When over 3000 Google employees petitioned the company to ditch a contract with the Pentagon, the power structure of our organizations changed forever. In a tight labor market employees have choice about who and what causes they will work for. Organizations are under immense social pressure:
Google: We will not work to produce militarized technology.
Amazon: We will not enable law enforcement to violate personal privacy.
Microsoft & Salesforce.com: We will not support or help staff a government unit that separates family members.
Is this what it means for employees to be fully engaged?? The truth is: Employee allegiance to broader community and world issues is stronger than their commitment to your strategy.
What drives these actions? Values. And not necessarily the ones on your website.
Most of us were taught basic values to ‘do no harm’ and ‘help my neighbour’. When those are violated we want to do something about it. And with social media it is easy to find a shared voice.
What can you do?
For years I’ve been working with clients to connect strategy with purpose that is meaningful to employees. That means relating strategy to outcomes that benefit people. Employees want to know how their work helps people, families, community, their country, and the world. Here’s how to align your strategy with employee values.
Changing Your Mind
Consideration of values must become part of your decision-making process. Keeping values in mind helps leaders connect strategy and decisions to purpose that people want to support.
1. Understand your values.
Corporate values are often hidden and don’t necessarily reflect the official version on the wall. Over time they become ingrained and unconscious, but are revealed in how we act.
- What do executives pay attention to?
- How are rewards and kudos handed out?
- How does the organization respond to crises?
- What are the stories that get repeated by employees?
2. Understand what is important to your employees.
Go on and ask them. If there is any possibility they will not share openly, get a third party to ask.
3. Tell a story.
One client illustrated how an improved order system that was being implemented would help customers get critical medication faster. Disney shows those in the laundry room how customers react to clean sheets and soft towels. Banal activities can enrich many lives.
Values take time to embed. Connections need to be reinforced. Keep telling the story.
When organizations draw parallels between work and a better world, people are motivated. When they see purpose, they work harder and longer. Motivation matters.