In my most pretensions blog to date I wrote about the importance of authenticity among leaders, and drew on the help of French philosophers in doing so.

In this blog I will eschew such intellectual fripperies and make some similar but more down to earth and accessible points.

In the first of this miniseries of bloggage about the four enablers of engagement we discussed the importance of the strategic narrative, in order to help people make the link between success in their role and the success of the organisation.

Alongside the strategy, an organisation needs explicit values, ways of doing things which are common to all parts of the organisation, understood by all and, more importantly, lived by all.

For me, this is the heart of organisational integrity: when the values make the journey from a poster on the wall, or a section on the intranet, into the hearts and minds of its people.

To do this, everything, and I mean everything, must be explicitly and deliberately aligned to the values.

Does your organisation have some kind of performance management process? A capability or competency framework? Role profiles? They all need to be explicitly and deliberately aligned to the values.

Do your employees have objectives? Align them to the values, and use the values as the framework through which those objectives are measured.

Got a recruitment campaign? Make sure those values are running through it – which is why it is important that your values are aligned to your employer brand and, of course, your commercial brand.

Fine words, you say, fine words indeed, but how do you do this? Give us examples, make it real for us.

All right. Let’s take a value, one that may well be found in an organisation: “we will delight our customers”.

Pretty simple for customer-facing staff. You reward behaviour which delights customers. Simply find a way to measure customer delight (Net Promotor Score is used by such organisations as Apple Retail, the most profitable retail network per square foot there is, and a hotel chain, who, helpfully, in an establishment I have frequented on a recent contract, had a little sign up telling customers which boxes to tick so their NPS targets were hit), then build those measures into your performance management systems for customer facing staff.

Away from the shop floor it may be a bit trickier, but it still can be done. HR? Make sure their attraction, recruitment and on-boarding processes get the right people serving your customers (as measured by your customer delight scores). Make sure the reward systems, policies and development offered keep making sure those people delight more customers in future. 

Finance? Ensure the money goes towards things that delight customers and away from things that don’t. IT? Design your service level agreements so that your efforts are optimised for the customer, or customer-facing people, rather than internally.

I could go on, but the thrust is this: this requires a systemic and pervasive approach. You can’t do it piecemeal or by sticking a poster with the values on the wall of an office where no-one has any reason to live to those values.

I’ve been involved in getting values up and running in organisations, and seen various ways of trying to get them embedded, some more successful than others. Here are my tips on getting organisational integrity:

  • Involve as many people across the organisation as possible in choosing what your values should be – don’t impose some from the top, make them meaningful to people
  • Values need to be generic enough to make them real for everyone in the organisation but also specific to your brand, vision and strategy
  • Just have a few values, four or five should do it; simplicity and straightforward is key
  • You need a vision and values – that should be enough, you don’t need to add a load of other statements
  • Your values and vision are everybody’s – you don’t need a separate vision for your HR department, or different values for the engineering division
  • Align everything in your organisation to your values (which is why you need to link it into the brand)
  • Test everything; do they fit with the values
  • Measure what your actual values are (and these may well be different in different parts of the organisation)
  • Find people who live the values and make them your role models – celebrate them and reward them
  • Get in the habit of aligning in the moment recognition to the values – “that was great, you really put our customers first there”, those kind of comments

 Simple, see? Well not really, it is really difficult but also really important. Jack Welch reckoned it took 20-odd years for General Electric to get the values embedded – but everyone I’ve ever me