Here's a loaded question if there ever was one: Is your company practicing what it preaches? If you haven't already, you'll soon be inundated with countless corporate "Seasons Greetings" cards with nice messages basesd on peace and hope and brotherhood, and many of them including the mission statement from the company sending out the card.
Mission statement, of course, have been all the rage for quite some time now, and most of them include a lofty phrase or two spelling out exactly what values the company espouses. So a management consulting firm, Discovery Surveys Inc., set out to ask employees if they believe these corporate values are being lived up to on a daily and ongoing basis.
According to the survey, 1 out of 3 employees say, "Nope, we're just paying lip service to the whole corporate values' thing." This wasn't just a dinky little survey, either Discovery Surveys got input from more than 50,000 people at manufacturing and service organizations in the U.S.
The press release for this study notes:"Employees often view the corporate values as merely words-on-the-wall,' company propaganda that have little or no bearing on how day-to-day business is conducted," says Dr. Bruce Katcher, an industrial/organizational psychologist and author of the study. He adds, "If employees perceive that the stated company values are not being lived up to by the organization, they will become cynical and less trusting of management."
So how do you fight past that kind of cynicism? Assuming that the company isn't inherently ruthless in the first place (and keep in mind that the pursuit of a profit does not in and of itself qualify as "ruthless" since that is why a company exists in the first place), here are five suggestions from Katcher on what to do to regain employee trust (you can read the full report here):
1. Involve others in establishing the company values. Corporate values should be established with input from employees, customers, stockholders, and other major constituents of the organization.
2. Management must commit to the values. It starts at the top. Senior management must be committed to the company's values. They must think about them when they make important decisions for the organization and refer to them when they explain why these decisions were made.
3. Set realistic expectations. Management should communicate to employees that everyone should strive to act consistently with the values but that it may not always be possible. For example, there may be times when holding a meeting on a weekend is unavoidable and an exception must be made.
4. Keep your company values current. Organizations continuously change due to changes in the goals of the company and the environment in which it operates. The company's values must sometimes be revised to remain consistent with current reality. Some values may no longer be applicable and new values may now be more appropriate.
5. Continuously monitor how well you are living the values. Management should regularly set aside time on its agenda to self-assess how well the values are being lived. Employees should also be periodically surveyed to assess how well they believe the company is living up to its values and what it needs to do to act more consistently with them.
If you say thing like, "We put our customers first," do you really mean that? Or more to the point, do your employees believe that's really what your company is all about? Something to think about as you gather your staff together to spread some holiday cheer this month.