The Value of Values


Independent, innovative, inspiring change and integrity are the Flock brand values and we are proud of them. We put them squarely in our Creds, we use them as a sharp-edged tool to make decisions about the work we do and importantly they influence the type of people that want to work for us. In fact, they are so important to the DNA of the company that we have them baked into to our performance appraisals, but why are company values ‘in’ right now?

It doesn’t take long to see the cause and effect of the internet on major brands in terms of their global exposure to their accountability and what people think about them. Historic misdemeanours, unethical practices, slightly rubbish TV ad and poor working conditions are just some of the issues that were lost or brushed under the carpet of big organisations. The internet and the vocal connectivity of both consumers and employees have thrown a very visible lens on how brands operate. No longer can you say you care about the planet and then sell your product in single use plastic. No more talk of integrity but then fire your staff without pay.

Values guide the perspective of the organisation as well as its actions. Writing down a set of commonly held values can help an organisation define its culture and beliefs. When members of the organisation subscribe to a common set of values, the organisation appears united when it deals with various issues. Values can also become a sharp-edged tool, not only for new initiative ideas, but also how to kill ones that aren’t working. Google are masters at killing ideas that don’t work. One of their values is ‘sustainable long-term growth and profitability are key to our success’.

Many brands are quite public about how they ‘live’ their brands. Netflix has ‘judgement’ as one of theirs values which has informed a vacation policy of “take vacation” – no formal allowance. Take what you need when you need it. This has resulted in a more accountable mentality that is certainly paying dividends in their growth. Amazon’s ‘customer obsession’ value lives in staff working on the phones, taking orders and answering queries from customers.

If you have strong internal values, you should be able to quickly form a value proposition; this is the promise of the value that you’ll deliver. It’s the primary reason a prospect should buy from you. Explains how your product solves customers’ problems or improves their situation (relevancy), it tells the ideal customer why they should buy from you and not from the competition (unique differentiation).

The impact of not having clearly defined values and not being lived by all can lead to,

  • Competing departments running to a different agenda directionless journey for the business, often based on ‘gut’ feel
  • Losing out on new talent and consumers who value strong values
  • Inconsistent delivery of tone of voice, particularly if you are a global brand
  • No sharp-edged tool to leverage for decision making
  • Reputation built on short term goals
  • A culture based on department/individuals’ behaviour rather than those of the company

Flock have helped brands such as FT, CNBC, Elsevier, Asda with their propositions and values, so here are some steps on what you should do right now.

  1. Do they exist?
    They need to be written down, even if it’s on some poster behind reception. Hunt them down, ask the CEO? The following steps are largely dependent on the answer to 1.
  2. Uncover the values.
    If they are there but buried you need to speak to employees to see if they know them, understand them and live them. If they aren’t then the exercise is to start to create some.
  3. Use the wisdom of crowds
    The more people you speak to via workshops, interviews, surveys etc the more likely a core set of values will emerge. When they do, focus on no more than 6 (less if you can), but be clear on the definitions. Not everyone has the same interpretation of the word integrity.
  4. Don’t communicate them – activate them
    Sounds strange but designing a pretty poster for the canteen and announcing them via email will quickly fail. Ensure you have a programme of events/sessions/tools that are in place to onboard them.
  5. Embed them
    Nothing drives adoption more that embedding them in policies, recruitment guides and professional development. In researching this blog the BBC Values are listed in all of their job applications.
  6. Measure them
    Try and identify what impact they make. Maybe your workforce becomes more diverse, maybe the social events are more inclusive, maybe you stopped an initiative. Whatever it is, make sure you see the impact the values are having.

If you have further questions about values and how to embed them within your organisation then do get in touch. It might be that they just need a re-boot and dusting off the shelf.