Shared values can lead to increased customer loyalty, higher employee retention and increased profitability. Sophie Ransome, Head of HR at Atalian Servest looks at how to develop and embed them into organisations
The idea of ‘shared values’ has received much greater focus of late, with the term being included on more and more company websites or job descriptions. Shared values can certainly link to organisational goals, but that’s not the purpose of them. While ‘company values’ relate directly to an organisation’s approach to its bigger mission and vision, ‘shared values’ relate more to those priorities that shape a business’ ethos, culture and CSR.
It is well understood that shared values in the workplace lead to stronger social connections, which in turn have been found to boost productivity. These connections occur when employees are fully aligned with the company culture and it is truly embedded, building on the organisation’s overall purpose. Employees are a company’s greatest asset, so engendering a workplace and team with shared values will undoubtedly bring significant benefits.
Tackling social issues
Shared values have been identified as a way for businesses to tackle social issues that matter to their employees. Ensuring diversity and inclusion in business practices is a key example. For us, it’s important to recognise the importance of actively listening and learning from everyone across the business – effective change isn’t possible without fully understanding the backgrounds, experiences and feelings of our colleagues.
Last year, we launched CHROMA, a platform made up of three key networks: Physical and Mental Health; Race, Ethnicity and Faith; and LGBTQ+ – each of which is driven by colleagues. It was formed to give all colleagues a voice, promote individuality and empower individuals to shape not only their future but also that of our business and the wider industry of facilities management.
The success of CHROMA comes from it being a fully inclusive platform, one that our colleagues want, and are able, to engage with at all levels of the business. It helps to create an environment where our people have the authority and confidence to put forward ideas on how we, as an organisation, can be better.
The idea of continual improvement underpins shared values in a business setting. While these values often centre around the societal issues that matter, they also encompass how a business wants to present itself and the people within it. ‘Being’ better is one element but ‘doing’ better is essential.
Encouraging colleagues to be active participants in improving the business and how we do things is a key part of our culture. As a business, we aim to foster an entrepreneurial spirit that helps colleagues build their knowledge and confidence. This, in turn is designed to deliver an environment where employees can be creative and share ideas with ease.
We encourage this mindset and have developed the ONE project to bring it to life. ONE is a competition where Dragon’s Den meets Britain’s Got Talent, offering employees the chance to become our next home-grown entrepreneur. The aim of this learning and development (L&D) project is to reach and engage with colleagues at all levels and locations throughout the UK and Ireland and to inspire a company-wide commitment to idea generation.
Even when you hire like-minded employees, you can’t expect shared values to materialise without making a conscious effort to develop them. This is especially true in larger companies. With thousands of employees, located all over the country, with their own experiences and priorities, it is important to provide a framework for shared values and create an environment where those values can flourish.
This starts with leaders defining a clear company purpose and a meaningful set of company values. Although not the same as shared values, company values can define a brand and create the ethos behind its culture. Our purpose and values, for example, are prominent in on-boarding materials and the intranet, as well as in our offices and other sites. We are diligent about promoting and communicating these values – it sets the tone on the issues and behaviours that are important to the business. And that must come from leadership – cultivating our culture and encouraging engagement within their teams.
Nurturing shared values
Creating a culture and demonstrating shared values is challenging when employees are spread out across sites or working from home. It means that entire teams might not meet as one group very often. So, leaders have to create a space for this process, nurture the resulting shared values and celebrate successes whenever they happen. Programmes, such as CHROMA and ONE, do that and result in a thriving company that everyone is invested in.
Shared values can lead to stronger brand equity, increased customer loyalty, higher employee retention rate, higher productivity and increased profitability. That’s a pretty strong business case for creating shared values. And it’s up to leaders to create, shape and drive them.
Sophie Ransome is Head of HR at Atalian Servest, a facilities management service provider. Initially trained as an employment lawyer, she joined Atalian Servest as the company’s first employment counsel.