As employers seek to attract today's top candidates, they often brand themselves by touting their unique company cultures. It's almost become a cliché to include words like "integrity," "trust" and "innovation" in corporate mission statements, and to claim that these values are at the heart of the company's culture. In fact, a recent survey by employee engagement platform RoundPegg found that 60 percent of Fortune 50 companies named integrity as a core organizational value, with customer focus (42 percent) and respect (38 percent) following closely behind.
But Brent Daily, RoundPegg's founder and chief operating officer, said that many of these companies blindly use these terms to describe their cultures without fully understanding what it means to develop a good culture in the first place.
"While integrity, customer focus and respect are all popular values chosen by companies, these are all examples of behaviors companies hope to see in their employees rather than precise and defined values," Daily said. "While these popular values look good on the wall and on the website, they are more for marketing and positioning than for understanding a culture and driving a culture forward."
The problem, said Daily, is that companies frequently forget that cultural values should define how an organization gets things done — the process, not the result. [3 Ways to Improve Your Company Culture]
"Too often, the words hanging on the wall are trying to define the result only, like customer focus," he said. "The actual definition [of integrity] is acting in alignment with your morals, values and beliefs. It only further confuses things because we all have different values, and it gives people an excuse to behave however they want."
The other issue is that simply declaring values like integrity as part of your culture is a traditional "top-down" approach, which many companies claim they want to move away from, Daily said. Instead, he advised taking a bottom-up approach: Ask your employees about the personal values that drive them at work, and aggregate those responses to find the common values that exist within your company.
"Without knowing the actual values that drive your people, you will never be able to directly address issues within your culture," Daily said. "Define the 'how,' not the 'what.'"
Once you quantify the actual values of your workforce, you can take that data and apply it to the entire employee lifecycle, starting with your management staff. Managers can be your greatest assets for building a strong culture, Daily said. Make sure that they are reinforcing stated company values while also managing their teams using the individual values of each employee to motivate, communicate and evaluate performance.
"No matter what you put on the wall, your true company culture is created from the bottom up," Daily said. "Every employee you hire, and every one you let go, changes the culture of your organization. Organizations must take the time to understand the values of all of their employees and how those values are in alignment and how they are conflicting on a company-wide, business-unit, department and team level."
Originally published on Business News Daily