Chances are your company has a written set of values. A growing number of companies do. If your company does, chances are very good that one of the statements says that employees are valued above all else. Chances are also good that one of the statements has to do with how family oriented the company is and how employee commitment should be to family before company. Chances are also very good that there is a statement that says customers are the key to company success.
I’ve consulted with, visited with, and worked for hundreds of companies that have value statements. Most are interchangeable-both in terms of the value statement verbiage and the company’s actions.
Not often are the company’s actions in line with their value statements. Most often, especially in large retail environments–but certainly not exclusively-the company’s value statement and the company’s actions are diametrically opposed to one another. Maybe not on purpose (although for many, the value statements are nothing but something the company uses for PR purposes with both employees and customers), but opposed to one another they most often are.
Most value statements are people oriented. Most corporate actions are people oriented also-either for stockholders or senior management.
There is nothing wrong with a corporate value statement. Likewise, there is nothing wrong with a company focusing the company’s benefits on stockholders or senior management. Every company has the right and the freedom to focus resources and benefits how and where they want.
Nevertheless, employees do notice the inconsistencies between what a company proclaims it values and its actions-and those inconsistencies can destroy morale.
One company in the retail business claims in its value statement that its primary reason for existing is to serve its employees and especially to encourage the growth of strong families. Sounds great. The reality? It requires its salespeople and mid-level managers to work 10 ? hour days, 24 days per month on average. Senior management works only about 40 to 45 hours per week. To top it off, if the salesperson is not on target to meet their sales quota, they are encouraged to work their days off. Working beyond scheduled hours is strongly encouraged also. Taking earned vacation time is frowned upon. Most employees consider the value statement a joke-but resent the fact the company is constantly preaching how important a strong family life is to the company.
Another regional retailer also claims that the strength of employee’s families is a central concern to the company. However, low and mid-level managers are expected to regularly work 70 to 80 hours per week. Vacations are limited to a maximum of three days-including Sunday’s–at any one time. Managers unwilling to work the expected hours leave the company in short order. Divorce rates within the management ranks of this company that stresses its concern for families is over twice the national average. The hours are long; morale among managers is low, productivity lags behind industry average.
There are thousands of similar stories. The morale-breaking culprit for many of the employees of these companies isn’t the hours or the stress, although they contribute to it. The real morale breaker is the belief that they have been sold a bill of goods about who and what the company is and then experience actions that in their mind prove it to be a lie.
There are certainly many companies whose actions reflect consistency with their value statement. Many, many others are hard at work trying to bring their company’s actions into line with their value statement.
Most of the employees I’ve interviewed regarding this topic, no matter their level within their company, expressed respect for their company when they believed the company either adhered to or was striving to adhere to the company’s value statement-no matter what the value statement contained. In addition, most of the employees of companies whose actions reflected consistency with or who were actively striving to have company actions align to the company’s value statement felt that the company’s value statement helped to boost employee morale.
Although it seems a simple notion that what a company does is more important than what it says, it appears this concept has escaped a large number of companies. Spouting platitudes in order to try to encourage employee morale without the actions to back the platitudes up produces far more harm than good.
What about your company? Is your company value statement helping to build morale or destroying it? Does your company live its value statement or is it simply a flimsy tool to try to manipulate employees? If you’re not serious about your value statement, you’re better off not having one.