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Do employees believe in the core values? Do they even know their company’s core values?

Core values are the fundamental beliefs of an organization; they  guide executives and employees in identifying which behaviors and actions are right and which are wrong.

Everything you do must be aligned with your core values, and core values should be integrated into everything you do. When in doubt, ask: “Is this the right thing to do? Does it fit with our core values?”

I’ve written about core values a number of times; a few of those posts, for reference, are:

CX Journey™ Musings: A Lesson in Living Your Core Values
What Employees Do When No One is Looking
7 Pillars of a Strong Culture
CX Journey™ Musings: Culture – The Soul of the Organization

The good news is that most companies (89% globally) have written values statements.Read on for the not-so-good news.

I’m a fan of including employees in the selection of the core values. The following quote from Benjamin Franklin is so fitting here: Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I may remember. Involve me and I learn. It’s even more fitting when you see the statistics about how many employees don’t know their company’s core values.

Research from late 2016 shows that only 53% of employees know their employer’s core values. In a more-recent webinar poll, only 11% of HR professionals reported that 80% or more of their employees know the core values. With a little convoluted math, you can figure out that it’s not an impressive response. Those numbers should be 100%. But they aren’t.

What’s a brand to do? First, if you are one of the 11% of companies that doesn’t have core values, make it a priority to establish them this year. Let’s just say you’ve got core values, but employees don’t know them or live them. Now what?

Well, let’s think about this for a minute. And let’s not put all the onus on employees. Did the core values just show up on a wall one day without any communication or explanation to employees? Yes, this happens more times than I care to count. Just in the last month alone, I heard two examples of this!

And do the values actually resonate with your employees? According to Gallup, only 23% of U.S. employees believe that they can apply the core values to their work, while only 27% believe in the values.

When employees believe in the values, align with them, and live them, they are more likely to stay with the company. So let’s get on the right track here.

  • Involve employees in selecting/defining your core values and the associated behaviors.
  • Once you’ve established what those core values are, you’ve got to communicate them. It’s not too late to do this. If you can’t remember the last time there was any communication about the core values or if they just showed up on posters one day without explanation, it’s time to outline your communication plan. And then stick to it.
  • It’s so important for executives and leaders to model the behaviors that they wish to see, the behaviors that align with the core values. Actions speak louder than words. Words on the wall are a start, but behavior is where the rubber hits the road. Executives, how are decisions made? How are resources allocated? What are your priorities? Do they jive with the core values?
  • Recognize behaviors that align with the core values, and reinforce with incentives, promotions, metrics, and more. Reinforcing the values and the corresponding behaviors makes them real.

In a Booz Allen Hamilton/Aspen Institute survey, 85% of respondents stated that their companies rely on explicit CEO support to reinforce values, while 77% say CEO support is one of the most-effective  practices for reinforcing values.

That’s an important point to make: it starts at the top. How well is your CEO reinforcing the values? Maybe it’s time for a chat with your CEO.

One final note before I wrap up: take a look at your policies and processes. Were they designed with your values in mind? If not, it’s time to revisit them! It’s time to clean them up to ensure that employees can act, interact, and transact in accordance with your core values.

Values are like fingerprints. Nobody’s are the same, but you leave ’em all over everything you do. -Elvis Presley

Annette Franz is an internationally recognized customer experience thought leader, coach, speaker, and author. Her first book, Customer Understanding: Three Ways to Put the “Customer” in Customer Experience (and at the Heart of Your Business), is available now on Amazon in paperback and Kindle formats. Don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter for updates, insights, and other great content that you can use to up your CX game.