The following guest blog comes from Bright Horizons’ Senior Human Resources Business Partner Scarlett Abraham; Leadership and Professional Development Director Elisa Vincent; and Organizational Development and Learning Services Vice President Helen Zarba.
Back in 2009, in her book SuperCorp: How Vanguard Companies Create Innovation, Profits, Growth, and Social Good, Rosabeth Moss Kanter stated that the most innovative companies — “vanguard” companies — have transparent values that set and permeate a company’s culture.
“For vanguard companies, grounding strategy…in a sense of wider societal purpose provides many significant advantages,” she wrote. “Values and principles…not only speak to high standards of conduct but also stretch the enterprise beyond its own formal boundaries to include the extended family of customers, suppliers, distributors, business partners, financial stakeholders, and the rest of society.”
For those of us who follow organizational development research and trends, this rings an all too familiar bell. The more people feel good about your organization, the more they will invest in your success.
Positive Business Cultures and Dream Companies
Yet, recently, we became acutely aware that many companies are still not there. This past Thursday, we were fortunate to appear at the 2015 New England Human Resources Association conference where we spoke to a room of seventy human resources professionals about creating a “Dream Company: An Organizational Development Journey.” During the presentation, we shared results of a recent study done by the Horizons Workforce Consulting team; it revealed that working for a Dream Company was actually more important to employees than having a dream job.
And how does a company become a Dream Company? Our research shows that employees want to work for companies that invest in their well-being, work/life balance, and learning and development. This is especially true about Millennials. Talented people today are increasingly attracted to companies that have values and priorities compatible to their own.
Dream Companies provide a greater purpose and engage their employees in innovative ways. They have mission statements that reflect a company’s purpose – its raison d’etre. They have values statements that show the way there – that set the company’s compass by which employees and leaders accomplish the mission. These values are talked about, trained on, and promoted through the organization and externally to all clients and stakeholders.
Putting Value Statements on Paper
At Bright Horizons, our values statement — our HEART Principles — stand for Honesty, Excellence, Accountability, Respect, and Team Work. We strive to abide by those principles – to live with HEART, work with HEART, and lead with HEART. These principles define our culture and remain our constant in times of change.
As we shared our story at the conference, many of the participants shared theirs – of successes and challenges in developing, implementing, and sustaining value statements at their organizations.
Some spoke of their frustration in convincing leaders that value statements lead to greater employee performance and engagement and so were a business imperative. We heard how values statements fuel employee engagement and how Dream Companies who have a strong culture built on their values grow and prosper over time and navigate challenges with more ease. And we heard a collective interest and appreciation for our HEART Principles.
As we listened to the discussion, we tapped into the participants’ collective experience and gathered several best practices for building and maintaining values statements.
Identify the Reality of Your Influence
Determine what role you play in this process. Ask, where can you have the most influence?
Start at the Grassroots
Form focus groups with a diverse group of stakeholders. Listen to what they feel are the values of your organization.
Get Leadership Buy-in Early On
Encourage them to own the process and finesse the messaging around the values.
Use the Right Language
Use language that speaks to your purpose and applies to all stakeholders. Think about what makes you different, and what unites you.
Make the Values Attainable
Make the goals oriented and applicable to stakeholders regardless of position or authority.
Brand it. Hold employees accountable to your values by connecting them to your succession planning and learning and development processes. Hold your leaders accountable to communicating them regularly.
Recognize Each Other
Recognize employees who live and work by those values in both informal and formal ways. Make the connection between employee development and organizational growth.
Most importantly, remember that this process is unique to every organization and requires agility, persistence, and determination.
What makes a dream company — and why does it matter? Download the new Horizons Workforce Consulting The Business Benefits of Being a Dream Company report and find out why today’s employees strive to work for dream employers, and how the designation is valuable to organizational bottom lines.