How To Align Your Corporate Values With Behaviors
To have core values that truly reflect your company culture is a great start, but to really make an impact in your organization you need to develop a set of associated behaviors that can help employees embody those values day in and day out.
Unfortunately, most companies don’t take this critical step when rolling out core values and, as a result, their values fail to become anything meaningful. In Dare to Lead, Brené Brown writes:
“One reason we roll our eyes when people start talking about values is that everyone talks a big values game but very few people actually practice one. It can be infuriating, and it’s not just individuals who fall short of the talk. In our experience, only about 10 percent of organizations have operationalized their values into teachable and observable behaviors that are used to train their employees and hold people accountable.
If you’re not going to take the time to translate values from ideals to behaviors—if you’re not going to teach people the skills they need to show up in a way that’s aligned with those values and then create a culture in which you hold one another accountable for staying aligned with the values—it’s better not to profess any values at all. They become a joke. A cat poster. Total BS.”
Benefits of Values-Aligned Behaviors
At Brilliant Ink, we define behaviors as value-driven actions modeled and celebrated by leaders, managers and employees. And there are several benefits to creating them, including:
- Greater sense of purpose causes everyone to feel more motivated and engaged at work.
- Sound decision-making that helps individuals and teams at all levels of the organization navigate difficult situations more effectively and provides a clear understanding of ‘the why’ behind a change.
- Enhanced performance that is routed in living and breathing the core values.
- Exceptional retention where hiring managers are confident in hiring the right candidates.
- Improved relationships to help individuals and teams feel more connected and supported, which can in turn improve your emotional well-being.
Overall, value-based behaviors can help you reinforce who you are and how you get work done.
They can also be easily translated into competencies to assess performance management. In fact, our CEO, Ann Melinger, recently shared her expertise on how to set core values and competencies on Pavesteps’ Working with People podcast (episode 98).
Like culture, identifying the right behaviors is a continuous process. It requires ongoing self-reflection and observation. To select the right ones for each value, here are three elements you need to create for success:
3 Elements To Align Behaviors With Core Values
1. CREATE CLARITY
Identifying what behaviors you want employees to demonstrate and what behaviors do not align with this value can ensure clear and consistent application of the values to day-to-day activities. It can also help key stakeholders, such as leaders and managers, lead the way and define what good looks like.
You can do this through working sessions with your leaders, managers and employees so you’re ensuring every level of the organization is already seeing the majority of these behaviors in their day-to-day.
💡 PRO TIP: Create a core values workshop and training for your leaders and managers! It’s crucial to help the top and the frontlines of your culture and employee experience understand what your values mean and look like so they can bring it to life for their teams every day (and if you need help doing this, let’s talk!).
You can even take it a step further. Consider partnering with L&D to create a value-based learning and development curriculum to drive adoption among employees and truly develop value-based competencies.
2. Create Alignment
Outlining what behaviors are relevant to your company’s goals and priorities and how they can be demonstrated in day-to-day application can help you ensure that everyone is on the same page and working towards the same goals.
From there, think through how you’ll communicate and cascade these core values, behaviors and expectations throughout the organization (it’s much easier if your leaders, managers, and employees were involved in some way throughout the discovery process)!
💡 PRO TIP: Think about every moment in your employee lifecycle and look for opportunities in daily communication to connect the dots for employees. From embedding your core values and behaviors into your onboarding to highlighting employees who are living your values in town halls and articles, there’s no shortage of ways to reinforce your values in meaningful ways so they are far more than just words on the wall.
Company Culture Resources From Brilliant Ink:
- 3 Most Important Lessons on Company Culture
- Sharing Your Company's Culture Story
- Defining, Scaling and Sustaining Your Company Culture
3. Create Accountability
Translating the core values into core competencies can help you hold yourself and others responsible for demonstrating the value-based behaviors. Without a culture of accountability through performance management and recognition, your organization will lack a meaningful way to reinforce the importance of core values. Don’t miss this step!
💡 PRO TIP: Introduce a values-based recognition program to celebrate and reward those who embody the company’s core values and encourage others to follow! One of our favorite ways of doing this is by partnering with our clients to create thoughtful peer-to-peer recognition programs. Done right, they can be high-impact (but relatively low-effort) ways of reinforcing your values as you let your people take the lead!
With clarity, alignment, and accountability top of mind, you can make sure everyone understands what is expected of them and how their behavior aligns with the organization's core values.
Remember, value-based behaviors are meant to be a guide, not a strict set of rules. But when done right, they can help you achieve your desired outcomes and drive success. If you’re looking for additional resources to spark your thinking, I’ll include some of our favorites below and we’re also happy to talk!
- Make Your Values Mean Something (Harvard Business Review)
- Core Values - The Behaviors that Define Your Culture (Stephen Lynch)
- It’s All About the Behaviors (CultureWise)
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