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Six Ways to Use Values at Work

Two years ago, my organization realized we had an overabundance of values and guiding principles–something like 27 scattered throughout multiple documents.  We spent several months working with our employees and Board to distill the dozens of values into the handful of core beliefs that best define our work and culture. You may have gone through a similar discernment process at your own workplace. Once you’ve successfully honed your list, what do you do with it, besides have it framed for your conference room? Here are six ways we use our values in our daily work.

Selection:  I cross-referenced each stage of our hiring process against our core values  to make sure all are addressed at some point during the resume review, phone screen, first and second interview and background check. Most are addressed several times in different ways.

Job descriptions and performance expectations: A summary of our values heads each job description. Our values are also woven into the language used to describe required duties and expected behaviors.

Performance reviews: We ensured our values were included throughout our review questions, sometimes explicitly and others less so.

Problem-solving: When we’re discussing challenges, we refer to our values. “How does this proposed change fit in with our value around respect and human dignity?”

Coaching and counseling: My organization provides services to people with disabilities at dozens of locations on a 24/7/365 environment. Lateness is one of the more frequent complaints against our staff. I encourage the managers to explicitly use our values when addressing tardiness. “When you are late, it’s a problem because you disrespect the client and his time” is a more powerful and direct message than “this is a problem because you broke a rule.”

Performance awards: Our annual employee awards are built around our values.  We recognize and reward employees who embody them.

Has your organization discerned its core beliefs and guiding principles? If so, how effectively does your organization use values in its work? And what ideas can you offer that I didn’t mention?

photo by Worcester Academy

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