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Doug Shaw

What Goes Around Limited


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Blog: CIPD 2012 – Impose company values at your own risk


During a Question & Answer session at the CIPD conference yesterday, Simon Jones tweeted something that caught my eye.

Peter Cheese, the recently appointed CIPD CEO, asked a gathering of around a hundred people, ‘How many of you can recite your company values?’

Three people raised their hands. There was some surprise about the low response among the audience, but I’m not surprised at all. From my experience, most sets of company values are utterly forgettable, and there seem to be a few consistent reasons for this:

1. They are imposed from above
Too often, senior management seem to think that company values are something they are responsible for setting. In an even more horrific extension of imposition, some company’s think it would be really cool to get a marketing agency to help them establish the values. Wrong.
If they are going to mean something to anyone beyond the board room they should be co-created from all corners of your organisation, and maybe even beyond…?
2. They are just a list of words
Trustworthy, Honest, Integrity, Open, Collaborative, blah, blah, bullshit bingo. Where’s the context? Where’s the meaning? People don’t want a shopping list of buzzwords – they want something to unite and connect with.
A recent piece of research by SurveyLab shows that 86% of people are committed to delivering quality work and 79% always try to contribute more than is expected of them. I think people want values to be a frame of reference that helps them to give of their best.
3. They are set in stone
The environment we operate in changes, and we are expected to change and adapt to cope or take advantage. I think company values have more meaning when they are reviewed in context with what you are trying to achieve.
It doesn’t follow that they will definitely change, but I think they should be reconsidered and people should know about this and have the chance to have their say.
As the Q&A session continued, Sinead Carville tweeted from afar with a great suggestion. ‘Perhaps a better question might be who can give examples of their values being lived within the business? We remember stories.’ I thought this was a lovely, useful observation, stories beat shopping lists every time.
Doug Shaw is head of employee and customer engagement consultancy, What Goes Around.
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Doug Shaw


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