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CEOWORLD magazine - Latest - CEO Advisory - Do Corporate Value Statements Make Any Difference At All?

CEO Advisory

Do Corporate Value Statements Make Any Difference At All?

Organizations benefit more from embodying their values, than articulating them flawlessly.

Would you agree, regardless of the organization, corporate value statements are virtually the same across the board?

Indeed, integrity, honesty, trust and “commitment to customers” are all standard fare when it comes to value statements.  Many organizations even add a dash of social responsibility, teamwork, diversity and “employee well-being” for added flavor. Nonetheless, value statements seem to provide little “value” because they all sound alike.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with an organization stating what they stand for, except for the fact that most value statements do very little in shape-shifting behavior or driving meaningful outcomes for the businesses that they purportedly represent.

This makes me wonder:

“Why bother drafting corporate value statements at all?”

Sure, staffers expect their organizations to stand for something other than the almighty dollar. However, is that reason enough to go through the exercise of crafting and publishing them?  Might I offer that the answer to this question is a resounding “No!”

Of course, I’m not suggesting that companies are better off without values. Rather, as a successful, long-time corporate consultant (that has drafted my fair share of value statements), I am offering that organizations are better served by focusing effort on living their values, instead of working on stating them perfectly.

How do organizations begin to live by their values?

Organizations can begin to live by their values by shifting their corporate cultures.

After all, corporate culture is really nothing more than the intersection of what is considered acceptable behavior by the people that comprise the organization.

So, if leaders want to create an organization that lives by its values, they need to design a culture that enables their people to behave in ways that match the values.

Here are some ideas for creating a company culture that is above reproach:

  1. Hire for High Integrity Behavior: Build a culture that places an emphasis on personal integrity by actively recruiting and retaining leadership talent with a proven track record for performing at the highest levels of ethics. Develop policies and practices that promote ethical behavior among employees.

    Vanguard, for example, often conducts behavioral interviews that focus on assessing a candidate’s past behavior and decision-making in ethical and integrity-related situations. Candidates are asked to provide specific examples of how they handled ethical dilemmas, demonstrated honesty, or upheld their values.

  2. Prioritize transparent and open communication: Create an environment where employees feel comfortable expressing their thoughts and concerns. Encourage diversity of thought by making “the sharing of dissenting opinions when offered for the good of the enterprise” part of every job description.

    For instance, Netflix encourages dissenting opinions through its “keeper test.” This is a tool that managers use to evaluate employees and determine whether they are contributing enough value to the company to justify keeping them on board. In order to pass the keeper test, employees must be willing to speak up and offer their opinions, even if those opinions are unpopular or challenge the status quo.

  3. Emphasize accountability: Hold employees accountable for their actions, and establish a zero-tolerance policy for unethical behavior. Inspire employees to report any violations of company policies without fear of retaliation.

    For example, Ben & Jerry’s regularly publishes reports detailing its progress and challenges in meeting its social and environmental goals. These reports hold the company accountable for its commitments and provide insight into its ongoing efforts, including various causes, such as marriage equality, racial justice, and climate action.

  4. Invest in employee development and well-being: When employees feel valued and supported, they are more likely to be engaged and committed to their work, and to contribute positively to the company culture.

    Salesforce, for instance, has the “Trailhead Program,” which is a free online learning platform offering their staffers the opportunity to learn new skills, earn badges and certifications, and to explore new career paths. Trailhead offers a wide range of courses, from technical skills like coding to soft skills like leadership and communication.

  5. Reward and recognize ethical behavior: Recognize employees who exemplify the company’s values and ethics. Establish a reward system that reinforces the importance of ethical behavior and promotes a culture of integrity and accountability.

    Patagonia, for example, has various employee recognition programs that highlight ethical behavior and exceptional performance. For example, the company holds an annual award ceremony called the “The Employee Environmental Awards,” where employees are honored for their efforts in promoting sustainability and ethical practices within and outside of the company.

To Close

There is no doubt, people want their employers to embody principles and operate in ways that go  beyond generating mere monetary gain for the business and its stakeholders. Yet, it seems to me, the cumulative effort that organizations have invested in creating and publishing value statements amounts to little more than window dressing, when compared to the hard work required to cultivate a culture where those

values are actually embodied through the way the company treats its people and behaves in the marketplace.

Indeed, if we want high integrity businesses, we must focus on changing company culture and stop being fixated on articulating value statements. For, when we improve how people behave within an organization, we enhance the ways in which modern companies operate within the greater society – and, that’s good for everybody.


Written by James Kerr.

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CEOWORLD magazine - Latest - CEO Advisory - Do Corporate Value Statements Make Any Difference At All?
James Kerr
James M. Kerr, founder at Indispensable Consulting, is a long-time management consultant, vision maker and leadership coach. For nearly 30 years, he has helped his clients re-imagine the way work is organized and performed. His latest book, Indispensable: Build and Lead A Company Customers Can’t Live Without is his 6th business title. Kerr is an expert in leadership, strategy, organizational design and cultural transformation. James Kerr is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. Follow him on Twitter or connect on LinkedIn.