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Annette Franz

Customer Care

Linking Behaviors to Core Values

Your company does have a list of core values, right?

Published: Wednesday, October 2, 2019 - 12:02

I write about organizational culture and core values quite often. One of my most recent articles on this topic was about whether employees believe in their companies’ core values. I shared this statistic from Gallup: Only 23 percent of U.S. employees believe that they can apply the core values to their work, while only 27 percent believe in the values. That’s pretty dismal, and I think I know why that’s the case. When executives and managers don’t live the values, why should the employees?

Yes, just like with everything else in the organization, executives and managers are not immune from any changes, any required behaviors or actions. As a matter of fact, they are the role models. They must be the catalyst. When they do things right and do the right things, so will their employees. If executives exempt themselves, employees won’t take any of it seriously.

But what if the leadership team doesn’t understand the core values? What if they don’t even understand what is expected as a result of each core value? Remember, not everyone was around when the core values were first established. (Is it time to reevaluate, to make sure they are still in line with how the culture ought to be?) Plus, many companies don’t incorporate core values into their orientation and training, sadly.

And, finally, not many companies know that there’s an important exercise that must accompany core-values development: They must define the behaviors that are acceptable for each value. In other words, they’ve got to provide examples of what each value means and how it is applied in business dealings day in and day out. This provides clarity and leaves no room to question what each value means.

Take a look at your core values. Brainstorm desired behaviors to be associated with each value: behaviors that you believe are in line with the intent of the value, behaviors that would make you proud to work for this company, behaviors that are deliberately aligned with the culture you are designing. For further clarity, you can even outline behaviors that are not acceptable as a result of this core value.

Get feedback from a cross-section of employees; this is a great exercise for your culture committee to take on. Committee members can gather feedback from their respective departments. The more input and involvement you get now, the more likely people will accept, adopt, and align to the values in the future.

An important next step in this exercise is to outline the (employee, customer, and/or business) outcomes you’ll achieve through these values and behaviors. Ultimately, what you’re going to end up with is a table that looks something like this:

Once that exercise is complete, you also now have a way to measure your culture—and measure employee performance against the values. These behaviors are likely measurable in some way, whether it’s a “didn’t meet/met/exceeded” scale, or some other scale. When outcomes of desired behaviors are clearly understood, promoting and firing based on values is no longer ambiguous; everyone knows what the values mean and what to do or expect.

Next, you’ve got to tell the story of the core values: how they came about, what they mean, and how they should be applied by executives and employees alike in their day-to-day dealings. As you know, storytelling is a great teaching tool. Telling this story will be important to building the connection with—and teaching the importance of—these values to everyone in the company and to business outcomes. Don’t skip this step.

Finally, the values must be modeled, recognized, and reinforced. Executives must model the behaviors, not exempt themselves from them. And they must recognize and reinforce employee behaviors that are in line with the core values.

Only after all of this can employees believe in and apply the core values. It’s not as simple as coming up with a list of core values and hanging posters of them around the office!

“Your net worth to the world is usually determined by what remains after your bad habits are subtracted from your good ones.”
—Benjamin Franklin

First published Aug. 21, 2019, on the CX Journey blog.


About The Author

Annette Franz’s picture

Annette Franz

Annette Franz, CCXP is founder and CEO of CX Journey Inc. She’s got 25 years of experience in both helping companies understand their employees and customers and identifying what drives retention, satisfaction, engagement, and the overall experience – so that, together, we can design a better experience for all constituents. She's an author (she wrote the book on customer understanding!), a speaker, and a customer experience thought leader and influencer. She serves as Vice Chairwoman on the Board of Directors of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA), is an official member of the Forbes Coaches Council, and is an Advisory Board member for CX@Rutgers.


Core Values / Behaviors


You are on the money.  Goal alignment is essential to be successful and the core values form the foundation.  In a past life, my organization's first core value was Integrity.  While there were a few additional core values, I hung the entire Quality program on that one and it rang true for everybody on the team.  Based on that one word, and the leadership backing, we had a true culture of quality where a "get it out the door" mentality existed just one year previously.  My biggest job as the Quality manager at that point was to support and get out of the way.