Let Your Values Guide Your Policies

The first step in my business transformation process is to define the business culture. To intentionally decide who you want to be and what you want to do.

Why? Because once you define that, it makes other decisions for you.

And the fewer the decisions you have to make, the faster you can adapt and grow.

I read a great example of this in the most recent issue of the Harvard Business Review. In an article by Mark Mortensen and Amy C. Edmondson titled Rethink Your Employee Value Proposition, there were two different approaches to navigating the choppy waters of bringing remote employees back to the office.

Example #1:

Consider what happened at one software firm that serves companies in engineering, construction, and manufacturing. After Covid-19 cases subsided, the CEO and other top executives wanted everyone back in the office. But employee surveys indicated that people didn’t want to come back. The executives relented, only to have employee engagement scores suffer over the next few months. Interviews with staff members revealed a “loss of connection,” with many saying that they missed seeing their colleagues or that their “experience of belonging” was diminished. As the engagement scores continued to fall, executives discovered that people were less happy despite being given what they ostensibly wanted. The executives realized that they had failed to consider how remote work might affect employees’ sense of community over time.

I have heard from many business leaders who are in the same boat. Their employees like their new flexibility, but they feel like they’ve lost something important.

What’s the answer? They provide it later in their article in the form of example #2:

Garry Ridge, who retired as WD-40’s CEO last year, did just that when his employees expressed a desire to continue remote work as the pandemic waned. He told us, “We came out with a philosophy called Work from Where, in which we said, ‘We don’t care where you work from, but we do ask that you use our corporate values to make your decision.’” One of those values is “creating positive, lasting memories in all relationships,” which encouraged employees to explicitly weigh whether they were contributing to the WD-40 community (another corporate value) against a preference for working from home—and to figure out when remote work was effective and when it wasn’t. According to Ridge, most employees chose to work in the office.

Because WD-40 had already defined their values, those values could guide their policies and the decisions of individual employees. But without clear values, policies get created by the loudest voice, executive whim, or employee vote like the example above.

If you need help defining your culture or help applying it to a new world of hybrid work, reach out and let’s chat.

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