Do Your Employees Know What Your Company's Core Values Are?

Why am I here? Is there a big picture or a worthy cause? If there is, what is my role in it? These are some of the most asked existential questions, questions asked by an individual to determine or discover their purpose for living. But these questions are also relevant in a business environment, especially when they are asked by employees, because that means they care about something other than themselves. But the problem is that such questions are not asked often enough, and even when they are, there aren’t always ready answers, and this should not be the case.

What are core values?
Core values are the foundation of a company’s culture, derivative of its overall mission or vision. Every company plays a role in the market and fills some sort of gap, the most self-aware companies are those that know what their role in the market is, and are consciously making efforts to find out how said role affects the market, both in the present and in the future. MindTools, a career development website defines workplace core values as the “guiding principles that are most important to you about the way that you work.” They are “deeply held principles” that help employees choose “between right and wrong ways of working”, principles that help said employees “make important decisions and career choices.”

Many companies make the mistake of creating core values out of thin air, usually based on wishful thinking, turn them into mere letters on banners and plagues and hanging them in their corridors and offices. Such companies don’t truly believe in or portray those values. They do not realise that it is not enough to make a list of values, what is important is making sure they are practised and frequently communicated in word and deed. When properly communicated in word and in deed, core values will then shape present and future employee behaviour and ensure that they are aligned to the long term vision and current mission.

When employee behaviour does not align with a company’s list of core values, that company is seen as hypocritical. For example, a certain airline claims reliability and humility as two of its five core values, but its employees and operations are neither reliable nor humble. The airline often delays or cancel flights, and as it does so, the attendants responsible for announcing cancellations and delays to customers do so in impolite ways. This sort of behaviour juxtaposed with the airline’s stated core values is somewhat laughable and can be viewed a hypocritical.

How does a company ensure core values and employee behaviour align?
The temptation here would be to say the company management should devise accountability tools and training programmes to drum the core values into the minds of their employees, but such a system is limited. It does not take into account the default human inclination towards autonomy and propensity to flaunt rules and regulations. Human beings by nature feel stifled by rules, especially when they do not understand and appreciate the reason for those rules.

A more efficient way would be to promote individual appreciation for core values by embracing the gospel of Emotional Intelligence.

Psychology Today defines Emotional Intelligence, or EQ, as “the ability to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others.” EQ generally includes three skills: self awareness - the ability to recognise your emotions, abilities, weaknesses, strengths, etc; self-regulation - the ability to redirect your emotions and optimise them in context, while adapting to different situations; social awareness - ability to recognise other people’s emotional dispositions at a given time; and social relations - ability to relate with people on the bases of their emotions, empathise with them and know how best to relate with them at a given time.

In the context of this article, emotionally intelligent employees are those that are self aware enough to know the importance of core values to a business and what their role is in promoting those core values. They are also socially aware enough to know how best to act in different situations in the company’s best interests.

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