‘Why do we do what we do?’ – Values

The importance of ‘Values’:

Many organisations state their Values loud and clear, undoubtedly with sincere intent, but you only have to glance at the websites of competitor organisations in any sector to see the degree to which stated values overlap – and therefore lose their intended meaning.

What we want to find out is whether our Pilot Study respondents found Values to be important, and if so why. In particular, we are interested here in the sorts of things that constitute Values, and how significant an understanding of, and alignment with, an organisation’s Values may be to a prospective recruit.



The majority of our respondents indicated that Values are there to ‘provide a moral framework’ for an organisation. It seems they are concerned with Values from the perspective of morality and ethics; and they further believe that it is important for an organisation to really believe in (and live) their own Values, not simply to have them stuck up on the website.

One individual pointed out through open text that while the words used to define and describe Values are all well and good, if they are not supported with action then they are meaningless: practice what you preach!


‘Values’ in day-to-day decision making:

When asked how often they bring their Values into play, more than half of our respondents said that they do so ‘all the time’ and that values ‘drive everything I do’. Others said that Values should be utilised to determine the moral outcome when a situation is ethically difficult, with no clear resolution.

This further reinforces the suggestions that Values are primarily there to provide moral guidance. At the same time, Values seem to be more than that: the majority of respondents believe that their values guide all that they do, implying decisions over employment (who to work for etc.) are similarly determined.

This is important because it indicates that organisations should be aware that ‘what they stand for’ may have an important impact on the types of people that they want to work for them. Indeed, understanding this could help in getting the best out of the people you already have, and drawing in the best recruits possible. Again, it is not merely enough to say what you are about; in order to really persuade your target candidates, you have to act in a manner consistent with what you claim to hold dear.


‘Values’ must be ‘in evidence’:

Many respondents had strong opinions about where values should be evident: ‘everywhere’ (“Values are vital and need to be clear”); also in treatment of employees and customers and through leadership behaviours.

 People want to see an organisation’s Values in action, not just as words on display. Our respondents were clearly engaged by the concept of Values, on both a personal and organisational level. They were united in their belief that Values must be clear, relevant and well articulated, but also understood at every level of the organisation. This is evidenced by an organisation’s engagement with employees, prospective recruits and customers, as well as being demonstrated through effective leadership.


Thinking about ‘Values’ – The wider picture:

When asked to elaborate on any other thoughts that they had regarding Values, many respondents gave very detailed and passionate responses. It became clear that ‘alignment’ of one’s own Values with those of a prospective employer was a significant theme, and that people were deeply dissatisfied with the idea of having their Values jeopardised by an employer.


Furthermore, important judgements regarding ‘best fit’ seem to be made on the basis of Values, so an organisation needs to articulate its Values candidly and with clarity from the first point of interaction. Without clear action in line with what an organisation purports to hold sacred, people will be sceptical about certain claims, particularly regarding CSA, and this should be born in mind when an organisation is seeking to define its Values. Indeed, of those that we asked, it was clear that the treatment of employees (and thus what one can expect as a prospective recruit) will be the first point of reference for assessing whether personal Values align with those of the organisation in question.


Final thoughts:

So far then, Identity’, ‘Purpose’ and ‘Values’ have all been shown to be complex and multi-faceted, and indeed to have significant influence over each other. Next week we will focus on ‘Motivations’ (Topic Four), which again adds weight to the importance of seeing each of these Topics as part of a greater whole; worthy of both individual consideration and collective appreciation.

One of our respondents bridged the gap between talking about Values and talking about Motivation rather nicely with the comment: “…values are of the utmost importance within an organisation and when selling your product. If the values are good and cascaded to all individuals, productivity of the workforce will increase.”

(Image courtesy of the-humanelement.co.uk)