by | Jan 30, 2020

Supporting the core values is not generally a challenge when everything is business-as-usual. The real test is whether the company values continue to hold true when things go wrong.

That’s how you know if the core values are truly indigenous to the culture. Let’s say economic pressures make some job eliminations necessary. Or a security breach puts customers data at risk. Or a failure in safety protocol results in an employee death.

The whole point of having company values is to guide behavior. They help employees (and leadership) know how they’re expected to behave, day in and day out. Even when, or perhaps especially when, things go wrong.

Values and job loss

Consider the example of the company facing significant job eliminations. If employees know that respect is one of the core values, it’s reasonable for them to expect departing employees to be treated with dignity and appreciation for their past contributions to the company’s success.

So what does it look like when layoffs are approached with respect? For starters, it will affect how the job loss is communicated — both to the individuals impacted and to the company at large. It may be apparent in the separation packages offered, and/or in the company’s assistance in the subsequent job search.

If respect is truly a core value, it will also inform the actions of individual employees. The manager of a departing employees might offer to write him or her a recommendation and to serve as a positive reference. Colleagues might connect the departing employees with others in the industry, or give them recommendations on LinkedIn.

Values and safety incidents

Let’s take the example of a safety incident that results in a fatality. This has to be one of the most difficult issues to communicate. Yet how it’s handled will speak volumes to employees.

Do the company’s values include transparency, honesty or integrity? Then that should guide leadership to communicate the facts of the accident, rather than letting it go unaddressed. Another motivation to be open about the incident is to get ahead of the rumor mill. When the company doesn’t supply information, what employees imagine can be worse than the reality.

Employees will also be watching to see how the company treats the family of the deceased. And what operational changes are made to avoid similar accidents in the future. They’ll want to know what leadership is doing to make things right — or at least as right as they can be in that situation.

In the best of companies, core values aren’t just words on a poster. They provide invaluable guidance for decisions and actions in the normal course of business — and when it’s necessary to respond to the unexpected.

For more on reinforcing your company values, you might like this post on reinforcing culture by bringing your values to life. For ways to build engagement in your values, try this article.

Interested in engaging employees in your company values? Tribe can help.

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