Refreshing Corporate Values

When you first set out to refresh your corporate values, many organisations do this through a ‘top down’ approach.  However refreshing values whilst simultaneously assessing your corporate culture gives richer and longer lasting results.  When assessing culture, there are different approaches you can take. With any of them, you really need to understand ‘where you are now’.  A Culture assessment should be much more than an ‘Employee Engagement survey’. It should give you rich insights into all aspects of your organisation in terms of how culture interfaces with your People and your Strategy.

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But how do you do it? At ndc, depending on your unique situation, we have several tried and tested approaches that we recommend.   They include:

  • ndc Culture Impact – It is simple yet comprehensive approach to culture assessment, yet unlike many assessments, it links your strategic focus, your internal organisation and your corporate vales.  
  • A 360 corporate values assessment (CVA)- this approach examines the links between your employees’ own personal values, the values they experience in your current culture and the values that are felt to be most likely to drive success in the future.  
  • Cultural Inventory diagnostics which focus on behaviour in your organisation, and how behaviour drives culture – for better or worse.  

Over the past year, two of our customers have started their journeys of refreshing values and cultural transformation, one in Europe and one in the Middle East.  They wanted to be sure that the values they held would drive a culture that is ‘future fit’.  Each was attracted to ndc’s approach because they were determined that the ‘values reset’ would not be a top-down exercise – they wanted the whole organisation to be included in the process.  They wanted every single person to feel involved in the process, to see their fingerprints on the outcome.

What was needed?

Every time a customer sets out on this journey, the starting point is the same. Both organisations needed to understand the current reality of their culture in terms of how their employees perceive it. We posed several questions:  

  • What is the relationship between your employees and your current corporate values?  
  • How do your employees feel about the future?  
  • How aligned are the executive on agreeing the values that are fit to deliver their strategy?
  • How ready and able are the executive, lead and role model the values?  

When determining the speed of culture change, there's a delicate equation to balance within an organisation;

  1. The delivering the strategy,
  1. The engagement of employees and their appetite for change
  1. Importantly, the appropriate behaviours and values that the executive model and uphold.

We guided each customer through a process that goes to the very heart of employees’ experience of the current organisational culture, and their hopes for the future culture – a culture that they want to be a part of. The process we lead is unique in that it gives the customer three important views:

  • It involves the individual employee, asking what matters to them as an individual.
  • It creates a map of the current culture of the organisation.
  • It paints a picture of the desired future culture that the employees are looking for and which they feel will deliver the organisation’s goals.

In addition, it provides the client with three critical outputs:

  • It establishes a new set of corporate values that employees have been fully involved in creating.  
  • Secondly, it reviews the culture to assess how the values are ‘lived and breathed’
  • Thirdly, we see how culture and values interact.

What happened?

The first thing we did was partnered with the internal communications departments. We helped them craft a compelling story - why were the organisations setting out on this journey? What was the purpose they were trying to achieve, and why should employees sit up and take notice?  This is particularly important when you have an organisation suffering survey or workshop fatigue, or where there is cynicism around people and culture programmes.  

Then we assess the culture using both qualitative and quantitative approaches.  

Our culture assessment includes a simple survey which we recommend all employees to receive.  It is highly accessible and can be run in several different languages. The survey produced insights that we explored with our customers to generate some initial ideas or hypotheses. We also worked together to identify unanswered questions. What did the survey point to that we needed to understand better?

Next, we gathered representative employees from across each business in several investigative Focus Groups. These Focus Groups were an opportunity for dialogue. They enabled us to uncover the root causes that were driving the current culture in each organisation. The values that were experienced in the current cultures were able to be shared, discussed, and understood. For example, what does ‘Bureaucracy’ or ‘Empowerment’ mean at different employee levels and in different divisions?  

While the employees are consulted, it is imperative to assess what the executive think. We interview the executive individually to understand their unique views and then at an executive off-site or retreat, bring them together. We started to examine and understand all the data gathered so far - from the Focus Groups, interviews, and surveys. This enabled the executive teams to make sense of what their organisations were telling them and to align on a ‘target culture’ that ties that data to business imperatives and strategy.  

We also need to understand the skills, preferences, capacity and alignment of the leadership team. We use a specialised workshop where we assess the preferences of the executive.  

Once alignment between the executive and the employees was achieved, the next stage was to select Culture Champions. These are carefully selected employees who help to craft the solutions for culture change. They are representatives of their divisions, coming and from all different employee levels. Crucially, they have the potential to role-model the values. Culture Champions delve deeper into the issues that the organisation is facing and share what they are learning with the people leading the culture change. For many, this level of exposure and visibility is incredibly powerful and motivating.

Of course, the assessment surveys (and Focus Groups, if required) can be run each year. This is a simple but powerful way of showing how far the culture initiatives have shifted the culture. They also help inform what needs to be prioritised next.  

What was the result?

  1. A refined, refreshed set of new values that every person in the organisations had been involved in creating.
  1. Understanding about why some of the old ones were not as sticky, lived or embedded as the organisations wanted them to be
  1. Understanding of what would make the new ones have more impact and be fully ‘lived’.  
  1. Employees felt listened to and heard across the business. They felt that they had been through an inclusive, engaging experience where they had thought about and shaped the future fit values for their organisations.  
  1. The Executives found a framework and a system that enabled them to have the right business critical conversations. These conversations helped them take a ‘soft’ topic like values and make it hard and business relevant.  
  1. Through the leadership development streams, the company has a shared language to notice behaviour and give clear feedback to each other.  
  1. They identified a group of very influential catalysts. These people went on to help embed and bring the values to life. In addition, they provided understanding about how to shape, manage and influence culture by living the values in the organisation.
  1. The culture champion work helps identify highly engaged employees and future talent for management planning and career development.  

For more information about how ndc can help you refresh your corporate values, contact us here.  

Written by:
Matt Burdock

Executive Coaching, Culture Measurement, Leadership Development.

July 27, 2023