Fisher & Paykel Healthcare and Ryman Healthcare recently announced their end of year results and in both cases they were very positive. There was a lot commentary on financial performance, strategy, plans for the future and earnings per share – as there should be.
What receives little or no attention in company reporting are culture and values. What a company believes in and how it lives up to its values is just as important as what it sells. Big statement I know.
There’s no shortage of studies that show that employer and internal brand programmes result in strong financial outcomes.
Great Place to Work® is a global human resources consulting, research and training firm specialising in organisational trust. It conducted a study which compared annualised stock market returns between S&P 500, Russell 3000 and Fortune 100 Best Companies To Work For. Over the period 1997-2013 the Fortune companies performed more than 2x better than the general market.
How to add values
Every organisation has a set of values. But how often are those values clearly expressed and easily understood? And then how many organisations truly live their values?
Too often values are little more than a list and their relationship to individual and company behaviour is tenuous at best.
A list that includes the following doesn’t cut it:
Without an explanation what does empathy mean? Why is it important? And how do you behave empathetically?
And aren’t most of these values universal? Don’t you need to adopt them just to be in the game? Regardless, they’re not worth the paper they are written on if they are expressed like this:
(All of the examples that follow are from well-known organisations)
Pride – We are proud of what we do and who we are.
Teamwork – We work together, across boundaries, to meet the needs of our customers and to help the company win.
Integrity – being ethically unyielding and honest and inspiring trust by saying what we mean, matching our behaviors to our words and taking responsibility for our actions.
If the role of values is to engage, unify and help express an organisation’s culture, these ones are unlikely to stir juices.
Values need to be more emotive and include a sense of the brand. And if the language can be story-like, all the better.
Something like this:
Integrity – This is our moral anchor. It goes to the heart of what we believe in, how we conduct ourselves and how we’ll be judged. If we don’t get it right we short-change everything we do.
It’s about doing the right thing, without being righteous. It’s dependability, transparency, fairness and accountability. Integrity ensures we say what needs to be said and do what we said we would do.
Honesty is central to integrity; with ourself in the first instance and then with each other. It’s the ability ‘to tell it like it is’ when there’s a need.
And integrity is personal. You can’t switch it off. You have to live it even when nobody is watching. Integrity lays the foundation for a culture of trust where we can be ourselves, push boundaries and make mistakes.
You might think this is a mouthful, but values need substance and context, otherwise they will be treated with cynicism at worst and indifference at best.
And let’s not forget the reasons why building a values-based culture adds value to the company that gets it right:
There’s no doubt the place of values and culture is still a hard one for shareholders, directors and even many senior managers to get their heads around. Why?
Because the contribution that a values-based culture can make is difficult to measure and doesn’t provide immediate returns.
But when the penny drops, and it will, ‘living the values’ will become an obligatory reporting item in the same way as Sustainability, HR, and Health and Safety.