A mission statement is one of the most common ways to publicly and visibly state your company’s core values. It’s a robust and easy enough gesture for organizations to demonstrate transparency around guiding principles, and a surefire standard with which employees and leaders can align their own values.
But often I find that what a company says they value is drastically different than what they actually value on the ground level. This widespread misalignment of values can foster an environment of miscommunication and mistrust, and a loss of faith in senior leadership. As a caring leader, it’s your obligation to proactively identify instances of incongruence on the structural and individual level.
In other words, you must ensure your company’s stated values manifest in the day-to-day operations and align with workplace norms.
For example, companies typically pride themselves on valuing inclusion across the board. But within those same companies, I see senior leaders constantly recognizing and promoting employees who are solely focused on business performance and profits at the cost of respectful culture-building. At the same time, those leaders overlook employees who are making important strides in organizational culture that perhaps aren’t tied to concrete results. This is just one illustration of projecting inauthentic values for the sake of optics.
At the end of the day, the things we say we value must be the things we legitimately recognize and acknowledge as being critical to the organization. To start this work, I have three tangible recommendations:
- Perform an audit on your employee recognition programs, and reacquaint yourself with what they’re actually made up of. Then, dig deeper: what are the underlying things your organization values within those priorities? What qualities or behaviors are subconsciously promoted?
- Gauge if your employees feel valued for the entirety of their contributions when soliciting feedback via surveys. If they don’t, what do they feel is over- or under-valued from the executive level?
- Revisit your values not just once, not just twice, but on a regular and frequent basis. It’s only natural that companies evolve over time—senior leadership changes, the workforce changes, the client base changes. With that progression, company values can easily become distorted to the point of unrecognition, so it’s paramount that checking-in becomes a habit to preserve consistency.
I’ve learned that companies that redirect their concentration to culture and value alignment see profound and sustainable shifts in their workforce. If you honor transparency and authenticity at the executive level, the individual employees that comprise the remaining majority of the organization will feel inspired to follow suit. In asking your company to value what they say they value, you’re simply requesting they walk the walk and talk the talk. In the eyes of a caring leader, that shouldn’t be a tall order in the slightest.