The primary objective of leaders devising their organisation’s corporate values, is to influence and align the attitudes and behaviours of their employees. All too often however, values fail to have any real impact on the way employees choose to behave, which ultimately influences the workplace’s culture. In these instances – when values are failing to work – leaders need to actively ‘walk the talk’.
‘Walking the talk’ means doing what you say you will; transforming the words behind your corporate values, into tangible actions.
As the age old saying goes, ‘actions speak louder than words'. Therefore the priorities that are set, decisions that are made and actions taken by leaders at every level of an organisation’s hierarchy must demonstrate what is valued. Unless the behaviours employees see exhibited align with what the leaders deem important, corporate values will have little to no positive impact.
7 ways to transform corporate values into tangible actions
Here are seven essential ways to ‘walk the talk’ and transform corporate values into tangible actions:
1. Lead from the top
The success of any corporation’s culture is intimately linked to the engagement and accountability of its senior leaders. Often the disconnect between what is espoused and what happens in practice, is caused by a lack of real ownership from the top.
Starting with the board and CEO, every senior leader must be accountable for behaving in line with their organisation’s values. Allowing unacceptable senior management behaviour to go unaddressed is a key driver behind many failed efforts to create a healthy and successful workplace culture.
2. Develop and support people managers
Anyone who manages people within your business must understand your corporate values and the behaviours aligned to them. Support and encourage managers to set clear behavioural expectations of their teams, assess behaviour and coach their staff effectively. If necessary, assist your managers to have the tough conversations about workplace behaviour. Many managers avoid these conversations, but you need to demonstrate that they are expected.
3. Hire well
Recruit people who are likely to behave in accordance with your corporate values. Through interviews and reference checking, explore how candidates have approached challenging circumstances and in the past. This provides an indication of how they are likely to behave in the future. Reflect carefully on how this person could impact upon your team and culture.
4. Promote well
When a member of your team is promoted to a more senior position, it sends a clear message to the rest of your staff about what is considered to be successful behaviour. The actions of the employees you promote need to reflect the values and behaviours that are truly integral to your organisation. Therefore you need to consider carefully how people behave before making a decision to advance their position in your organisation.
5. Take action
Little to nothing is gained from articulating core values unless people are held accountable for behaving in line with them. Talking about values without applying them is likely to frustrate those who are aligned, and cause them to disengage. Unfulfilled values are a constant reminder that the organisation promised to be better, but lacks the commitment to get there. Have necessary conversations, make decisions and take action to ensure you maintain the standard of behaviour you need and want.
6. Be consistent
Every one of your employees must be expected to behave in line with the organisation’s values, no matter who they are or the role they play. Making exceptions both undermines your company’s values, and your commitment to upholding them. Even the most senior leader or highest revenue earner must be held accountable, or confidence in your commitment to your values will be eroded. If people don’t believe that you mean what you say, they will disengage and stop caring also.
7. Reward well
Observe and recognise the employees who consistently demonstrate your company’s values, and only reward behaviours you want to reinforce and encourage. Look for opportunities to emphasise expectations and showcase positive behaviours through formal and informal reward mechanisms, and encourage your employees to praise and recognise one another for their positive contributions to the spirit, culture and success of the workplace.