Why HR should abandon lofty company values

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Company values let employees know exactly what’s expected of them and what the organisation is striving towards – so why are so many of them ambiguous and abstract?

Darren Linton, CEO of digital agency Yellow, says companies would be far better off if they adopted straight-forward principles which are easy to identify in day-to-day life.

“We used to have six, quite generic corporate values and they sounded great in themselves but they didn’t feel simple for us, it wasn’t connected to our organisation,” says Linton.

Now, the company had just three values – do the right thing, make a difference and build great relationships.

“As soon as you hear them, they’re really straight forward and it’s easy to talk about them and bring them alive with example,” says Linton.

By abandoning lofty corporate values, Yellow has found it far easier to reward employees who embody the culture of the organisation, rather than just recognising those who meet hard targets.

“I have a bi-weekly company update and if there’s somebody who has done something great within those values then they get acknowledged or rewarded,” he says.

On the flip side, it’s also made it easier for both leaders and employees to call out behaviour which doesn’t fit with the three values.

“When someone is living by those values, it’s a really lovely and easy conversation to have but also when you see something you don’t feel is right, it’s easy to have that conversation,” he tells HRD.

“We can now say; ‘Okay, you may have gotten the outcome you wanted but you’ve damaged a relationship along the way.’ That’s a big part of the culture that we’re building here now.”
 

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