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Build an Organization Based on Values

Why Values, What Values?

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Values Are Key to an Organization's Success

iStockphoto / Andresr

"Our people are our most important asset." You’ve heard these words many times, if you work in an organization. Yet how many organizations act as if they really believe these words? Not many. These words are the clear expression of a value, and values are visible through the actions people take, not their talk.

Values form the foundation for everything that happens in your workplace. If you are the founder of an organization, your values permeate the workplace. You naturally hire people who share your values. Whatever you value, will largely govern the actions of your workforce.

Sample Workplace Value-based Actions

If you value integrity and you experience a quality problem in your manufacturing process, you honestly inform your customer of the exact nature of the problem. You discuss your actions to eliminate the problem, and the anticipated delivery time the customer can expect. If integrity is not a fundamental value, you may make excuses and mislead the customer.

If you value and care about the people in your organization, you will pay for health insurance, dental insurance, retirement accounts and provide regular raises and bonuses for dedicated staff. If you value equality and a sense of family, you will wipe out the physical trappings of power, status, and inequality such as executive parking places and offices that grow larger by a foot with every promotion.

Whatever You Value Is What You Live in Your Organization

You know, as an individual, what you personally value. However, most of you work in organizations that have already operated for many years. The values, and the subsequent culture created by those values, are in place, for better or worse.

If you are generally happy with your work environment, you undoubtedly selected an organization with values congruent with your own. If you're not, watch for the disconnects between what you value and the actions of people in your organization.

As an HR professional, you will want to influence your larger organization to identify its core values, and make them the foundation for its interactions with employees, customers, and suppliers. Minimally, you will want to work within your own HR organization to identify a strategic framework for serving your customers that is firmly value-based.

Strategic Framework

Every organization has a vision or picture of what it desires for its future, whether foggy or crystal clear. The current mission of the organization or the purpose for its existence is also understood in general terms.

The values members of the organization manifest in daily decision making, and the norms or relationship guidelines which informally define how people interact with each other and customers, are also visible. But are these usually vague and unspoken understandings enough to fuel your long term success? I don’t think so.

Every organization has a choice. You can allow these fundamental underpinnings of your organization to develop on their own with each individual acting in a self-defined vacuum. Or, you can invest the time to proactively define them to best serve members of the organization and its customers.

Many successful organizations agree upon and articulate their vision, mission or purpose, values, and strategies so all organization members can enroll in and own their achievement.

Next, read about the strategic planning framework to create your vision, mission, and values.

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