99FM – Your Inspiration Station

Using Values to Be a Change Agent at the Office

“Everyone from the top to the bottom of the company needs to live and act out the values. It starts from the top though.”

Every company has a set of values, whether or not they are written down. Values are what guide behaviours within an organisation yet more often than not the staff members of a company either don’t know the point of the organisational values or have different views of what these values mean on a personal level. 99fm’s MYD Smart sat down with Coen Welsch, an Industrial Psychologist at Capacity Trust to find out a bit more about organisational values.

99FM’s MYD Smart asked:

What are values in a business?
“Values are the guiding principles of an organisation. They are the underlying “rules of behaviour” that the business strives towards.”

Are values different to ethics?
“Yes as ethics are more generic rules of right and wrong. Like doing business ethically would mean that you attempt to minimise adverse impact on the environment etc. This would be a consistent rule regardless of business or industry. So, ethics is general guiding principles of all business. Interestingly, behaving ethically could also be a value of a business.”

Is it important to have values in your organisation for business success?
“The importance of values comes in when the situation becomes complex and when there are no clear rules or guidelines on how to act. In most situations a company has standard operating procedures and these dictate behaviour. However when a new and complex situation arises then the values come to the fore. To use an example, let’s say your company has a value of honesty. Then a situation arises where a client overpays an invoice or maybe pays an invoice twice. What do you do? If the value of honesty is alive in your company you need to act honestly. In most organisations there are no rules for incidents like the above, but if you have values that are alive these values guide our behaviour in these type of situations.”

How does one instil values in an organisation?
“This is probably the most difficult part. The short answer is to live out the values. Everyone from the top to the bottom of the company needs to live and act out the values. It starts from the top though. Senior leadership have to visibly act out the values. If your company values diversity the senior management needs to ensure that decisions and behaviours reflect this. Unfortunately there is a gap between what we say and what we do and this causes confusion.”

What does an individual do if the company they work for have a different set of personal values to those of the company?
“This is again a challenging area. If you have a quick browse through the list of values of most companies you will find no values that are wrong of bad. In fact most values that companies espouse to are noble and admirable, however the challenge comes in with the organisational culture. This is often defined as: “The way we do things around here”. This is the real challenge. You may agree with the values on the wall above the reception area, but behind the scenes honesty may mean something different. Often if individuals believe their values differ from that of the company it is the unwritten behavioural code that is the real challenge. We often use this as an example when we do leadership training for supervisors and first line managers. The best way to overcome this is to be the change agent. Try to stand up to the incorrect interpretation of the value. Influence the area under your control and attempt to live the values yourself. Imagine that you are always in the spotlight and live out the values every day.”

Get in touch with Capacity Trust, the Namibian employee selection, growth and sustainability experts, here : Capacity Trust