The first question people ask me usually when it comes to new ways of working is where to start. To this question I often reply “what are your values?”. There comes the embarrassing moment as I get usually two sorts of answers. The first is…silence and perplex faces😃. The second is “it is written somewhere”. I exaggerate just a bit but it is where it all starts. From an ambitious and inspiring purpose comes a set of values that will govern how an organization lives. These values are the most vital elements to create engaging workplaces.
Values represent how your organization operates in the world. When it comes to values, the first step is to define them. While doing so, the more inclusive of your collaborators the better. Some companies have a very rigorous process to define at regular intervals their values. Take Leroy Merlin, the French headquartered home improvement retailer serving several countries in Europe, Russia, Asia, South America and Africa (23000 collaborators, 6 billion EUR revenue). Every 10 years the 23000 collaborators are engaged in defining the next vision and set of values that will be there for the following decade. It is a lengthy process of about 2 years. The last round of definition called Vision2025 included co-creation workshops, prospective exercices, learning expeditions, … and resulted in the new set of values governing LeroyMerlin. At the end not everybody decides what these values will be but everybody has been involved to define them and get empowered by these.
The second step is to be able to visualise and experience these values continuously. For having visited a number of company offices, an easy step can be as simple as to paint these values on the wall…literally. Think of Altassian, an enterprise software company (1760 employees, 423 million EUR revenue). Altassian has scored high on the best employer ranking of the Netherlands in 2016 and worldwide. After stepping in Altassian office, the first thing that catch your eyes are the signs hanged in the cafeteria , one for each of the 5 core values. So your welcome sign is “Don’t @#%#@ the customer”, every day, 365 days a year. It is also in the way your offices look like. If one of your values is to “have fun at work”, you better have office space that reflect that. Like a good gardener you need to nurture the right environment for your plants to grow.
Last but not least, behaviours and processes in your company should reflect these values. For instance, at the Inclusive Business Accelerator, we have four values. The first one being “Make a difference with excellence” so for each partner we set our target to 120% of what we promise, we don’t settle for average (which could be a valid strategy but not inline with our values). Our fourth value is “Trust is everywhere” so all data of the organization including financials is made available to the team fully. Values can be activated in your appraisal process, in the way you interact with customers, in which IT systems you choose. It is everywhere, it is the hand that governs your organization.
When you want to get started towards developing a future proof organization, ask yourself a simple question: Do I trust the values of my organization? Whatever the answer, this is surely the start of an incredible journey.