Culture change: Align your values and behaviour

Ad Esse Consulting Culture Change Align Values and behaviour computer buffering illustration

Actions speak louder than words

If you want to create culture change, align your values & behaviour and positive stories will spread as a result.

Have you ever seen company values displayed proudly for the world to see and laughed? For example, my internet provider values being proactive, putting customers first and working as one team. Sounds great! So why am I the one calling up to report faults every other day, and when I do get through, the call handlers haven’t a clue what the engineers have done or said previously? I dread to think what my phone bill looks like!

Here there is clearly a mismatch between the company values and the way the people in the organisation behave.

In other words, what stories do you want internal and external people to say about your organisation? 

“If your actions don’t align with your values, you’ll continue to experience a chasm of discontent.”

(Joshua Fields Millburn)

How to align your values & behaviour for culture change

Often displayed as one-word statements, corporate values tell the world how your organisation behaves. In reality, employees may not understand and represent these values in their actions day-to-day, therefore creating a misalignment.

Take a look at how we helped Poplar HARCA to align their values and behaviour in our case study.

Try our values mapping exercise using the video and template below.

Examples of positive company cultures

The infographic below shows six examples of companies who have aligned their values and behaviours effectively. There will always be slip ups, but hey – we’re all human. It’s how you approach misalignments that matters. Share with others to inspire positive culture change in your organisation.

You can download the infographic here.

Tony’s Chocolonely

Tony’s Chocolonely is another great example of a company who have successfully aligned their values and behaviour.

If you’ve not tried a Tony’s Chocolonely chocolate bar, you’re missing out on a treat! As well as innovative flavours, the company strives to ‘do good’.

They are driven by a clear purpose and vision; “making 100% slavery free the norm in chocolate across the world.” (source) Their ethical mission is reflected in the way they treat their own people and by extension, the culture they have created. Tony’s hire, promote and develop people who share the same beliefs so they can make greater strides towards their goal of ending slavery.

Tony's Chocolonely illustration by Ad Esse Consulting

How to handle slips in value & behaviour alignment

Mistakes and slips in value/behaviour alignment are inevitable. Above all, when things do go wrong, make sure you handle the situation in line with your values to get back on track. Here is a good example below.

Nike’s sweatshop scandal

In the 1990s, Nike were publicly criticised for using sweatshop labour overseas with forced overtime, slave wages and abuse. Most importantly, instead of greenwashing with positive company stories, the company were proactive in correcting their mistake. Therefore, they enforced “a code of conduct for its plants” and implemented “a factory auditing system.” As a result, Nike are now leaders in social sustainability, producing detailed reports on how they’re improving and protecting work rights. (source)

Read more here

Disney’s ladder of behaviour priorities

What do you do when you are faced with a scenario where two values conflict with each other? In this paragraph, one of our favourite books, The Barcelona Way explains how Disney have prioritised four values to make behavioural choices clearer for employees:

1. Safety
2. Courtesy
3. Show
4. Efficiency

“When an employee is faced with a culture question like, ‘should I ignore this customer to stop that child playing in the water fountain?’ it is almost always a dilemma, because the employee is faced with two or more competing values – often not hierarchized by the organisation” (Damian Hughes). By choosing unambiguous, prioritised words, Disney avoid any confusion about how employees should behave.

An organisation is only as good as its people. When your people don’t live by company values, negative stories appear around the water cooler, from your customers, and seep into the wider world.

Organisations often spend a long time thinking about their values and they are an essential part of developing the culture you want. Don’t waste that effort; ensure the behaviours of your people align with those values and show the world just how awesome your organisation is! 

It’s not easy to improve your company culture, but an external perspective can help. If you’d like to chat about values mapping in your organisation, say hello.

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