Most people would like to work in an environment that is interesting, challenging, rewarding, productive and fun. This set of attributes could be identified as being key contributors to the development of a very positive workplace culture. Many business owners would like to achieve an improvement in their existing workplace culture because they are aware of the positive impact on employee well-being and productivity. However they often struggle with how such change can be achieved.
The answer, in part, involves effective leadership. A valuable starting point is the development of, and commitment to, a set of business core values that provide a framework within which the business sets its goals, employs its staff, engages with its customers and conducts its affairs within the community.
Many businesses have unwritten rules or ways of doing things that reflect management’s expectations. These may relate to expected standards of performance for work quality and customer service and they are often passed on informally by word of mouth or by demonstration. While inappropriate workplace behaviours can often be changed in a relatively short time via rules, procedures, directions and supervision, positive attitudinal and cultural change are longer term propositions requiring a sound understanding of key change concepts.
One such concept is embedded in the formula C = DxVxP where C = Change, D = Dissatisfaction, V = Vision and P = Plan. In simple terms the chances of achieving real change are directly related to the amount of dissatisfaction with current circumstances (and therefore the desire to change), the existence of a clear vision for the future, and the plan that has been developed to achieve the desired change. Many attempts at workplace change fail because the three critical elements of the above formula are not addressed.
The discussions involved in the development of a set of core values will often provide the mechanism to create the necessary dissatisfaction with current circumstances. It will also help promote employee ‘buy-in’ and the creation of a ‘true north’ understanding of what needs to take place to achieve required change. Therefore business planning and the development of individual strategies can be aligned to what the business really stands for and is committed to. Business operations and employee expectations are also then aligned to core values with managers ‘walking the talk’ and providing the necessary leadership to ensure adherence to the agreed values.
Well known and highly successful computer company Hewlett-Packard attributes its success to what it describes as enduring corporate values embodied in the HP way. The company’s core values are:
- Trust and respect for individuals;
- Focus on a high level of achievement and contribution;
- Uncompromising integrity;
- Common objectives through teamwork;
- Encouraging flexibility and innovation.
The development of core values is not the preserve of large corporations however. Many of our clients have benefitted from the experience of formally determining what they stand for.