By Luis Gallardo
Carrying the weight of your business, profits, employees’ well-being and your own conscience can be back-breaking. To ease the burden, activities that aren’t directly tethered to the bottom line tend to fall by the wayside.
But there are subtle factors shaping your financial success beyond hard numbers. If you zero in on end results alone, you’ll miss these quiet forces that play a major role in advancing or stalling your company’s progress.
The connection between profits, employee productivity, and organizational values is undeniable. When your employees understand how every action ties back to a bigger purpose, they’ll take more pride in their everyday tasks, be more productive and exude an authentic outward appearance. Setting high standards for your organization — and living up to them — will encourage others to support your vision, too.
But writing out a few company creeds won’t get you on track to driving real profits. To incite real change — internally and externally — employees and consumers need to get behind your values.
Give your mission meaning
Consumers are increasingly concerned with what happens behind the scenes. According to a study by Cone Communications and Echo Research Group, 82 percent of U.S. consumers consider corporate social responsibility when deciding which products or services to buy and where to shop.
People want to know that their purchase decisions won’t produce negative externalities, so they’ll often investigate brands to make sure something like buying new shoes won’t inadvertently make life worse for someone on the other side of the world. They want to use their money ethically whenever possible, and that means supporting businesses that live up to certain moral standards.
Chipotle did a great job of sticking to its values despite the risk of losing business over a carnitas shortage in January. When the company discovered that a major pork supplier had violated its standards, Chipotle pulled carnitas from the menu until it found a solution. No company wants to disappoint customers on a large scale, but Chipotle used the problem as an opportunity to showcase its values, earning respect and loyalty in the long run.
Bring your values to life
Before your standards can resonate with the outside world, you have to promote them within your company. You can’t expect employees to contribute to overarching goals if they don’t fully understand them or know what the journey should look like. And when your team is united behind a common purpose, it gives them a sense of belonging and bolsters engagement.
In fact, one report found that employees who know their company values are more engaged than those who don’t. Engaged employees generally have better attitudes and are more productive, which directly affects a company’s bottom line.
Revenue and results are linked to employee performance, which ties back to pride and belonging. This ultimately starts with believing in an organization’s value system. To rally your organization around a set of shared beliefs, start with these four steps:
1. Define your vision. Spend several months conversing with colleagues and employees and crafting stories that reflect what your organization stands for. Once you have a clear picture, you can start promoting your standards externally. Successful companies such as LEGO and Whole Foods Market stand behind concrete organizational values. Every story they share and every action they take ties back to those, which creates an authentic brand experience.
2. Lead by example. Actions speak louder than words, and the most powerful influencers on behavior tend to be real-life examples. When you lead by example, you set clear expectations for your organization. To take hold in your company, values should be reflected 80 percent through actions and 20 percent through storytelling.
3. Bring in role models. Company leaders should be living examples of the values they preach. But you can also bring in external role models who reflect the values you want employees to demonstrate to further engrain these concepts.
4. Recognize and reward desirable behavior. Ultimately, you want employees to model behavior that aligns with your organization’s values. To promote these actions, recognize and reward internal heroes who exemplify your core values at all levels of the organization. Values-based recognition programs provide a confidence boost and make workers considerably less frustrated with accomplishing tasks. People will work harder if they know you appreciate it.
When the market takes a dip or you’re tempted to compromise your core values for the sake of profits, remember to keep the bigger picture in mind. If employees feel you losing sight of the company’s guiding principles, their trust in you as a leader will weaken, and it will be much harder to reestablish your culture.
You may feel like the weight of the world is on your back, but when you have strong company values, they’ll help shoulder the burden and instill a renewed purpose in everything you do.
Image credit: Flickr/Michael Saechang
Luis Gallardo is CEO of Thinking Heads Americas, a team specializing in developing and structuring the ideas, values, projects, and contents of the clients it represents. Luis is the former president of brand marketing at Burson-Marsteller for EMEA as well as director of global brand strategy at BAV Consulting. He’s an award-winning author and holds an MBA from IMD in Switzerland and a master’s degree in international relations from the Lancaster University in the U.K.