|Dr. Robert J. Petrausch|
Some might say that values are the new GPS system for keeping an organization on course in these changing and turbulent times. Smart leaders know that they need to establish values across the organization—and not just at the top—as a way to achieve buy-in, maintain credibility and foster trust.
The best and most influential organizations in business, non-profit enterprises and the military consistently communicate their values both inside and outside the organization with the intensity of a winning team on a mission. As such, values are no longer considered a non-integral part of a corporate communication or business plan. Rather, they serve a business purpose in which organizations can explain how their strong value systems serve their customers, helping to create a competitive advantage over other firms or brands.
Communicating and sharing values makes business sense because values are a guide to an organization’s philosophy and ideology of how it will conduct its business. More so, if explained and executed properly, core values can improve an organization’s reputation locally and globally. By effectively communicating the organization’s core values, managers can show their employees that the organization has a social conscience, is interested in the long-run future of the enterprise and is providing its employees with a blueprint to know and understand what is expected of them.
As the core values become part of the organizational DNA through effective internal communication, its leaders and managers now have a focal point to guide decisions in both good and bad times, especially when the organization faces an ethical dilemma or crisis situation.
At one end of the polar extremes of how an organization “walks the talk” of values is the Enron Corporation and its mockery of core values (Communication, Respect, Integrity and Excellence) as it imploded into disgrace and bankruptcy in 2001. The company had misled its employees, customers and analysts about its financial health.
At the other end, Procter and Gamble not only continues to live its core values—some of which include: Doing the Right Thing, Respect for the Contribution of Others, Merit Determined by Performance, Sharing Credit for Success, Honest Evaluation of Causes for Poor Performance and Concern for the Well-Being of its Partners, Customers, Consumers and Community—but it is one of the most admired companies in the world.
In serving as the principal researcher of a recently published book by the P&G Alumni Network, When Core Values Are Strategic: How the Basic Values of Procter and Gamble Transformed Leadership at Fortune 500 Companies, I concluded that P&G core values were significant and formidable in the lives of its nearly 1,000 former employees and individuals featured in the book. By and large, P&G Alumni were able to incorporate many of the organization’s core values in their work or community service role after leaving P&G. As a testament to the support and training they received at the company, many P&G Alumni still maintain contact with the organization through its vast worldwide network, Web site and sponsored events.
Saying that an organization has core values such as being world class or customer-centric will not carry much weight if the organization does not live the behavior of those values, as clearly demonstrated by the Enron situation. But if an organization makes a commitment to its core values and makes it known that it will not tolerate any breach of its values, the chance for success in the marketplace is excellent.
Some best practices to communicate and share your organization’s values are as follows:
Make them visible in words, symbols and pictures. Reinforce them in town hall meetings and other forums as well as in one-to-one meetings with supervisors and senior executives.
Showcase them in public relations initiatives, advertising and other marketing communications tools.
Feature them in your orientation and training programs for new and existing employees.
Create and distribute case studies illustrating how your values are making a difference in the lives and businesses of your stakeholders.
Let traditional media and new media know that the organization is living and enforcing its values and sharing them with others.
Dr. Robert J. Petrausch is an associate professor at Iona College in the department of mass communication and is a former chief communications officer for a Fortune 500 company. He can be reached at RPetrausch@iona.edu.