Do we value values any more?

I’ve recently been helping a couple of organisations find ways to re-connect with their employees following record falls in employee confidence and pride in the brands they work for. The conversations we’ve been having with employees have centred around prevailingly negative public perceptions about the way they conduct business, especially the way they market their services and their direct sales techniques.

At the core of their issues have been:

–  a growing sense that, while there are theoretically two-way channels in place, they aren’t being listened to

– a growing cynicism about the values the organisation publishes to all stakeholders and the way the leaders talk about customers

–  an innate insecurity about the notion of a career given that there is a  perception that a growing number of new recruits are either locum workers or job-hopping every 18 months or so and seldom develop proper relationships.

Of course, we’re trying to substantiate their comments with some hard facts. But regardless of how the statistics stack up, these issues were echoed at all levels when we investigated the sliding engagement figures.

Our last meeting was on the 4th of July, a time when there’s much “tootin and hootin” about US Independence. Regardless of your own ideological leanings, it has to be said that there’s a certain pervading clarity about the American way which is rooted in Thomas Jefferson’s work in crafting the Declaration of Independence.

This single document became a powerful manifesto for the creation of a nation, based on clear values and has become a totemic rallying point for the US ideology ever since. Whether you like or agree with American culture, you have to respect the foundations upon which the culture is built.

Given the investment every employee makes in terms of time they devote to the organisations they work for and the role those organisations play in meeting so many of an individuals’ basic and higher order needs, it’s only natural that the relationship between people and their work is going to be an emotional one. To fail to recognise this relationship; to treat people like numbers, to give them an official message about how to behave but unofficially expect them to “win at all costs” or to patronise and dump messages on them using internal marketing and spin is ridiculous.

Values are the fundamental building blocks of a brand. They set the tone and the foundation for the emotional contract between employees and their employer. In a week when yet another brand, this time The News of The World implodes on the back of another values and culture based brand disaster, there must be a ripple of discomfort running through many boardrooms? There certainly should be.

In an age of pressure selling, public sector strikes in the face of banker’s bonuses and pensioners having to choose between heating and eating, what high-profile brand will the powerful social media machine gun focus its sights on next?

Isn’t it time leaders started valuing values again?

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4 thoughts on “Do we value values any more?

  1. Tootin and hootin – he he.

    Maybe those leaders concerned with disengagement should just try being the values. Actively being them. I reckon if folk see that these things being lived then some sense of purpose can (re)emerge. It’s simple, and it probably ain’t easy. And it’s well worth a good go.

    • Couldn’t agree more, Doug.
      WIth my customer hat on, I’m well aware of a sense of general unrest about cynical marketing; short termism; absence of relationship management; profiteering from inertia etc.
      I think we’re all pretty hacked off with fairly widespread hypocrisy. Today it was a newspaper’s turn to feel the brunt of the social media whirlwind. What’s next?
      With my professional hat on, I can’t help but feel sorry for many of the News of the World employees, for example, who find themselves jobless as a result of the example set by their leaders.
      The same applies to the banks involved in the crisis which has had a tragic knock-on effect to other businesses, national brands and the public sector etc.
      I believe all stakeholder groups, be they customers; shareholders, employees or community groups just want organisations to “be as they say”.
      Values are treated as marketing collateral alone…..time they were re-evaluated as the root of sustainability from the inside-out methinks.
      Nice to hear your voice on here 😉

  2. NoW – Destroying Brand Value From Within

    Watch out ‘BIG BRANDS’ and NoW was the biggest. The bigger they come the harder they fall – the Twitterati will see to that, sooner rather than later. The NoW sorry tale tells us a lot about the difference between a brand’s stated values like ‘seeking out truth – legally, honestly, decently’ and it’s real values like ‘digging in the mire – illegally, cynically, hypocritically’. It is a very simple correlation here; the brand valueS of any organisation whatever its size, create the brand valuE. In NoW speak, the NoW staff trod on very thin ice whilst eating a fat fuelled diet feeding off others. It was only a matter of time before the ice broke.

    The whole of the NoW value of the brand was destroyed from the inside; albeit in response to pressure from the outside. That’s the case for every brand. Your people invent your products and deliver the product or service. The way they do this is held in the values they hold dear. They can destroy its reputation and value too.

    What about the ‘bosses’ and that includes the board, who maintain they didn’t know? They are culpable not only because ‘ignorance of the fact’ should not let them off, they should have known because they let a culture of secrecy flourish. However, they are really responsible for failing to deliver, inculcate and sustain true values i.e. ‘what’s REALLY important. Brand values are not a few fine words on a wall. They are the brand. An example of fine words: the ‘RICE Values’ – Respect, Integrity, Communication, Excellence; these were Enron’s. I wonder what the NoW values were, or didn’t they have any, and if so, is there a mnemonic for them? What would it really be? Kevin Thomson

  3. Pingback: The Why of Work | The Brand Trilogy (TBT)

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