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Are Values the hidden factor to employee engagement?
Values are the foundation of how you live your life, how you do your work, and how you interact with those around you. During our recent Leadership Challenge® Workshop, our team member Dan once said they’re the lenses through which you view everything around you. As such, they serve as the frame of reference for everything you see and do.
Do Values Change Over Time?
For many of us, our values may go unexamined until tragedy strikes or life throws us a curveball. Significant life events tend to help (or force) us to re-evaluate what we consider important.
As time goes by, we do experience major and minor life experiences that shape our worldview, and therefore our values. Starting a new job, becoming a parent, or embracing a new hobby are all great examples of events that could shape your worldview and values.
For example, when I joined the workforce, I valued dependability/stability because it was the first time I could create that for myself after four tumultuous years of college where I moved frequently, changed majors, took new courses every semester, and more. But now that I’ve been able to settle in to the workforce, I value challenge and the opportunity to learn new things.
The influence that values have on our actions and relationships cannot be underestimated, especially when we consider millennial and Gen Z employees.
Millennials and Gen Zs are more interested in supporting and working for companies that they feel align with their values (Deloitte Millennial Survey, 2019). Up to 67 percent of employees report they would “refuse to work for an organization that did not share their values” (Edelman Trust Barometer, 2019). The increasing importance of value alignment for younger generations means it’s critical to examine and understand how values intersect with work.
The Intersection of Personal and Organizational Values
Most organizations have a set of values posted on their wall or on their intranet. For example, our FlashPoint values are:
- We are dynamic. We carry out our work with passion. We act as catalysts for progress. We deliver with agility.
- We work as a team (for real). We give more than we get. We share with courage and consideration. We commit to the success of others.
- We hone our craft. We strive to become better leaders. We perfect processes that liberate. We love to learn.
Not only do they set clear goals and standards for our team, they also serve as a unifying force.
When we say “We work as a team (for real)”, it’s a way for people on our team to know that we value supporting each other. It shows up when a colleague stays late to help on a project even when it wouldn’t technically fall in that person’s job description or when we celebrate an individual’s accomplishment as a team because we all succeed together.
Outside the organization, people who see our value “We work as a team (for real)” understand that we place importance on collective success. Values can also cause challenge, for example, if someone prioritizes individuality or independence. We believe that values are a way for us to speak about who we are, unite as a team, and draw likeminded people to our organization.
When personal values and organizational values do align, though, it provides the opportunity for great engagement as authors Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner discuss in The Leadership Challenge (p. 60).
Employees who are clear on personal values and organizational values are much more highly engaged than employees who are unclear about personal or organizational values. The research actually shows that individuals who are clear on their personal values are the most engaged – even if they are not as clear on the organization's values.
Being as clear as possible on what is meaningful to us makes a significant difference in the workplace. It’s also the mark of a great leader to build consensus around a common set of values and enlist others in living the organization’s values.
I encourage you to consider your personal values and how they align with your organization’s values. It’s the road to higher engagement in your job–and hopefully higher satisfaction too.