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The importance of values alignment

Organisations put a lot of work into creating and implementing company values, but bringing them to life through daily interactions can vary. Therefore, they need to consider the human values that mirror best their company values and focus on recruiting people who show a greater alignment to them.

We all know that highly engaged employees drive better business performance, and it’s important to remember that most employees join organisations ‘engaged.’ Disengagement is often the result of poor experiences at work, so it’s understandable that organisations want to know just how engaged employees are.

Yet, despite millions being spent globally on employee engagement surveys, organisations are still struggling to understand the key drivers of what makes people happy and productive at work.

For those that claim to know, we’ve yet to see enough evidence of engagement improving, considering the UK has suffered some of the lowest levels in Europe at approximately 10 percent. Organisations often use statistical analysis to identify and understand key drivers of engagement, which, although are a great starting point don’t always tell the full picture.

The extent to which someone is engaged with their work can vary on any given day, as it can be influenced by many things. Some being personal, which may have nothing at all to do with work. Measuring engagement, therefore, may tell us how less engaged people are, without providing enough details relating to outside of work and with so many variables it’s easy to see how engagement levels can vary.

Knowing this, why are organisations still measuring engagement you might ask. What else could provide a more stable and consistent measure for organisations to predict challenges linked to harmony in the workplace, allowing for targeted interventions to improve experiences, performance, and productivity?

As the only common variable across every organisation is people, that is where we find a possible solution and that is through human values.

Human Values

Human values are personal, deeply held attitudes and convictions that define who we are, shape the lens through which we see the world, and have long been studied by social scientists.

Schwartz studied the concept of human values, researching different cultures and the differences that exist between people from all over the world; he concluded that we all share a core set of human values, irrespective of background, ethnicity, and geographical location. Often formed from the cultural norms of the societies we grow up in, our values are also shaped by individual life experiences. While our values dictate the lens through which we see the world, we may not be conscious of our subsequent behaviours and their impact, leaving us blind to what might get in the way of harmony with those who do not share the same values.

Schwartz found that some values are directly opposed to others, indicating you are more likely to have a greater orientation to one value than another. For example, people who value creativity and innovation, are less likely to value conformity and convention. This insight can help us learn more about our personal values and to understand when values are aligned or misaligned, which could also be the cause of lack of cohesion and harmony.

Aligning Values and Diversity

When we’re working with those who share our values, we feel more at ease and we’re likely to experience greater harmony and cohesion in how we work together. Work can feel effortless, leading to less friction at work. Understanding human values alignment within organisations, therefore, could help us understand where we’re likely to see friction between individuals and teams.

In his research, Schwartz found that we all share a common set of core human value irrespective of our social and ethnic backgrounds. Knowledge which can help create a more cohesive and harmonious workplace, while supporting diversity and inclusion.

The Role of Corporate Values

Company values define the culture of an organisation, describing how and why the organisation operates the way it does. Unlike individuals’ values which are often created unconsciously from past experiences, these are created with intent, typically by senior leaders defining how they want the culture to be.

Many organisations put a lot of work into creating and implementing company values, but bringing them to life through daily interactions can vary. Recruiting people aligned to them also varies, which could be down to recruiting company values instead of human ones that are harder to relate to.

Organisations should consider the human values that mirror the closest what their company values are, and focus on recruiting people who show a greater alignment to them. These people will find it easier to become a part of the company and appreciate its’ values, by seeing a greater alignment and translating into behaviours that will feel more effortless.

Misalignment of Human Values

What happens if you find a lack of alignment of human values within teams, which is leading to a lack of harmony at work? By being aware of both alignment or misalignment, can help prioritise which teams may require support and to promote a greater understanding of the dominating values among them and how they are expressed. It goes to the heart of what many ED&I programmes focus on, which is developing a greater understanding of people who share different perspectives. Helping teams understand each other better, knowing what they value and how this can be expressed, can go a very long way to improving how teams work together.

As values orientate much of our decision making and behaviours, they tend to remain the same as they are often ingrained in our self-identity. Therefore understanding people’s values within an organisation, can create a better understanding of those motivations and behaviours, allowing for greater support to improve working relationships, the culture, and ultimately business performance.

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