employees and give them an emotional stake in the success of the business.
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