This week saw the annual jamboree in Manchester for the HR community, the CIPD conference.

Rising above the usual brow-beating about how HR can remain relevant to organisations, one of big headlines came from a CIPD survey which found that for many employees, “the values of the organisations aren’t worth the paper they are written on”.

According to the research, too few organisations pull up managers and employees who run against these internal rules of behaviour – and even promote them – while awareness of what the values actually are is patchy at best with just 29% aware of them.

For many outside of HR, this survey will be of little surprise. When employees join a business, most just want to do a good job, to get paid and then go home. But for those within HR, the survey shows what a poor job many organisations are doing of engaging and inspiring employees to align themselves to what the business wants to achieve.

So what’s the problem?

Of course, as the survey suggests, if there are people who don’t live the company values can succeed then there where will be little incentive for others to value the values.

But ensuring there are consequences for those who fail, as the CIPD chief executive Peter Cheese suggests, is only part of the solution.

The real answer lies in finding better ways to communicate and reinforce the importance of the values and their link to business success. This means translating values into real life actions for every employee in every role and setting clear targets for the behaviours and outcomes that need to happen.

This, of course, is hard work. It needs close collaboration with managers, coaching them to get the most from their teams and ensuring that targets are met.

My feeling then is that if values are failing in business it is not just because we are failing to reprimand the people who go against the grain. It is more that organisations are simply not working hard enough to take the words off the page, make them relevant in the day-to-day business and reward those who take them to heart in their work.

At this time of year when we start to think about end of year recognition for employees, now is a good time to think about how we can use reward to ensure that the people who live the values and behaviours which best support the business.  Doing this is a great way of bringing alive the importance of the values in a business and should pave the way for a rethink about how in 2013 reward can be used to deliver the behaviours which make a real difference to business performance.

Andy Philpott is sales and marketing director at Edenred

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