Company values come to life when they are realised in action – the way employees treat their customers, the services and the quality of such services provided, and the approach taken with all stakeholders.

Ultimately, our employees are the vehicle of company values, as it is through them that they are expressed. Needless to say, this brings about a direct contribution to business success as it is through such behaviours and actions that the desired results are achieved.

Organisations are realising that in today’s changing society, the benefit of values is being undermined and it is becoming a greater challenge to explicitly put values into action. Businesses are trying to find different ways to transmit their values to the employees, and more intensively, to the labour market. 

Some organisations are embarking on ‘cosmetic’ employer branding solutions without understanding and refining their values and their organisation’s ‘personality’. Many employers are not delving deep enough to ensure that their brand promise resonates across all functions and is reflected in their employees’ behaviour on a daily basis.

We have no doubt that you have come across organisations and saw their core values displayed on organisation literature, website or organisation premises. Most of the time, employees, including management, just walk past them every day without noticing them. The reality is that we might know what the organisation stands for – its values – but we find it difficult to translate it into real (and measurable) behaviours. It is also difficult for employees to have a common understanding of what is expected out of them. This is the challenge most organisations face.

Core values, when lived in practice, define what the organisation believes in, stands for and how it differentiates itself from others. Setting and defining core values is just the start of the equation, living it is the bridge to success and to achieve desired results. 

Naturally, one has to truly define the meaning of particular values in terms of what they mean for the organisation, including its shareholders and directors. Every value (success, professionalism, integrity and many others) can have different meanings and interpretations.  Ask a group of people what success means to them and you will get 100 different answers.

For some it is family, for some it is health, for some it is wealth, for others happiness (and there you have another value!). It is therefore key that organisations not only choose their core values carefully, but also ensure that these are well defined and can be translated and rooted into behaviours and core HR processes.

There are many ways of doing this, before embarking on any external promotional ‘employer brand’ campaign. Every business has to find the way it works best for them. First and foremost, organisations need to understand the impact of their values, and consequently, the actions, on their people, the organisation and the rest of society.

Companies’ values also need to be aligned with the natural actions of the employees. If people love doing what they are doing and why they are doing it (that is, they have a passion for the work they do), it is easier for them to align with company values. Organisations need to also facilitate honest and open relationships with their employees. Employees need to feel understood by management and managers need to show empathy with their staff. This creates an environment in which people feel empowered.

Through our daily work we come across different types of organisations, some of which truly strive to practise their values in tangible ways through different organisation initiatives. They live their values and lead by example. While many organisations are struggling to translate their values into action, there are many others who have a success story.

On October 18, organisations, ranging from NGOs to private and public companies, such as Dr. Klown, the Malta Police Force, Enemed, Corinthia Group and Vodafone, shared their success stories during HR GIG 4, entitled ‘Values in Action’. The HR GIG is a ‘jeans’ event that brings together a group of leaders (CEOs, directors) and HR professionals in a practical and informal (fun) workshop which is followed by drinks and networking.

All organisations showcased how they strive to live by their values, starting from the process undertaken to identify the values to actually putting them into practice. Each organisation demonstrated different ways of doing this, however, these case studies reaffirmed that such value-driven organisations are those where values are (1) a true representation of what their organisation stands for (or what it aspires to be) (2) fundamental to its purpose and why it exists and (3) put into practice, because the values do not only help shape what the organisation does, but how it does it.

Maria Bartolo Zahra is managing director, SurgeAdvisory (maria@surgeadvisory.com), while Joseph Farrugia is director, StreetHR (joseph@streethr.com.mt).