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Words to Live By: Aligning Desired Behavior With Your Company Values

What if you could align employee behaviour with business values, creating a core culture that enhanced engagement, performance, and customer experience?

If so, how do you figure out the values that your team should live and work by? And how do you align the desired values with desired behaviours?

These were the questions faced by Pendinginan Megajana, a district cooling plant provider in Cyberjaya.

Megajana’s leadership understood the value of creating great company culture – it can hold your team to higher standards, work together more effectively toward your ultimate goals, and even make better hiring decisions. The company was committed to starting that journey, which began with explicitly defining their core values so everyone could get on the same page.

For such a strategic intervention, Megajana turned to Cultural Impact for solutions.

Identify Company Core Values

Our method assumes that as leaders of your organisation, you know the most about your company than any outsider ever could. You know the personalities, the history, and what makes your organisation successful. In that context, we help leaders to get the core values out of their head and down on paper, so they can be communicated throughout the organisation.

Writing down and trying to adhere to a handful of general virtues feels inauthentic. Instead, core values tend to reveal themselves over time.

We also strongly believe thinking and behaving in ways consistent with the organization’s values cannot be induced. Employees must truly believe in the purpose, mission and values of the organization. And to develop a shared belief system which inspires each individual to strive to live up to, employees must help in the creation process.

Through face-to-face interviews with key stakeholders, focus groups, online surveys and individual assessments, we brainstormed and analysed the company environment, performance gaps, expectations and goals, to identify what’s important to the leaders and team.

Framing Values into Words with Meaning

Once we achieved company wide support for the values that reflect the true core of their business culture, the values had to be turned into clear statements that team members, management, and even clients can all immediately understand.

Through a diverse set of experiential activities, the team listed a handful of business or workplace situations that were especially frustrating. Our approach allowed the team to identify what values were not lived up to or were violated in each instance, which were then documented on the myriad of understandings (often based on cultural expectations and perceptions) tied to each value.

After we got all of the main themes down, we collaborated with the team to write 2 – 3 sentence description for each value to provide more clarity. The descriptions are short and straightforward, but help establish the guidelines for each value in the context of the organisation’s culture.

For example in Megajana, these things were true: Their daily 24 hours operations involved detailed precision, expected frequent exchanges of information between teams and departments, and required excellent teamwork to pull it off day and night.

One of their core value therefore was to Communicate, that is, “to exchange updated and reliable information in a clear and respectful way in order to reach mutual SMART objectives.”

Empowering the Team by Defining the Behaviours

Next, we translate Megajana’s core values into employee behaviours and action. This happens by engaging every team member to define what the core values look like in day-to-day terms.

The best way is to explicitly connect the work that team members do with the values, the mission and the vision laid out by the company. Over time, the list of actions was narrowed down to 17 agreed upon desired behaviours.

We then took it a step further. We addressed the behaviours deemed most difficult to implement by examining the obstacles and challenges behind these activities. Using Realex facilitation techniques, individuals were empowered to re-enact real situations and issues without judgment through performance and play.

I can see that what others think is different from my perspective; and I feel more courageous when expressing my opinion.” reported a technician, after the Realex sessions. 

By being “on stage” and “in character”, individuals had the opportunity and confidence to speak, pause, provoke, and reflect on the issues. As such, the technique allowed for open exchanges in the teams across management, experience, gender, skillset, and personal differences. It also exposes the spectrum of responses to the situations and encouraged organic collaboration towards problem solving.

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Today, Megajana proudly stands for their 4 core values: Support, Esteem, Sharing, and Communicate. And yet, it is only the beginning of a journey in creating great company culture. It requires painstaking attention and courage to cultivate and develop increased alignment between company direction, core values, and employee behaviour.

However as the leadership continues to weave their core values into everything – employee recognition, onboarding, retention, KPIs – they are geared to achieve better business outcomes, be it in greater productivity output or higher customer satisfaction.