By Alvah Parker, Parker Associates
How can you identify a company's values and why is it important? Your values can be defined as those activities that are most important to you. When your life is in great shape they are the things you are naturally drawn to. When you honor your values your work is effortless. If you are working in an environment, which has different values from yours, you have to work harder. Sometimes the values are just wrong for you and you feel your integrity is compromised. There are two steps to take in order to know if you have a match between your values and the company's. Knowing your own values is the first step. In my coaching work I help my clients understand and work from their values. The second step is to understand the values of your work environment.
A client of mine found herself working for a company whose values were different from hers. Sally was a sales professional working for a communications company. She had recently changed employers because she had been offered a sizable increase in salary. Six months at the new job and she called me. " I think I have made a terrible mistake," she said. The "mistake" she identified was taking the new job in a "dog eat dog" environment. Her former employer had had a team spirit and an environment where training was a priority. She really missed her old company. Sally was uncomfortable with her new employer because she did not share the values of the company.
The first step with Sally was to help her identify her own values. One tool that we use together is the TruValues Assessment. Once you know your own values how do you find your employer's or potential employer's values? One way to do this is to look at the company's vision and mission statement. These should give you an idea of what the company says is most important. A company that wants to be on the cutting edge of technology might value creativity and innovation in all parts of its operation. The next step would be to visit the company and see if it lives its stated values. Some companies will tell you that they have a set of values but their employees see it differently. Look for ways the company "walks the talk". In the case of this cutting edge company perhaps it allows employees several hours of unstructured time to create during the day.
If a company has an easily recognizable culture then it is simpler to understand what its values are. More and more companies today are working to identify with and support a culture that focuses on the essence of their business. In their book Finding and Keeping Great Employees Jim Harris and Joan Brannick suggest that companies must "align staffing and retention activities to the company's core culture". The following are the four cultures Harris and Brannick have identified:
- Culture of Customer Service - Being the best at serving their customers.
- Culture of Innovation - Being first to market with a new product.
- Culture of Operational Excellence - Dedicated to improving processes.
- Culture of Spirit - Serving a greater good such as the environment.
A company that is customer service oriented for example would be customer driven. Every employee would understand how he/she was connected to the customer. The customer's needs are put ahead of the company need's in order to build long term relationships. Employees who hear a customer's problem are expected to own the problem. People who value being empowered and being the best would thrive in this environment. If you were a person who loved to learn (another value), you would be eager to hear what the customer wanted and then to learn how to provide it. The point is that what matters most to the employee is also critical to the companies business and the employer and employee are aligned.
Whether you are an employee interested in finding a more fulfilling job or a business owner trying to hire in a very competitive environment, understanding the company's values will make you more adept at satisfying your own requirements and making a significant contribution to the business. Downsizings mergers, and acquisitions often impact the values of a company. Even someone who is satisfied with his/her employer today will need to reassess when changes occur. Knowing your own values and being alert to the clues that identify the values of the organization can help you in this ongoing assessment.
Alvah Parker - Career and Business Coach
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