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Values-Based Culture The New Hot Topic in Business Management?

Values Based Leadership and Cultures Based Upon Values is now apparently Hot.

A recent online article by The Economist Magazine reports that Walmart is trying to instill a “Values-Based” organizational culture. Congratulations. If you need help please call us 🙂

“AS WALMART grew into the world’s largest retailer, its staff were subjected to a long list of dos and don’ts covering every aspect of their work. Now the firm has decided that its rules-based culture is too inflexible to cope with the challenges of globalisation and technological change, and is trying to instil a “values-based” culture, in which employees can be trusted to do the right thing because they know what the firm stands for.”    source The Economist Magazine

You know that a leadership principle has finally made mainstream if Walmart is attempting to use it.

It may have become a hot topic but organizational cultures built on values has been around for some time. Examples can be found in Southwest Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Starbucks Coffee, and Walt Disney to name a few.  We have been developing and promoting this idea for 25 years.

Values is a hot topic because of the successes of companies who have successfully built their culture around performance and values.  Many of these companies have become standouts in their industry. Other companies such as Zappos have demonstrated that an intentional company culture creates a unique brand identity clearly distinguishing it from competitors while also building customer loyalty.

Values-Based Cultures: Is it more than a new catch phrase?

Remember back in 90’s when the new catch word was “team” and “teamwork”.  More recently “employee engagement” has also taken hold. The problem is that simply using a new theory without a full understanding of it is like putting a new mission statement on the wall every few years.  In this sense, you can’t say your going to implement a Values- Based Culture without understanding that there is more to it than putting some values on the wall and expecting people to live them.

This same article by the Economist went on to say there is still a big difference between actual values implementation and theory. In a study conducted by the Boston Research Group…

“Only 3% fell into the category of “self-governance”, in which everyone is guided by a set of core principles and values that inspire everyone to align around a company’s mission”

This does not surprise us at all.  In her book Built On Values, Ann Rhoades provides a comprehensive blueprint for creating a Values-Based Culture.  Her process reveals that company leaders must lead by example and are the ones most responsible for driving the values.    One of the key success factors is living the values. You cannot expect your employees to live a value that clearly is not held by leaders and management.

There are many components to a values-based approach to management. Some of the most important are.

  • make sure values are defined in ways that are simple and understandable by everyone in the organization.
  • understand the link between stated values and what that means in terms of employee behaviors.
  • you must hire, reward, recognize, and even fire people based upon stated values.
  • you must maintain the simple discipline needed to keep your culture from falling into old habits.

Related Articles:

Overview of Values-Based Leadership

Defining Your Organization’s Values-A Step towards Intentional Workplace Culture

Interview Strategy-Your Quest to Attract Top Talent

PeopleInk is a professional consulting firm specializing in organizational culture and people resource management.  Follow us on Facebook and Twitter

  • Comment (3)
  • As always, “Cultures” are what people do and how they behave, not posters and infrequent discussions or some hard to understand concepts.
    In my experience, it is a lot easier to establish Value based culture in start-up companies than established organizations. Having said that, there are methods to introduce and institutionalize “Value” based culture. As a consultant, I have helped create such culture.
    I think the reason the topic is now HOT because all employers and employees are struggling to create a better bond and lasting relationship in today’s turbulent times. So finding a theme that is easy to understand and live with is critical for mutual success.

    • Thanks for your comments Dave. Totally agree, building a culture in a start up is much easier. It’s funny how a topic will suddenly take hold and become popular because it’s getting more press. If you’ve helped create a great culture for an existing company you know it’s not as easy as posters and rah rah phrases. many companies don’t get that yet. As Ann Rhoades says, you can’t force culture you can only create the environment. Perhaps as the voice of consumers grow through mediums such as social media channels it becomes clear that companies cannot hide bad service any more and reputation can no longer be controlled by the marketing department.

  • This only really works when the values are truly the foundation of the business. Walmart’s employment brand is one of exploitation and discrimination. It’s great that they recognize the need to make a change. But the truth is that intentionally or unintentionally, Walmart already has a culture, one that leaders have been rewarded for and employees have been condition into. In a smaller company, making that transition might be not be too difficult. One of the biggest multi-national corporations in the world? I have little confidence that the new “values based” approach will be more than a PR campaign.

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