Workplace Culture: 5 Steps to Becoming a Purpose-Driven Company

Workplace Culture: 5 Steps to Becoming a Purpose-Driven Company

Last updated on August 23, 2021 at 08:20 pm

With each passing year, workplace culture and company values are becoming more important. And we’re not just talking words on the wall like “Integrity” and “People Matter.” We mean how companies act and treat people, and if they put their money where their mouth is. We’re talking about really living your values. And in the latest Edelman Trust Barometer, values have really come to the forefront with 86% of employees expecting their CEOs to publicly speak out about social issues and 68% even thinking that CEOs should personally step in to fix social problems. 

Similar themes have emerged from recent Gallup research: “just a 10% improvement in employees’ connection with the mission or purpose of their organization leads to an 8.1% decrease in turnover and a 4.4% increase in profitability.” The bottom line? Employees want to work for companies that stand for something important. Something that gives back to society. And something that they can be a part of.

That makes communicating about and reinforcing company values, your mission, and your purpose of paramount importance. You can’t let your values live on posters on your office walls and bulletin boards. You have to live them. But integrating values into your strategy can be overwhelming when there is SO MUCH that you have to communicate. But these five steps can help you get started.

Step 1: Think of Sharing the Values as a Change Management Campaign

Even if your values aren’t new to your company, your people will need a refresher. And aligning your value communications campaigns to change management best practices is a great recipe for success. Because asking your people to live your values is a behavior change. 

Our favorite change management model is the Prosci ADKAR Method. ADKAR stands for awareness, desire, knowledge, ability, and reinforcement. Awareness is that first step—what are the values and why are they important to the company?

Next is desire, and this is where you anticipate any resistance. So, this is where you tap into your focus groups for input and work with your managers so they really understand the values and how to reinforce them. The biggest resistance you’re likely to face when communicating your values is the notion that they don’t matter to leaders in the organization. An employee isn’t likely to believe the values are really valued if they don’t see leaders walking the talk. 

The knowledge phase is exactly what you’d expect. This is where you dive deeper into your values. It’s examples. It’s your COO or CEO getting behind the camera to talk about them. And this is tied into ability. Share team exercises that can be integrated into shift meetings where your employees learn how to live the values in their jobs. And it’s where managers can start to coach employees on them.

The last phase is probably most important because it’s where most teams lose steam. And that’s reinforcement. When you first came up with your organization’s values, you probably rocked the first four phases. And then months or years later, they disappeared from your weekly communications. Make sure you have a plan in place for regular updates. Is it part of every town hall? A quarterly video. Do you tie your recognition program to it? Think about what makes sense for your organization that you can keep up with and stick with it.

Step 2: Reflect Company Values in Every Message

Our client KR Wolfe is a masterclass in value alignment in everything they do. There is no question at this company that the values are more than words on the wall, but why they do what they do. And it’s because they talk about their values weekly. They recognize employees who live them well. And they even hire and fire based on them. There is no room for doubt at KR Wolfe that the values actually matter to how they conduct business and why they exist as an organization. And as a result, they have a great workplace culture and engaged workforce all working towards one common goal.

Step 3: Reward Based On It

Employee recognition is important, period. But the more you’re able to root that recognition in your values/mission/purpose, the better. 

This step is a natural continuation of step two and a great way to embed values in your culture beyond just talking about it. Culture is defined by IC master Jill Christensen as “how we do things here.” And this is set by your frontline managers. When you instruct your managers to not just “recognize team members regularly” but to “recognize a team member for living one of our core values every week” you start to be onto something.

Not only does this show that you really value the values, but it’s great motivation for behavior change. Regular, positive reinforcement of the values helps employees know exactly what it is that they need to do to succeed and gives them something concrete to work towards. 

Step 4: All Eyes on the CEO

The Edelman data is clear: all eyes are on the CEO (and senior leadership in general) to lead by example and be the ones leading the charge on change at your company. So, it’s really time for the C-Suite to step up, get behind the camera, and be more visible to your teams. That’s step one, your employees need to actually know who the CEO is, what they stand for, and see that they care about opening the lines of communication. Step two is to get more vulnerable and take a stand. If one of your values is People Matter, prove it to your employees first. If you do that, your employees will take care of your customers. Plain and simple.

Some great best practices for making CEO communications about the values a habit include: 

  • Regular, informal coffee chats where any employee can join to ask questions of the executive team.
  • Improving deskless worker access to things like Town Halls and Earnings Calls where they can hear their leaders talking about the values core to the business.
  • Posting selfie-style videos on comms channels where you recognize employees for living the values and share stories of the values in action.

Step 5: How You Treat Employees Directly Impacts Customer Experience

The final step is an important one. At the end of the day, it’s your frontline teams who are the face of your company. How they feel about your organization directly impacts how others will perceive your company. 

Care for your people and build a great workplace culture—not because it improves the bottom line, which it does—but because it’s the right thing to do for your employees. If you do that, you’re well on your way to being a more value-aligned, effective, and purpose-driven company.

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