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Employee Motivation

Core Values and Performance—Connecting Your Power Sources

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Facing the Wrong Way

Imagine a football team of focused, skilled, competitive players. So much energy and potential! But imagine if they didn’t know in which direction to play, or at which net they should aim to score goals. Players stand about, facing different ways, losing their zest for the game. They don’t trust the pitch on which they play. This sounds absurd, but it’s a good analogy for the way some companies operate.

Any enterprise worth its salt has well-considered Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and core values. It will build them into its systems, policies and procedures; include them in onboarding; publish them in reports and websites.

How many human resources departments, though, can say KPIs truly take company values into account and connect to them meaningfully? Is it important that they do? What are the benefits of doing so, and the pitfalls of not doing so? How can it be done, so a team can stand together on solid ground, knowing where the goalposts are?

Get Your Game On

In an ideal world, whether a KPI measures progress towards specific targets or achievements of set milestones, every employee will be enabled to look beyond acronyms and ‘corporate speak’ to truly understand what is sought, and their place in the seeking. They’ll be informed of any change or evolution of KPIs, and any role they have in such monitoring.

When well done, this increases employee engagement by fostering a sense of purpose, connection, and responsibility in each and every person. This way, everyone knows what they have to do, how individual success contributes to overall success, and why.

The ‘why’ is where the more quantitative KPIs brush up against the more qualitative core values. It’s important they do more than this; that the two metrics are consciously and consistently used to check and support each other. Both are power sources, and their currents should run in the same direction.

Going back to the football analogy. It’s of course best that team members understand the rules and aim of the game, and the individual part they play in order to reach the best possible outcome. But what if, despite this, they didn’t like the game? What if they felt like the game itself was wrong? They may not want to participate.

Don't be weasel-worded

One of the most notorious stories about company values is that of Google—now, of course, one of the ‘Big Five’ global tech behemoths under parent company Alphabet. Its corporate Code of Conduct was focused on the value, ‘Don’t be evil’. The phrase was quietly dropped as a central tenet in 2018. It had become an unofficial company motto but was used to mock Google for being vague and problematic about its values as it grew.

It can’t be argued that Google lost business as a result: it’s ‘too big to fail.’ But for smaller companies, the gap between stated ideals and practice damages both customer perceptions and employee satisfaction. The wider the gap, the bigger the hit on employee persuasion. They were hired and wanted to be, in part because their values and the company’s were a good fit. But will employees remain loyal to a company and its stated values if it preaches one thing but does another?

The integrity of society is founded on this. Democratic nations have the Rule of Law, the idea that laws apply equally to everyone. If governments flout this by acting unlawfully and are not being held accountable, societies can break down and damage their standing with other societies. The costs, financially and in terms of pride and trust, can be crippling.

Running the right way

Then, how to ensure that KPIs and company culture are consciously and consistently integrated?

  • Start with organisational values as the primary reference point for every action at every level.
  • Make it a policy that values are referred to at every stage of the KPI cycle by all stakeholders.
  • Put Values in Action where everyone can see them: for example, make Employee of the Month awards a narrative about how people used values to great benefits.
  • Include values in performance reviews, and seek employees’ feedbacks as to their own and the company’s adherence to values.
  • Get meta about it by creating soft skill KPIs for values themselves.

Having firm principles, in both senses of the phrase, is challenging and requires endless vigilance. But ensuring values are part of every step forward increases the value of a company’s assets and its value to the human assets contributing to that success. That’s why RewardCo puts values at the start and heart of its engagement frameworks for companies. Teams must direct their power the right way, and do so together. Core values are one area where a company simply cannot fake it until it makes it.

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