The Dangling Fruit

In almost any context, misalignment leads to less than desired outcomes. Talent managers, learning and development professionals, and instructional designers keep their eye on aligning content and objectives with the learning outcomes and goals of the initiative. Recruiters search for alignment of skill sets and interpersonal skills for company positions.

Many organizations post their core values in prominent places but put little effort into ensuring employee alignment with — or even awareness of — them. The relationship between practicing corporate values and improving performance surfaces frequently in research, yet many organizations fail to leverage its power.

What We Know

In a 2016 Gallup survey, only 23% of employees “strongly agreed” that they could “apply their organization’s values to their work every day.” A mere 27% strongly agreed that they even “believed in” those values. The downstream impact of a lack of training on core values is often employees’ inability to apply them, lack of employee unity and a litany of other problems. IBM’s 2016 “Employee Experience Index” reported that only 29% of employees say they have a “positive employee experience” when their work is not “consistent with” their employer’s core values.

During a Fond webinar poll with 100 HR professionals, when asked, “What percent of your employees can recite all of your company’s core values?”, half said that they believed 0% to 40% of their organization’s employees knew all the core values, and 29% said they believed 20% or less did.

Work futurist Jacob Morgan defines employee experience as organizations’ “creating a place where people want to show up instead of assuming that people need to show up.” If any of the three prongs of employee experience (cultural, technological or physical environments) is weak, it can drastically reduce how engaged workers are in the workplace. Core values fall squarely into the cultural prong and can bleed into the other areas.

Core values and engagement have a significant impact on the bottom line. In a 2019 Korn Ferry survey, companies with employees who scored high on engagement had nearly double the five-year sales growth rates of other companies. Companies whose employees said they feel enabled to do their jobs had almost triple the sales growth. Gallup’s 2017 “State of the Workplace” survey concluded that organizations with engaged employees have higher earnings per share. In today’s economic climate, where bottom lines are king, employee engagement is golden — and value alignment is the key.

What It Means for the Training Industry

Addressing the lack of knowledge of and alignment with core values is a much-needed learning and development (L&D) initiative. L&D departments can collaborate with marketing teams to display core values in strategic areas of the office, such as break areas, entryways and even bathrooms — anywhere employees would frequently see them.

Collaborating with other functional areas, such as information technology (IT), could help L&D influence the company’s virtual presence. Log-in screens could flash the company’s core values prior to an employee’s landing on the company intranet every morning.

Training everyone in the organization on the company’s core values and how to apply them can change the culture, the bottom line and employee engagement. Building excitement for knowing and practicing the core values can pump up engagement, employee ownership, and accountability.

What We Can Do

Because the concept of training on core values seems innocuous, it should be an easy move to insert it into the onboarding and regular training schedules for most organizations. The biggest challenge for some organizations will be to empower employees to act on and carry out the core values in their day-to-day work if they clash with the current culture profile. For some organizations, “letting go and letting employees” may pose a barrier. Handing over the power to make values-based decisions to employees may present a challenge for organizations that are more centrally controlled. However, the outcome — more engaged employees and an improved bottom line — should appeal to even the most doubting of senior leaders.

Unleashing Success

Companies leveraging the low-hanging fruit of core values continue to thrive, because those values are well-defined and because they encourage and recognize employees for adopting and demonstrating them. L&D is at the forefront as drivers, influencers and substantial revenue generators.