When an organization wants to evolve its purpose, or tweak some of its adopted values, how can it be sure that all employees are engaged in the new effort?
IEDP recently wrote about the topic, including how some organizations are turning to sustainability as a higher purpose for their employees: “We would all like our working lives to have a higher purpose that goes beyond turning up to work and earning an income, and this is where sustainability comes in,” write the authors.
Here are 3 action steps to follow to make sure you can get all employees, from the C Level to the assembly line, on board with any change in your company purpose or values.
Make sure personal and organizational values are aligned.
Management scholar Paul Strebel notes that organizations and employees have what can be called reciprocal obligations, or “personal compacts.” Moving towards a more sustainable business model—or evolving your company purpose or any of your values—therefore requires changes to those existing compacts.
Otherwise, it can be unrealistic for employees to buy-in and adopt those changes, according to Strebel (1).
These personal compacts have three dimensions, he says: formal (such as performance agreements and job descriptions), psychological (such as rewards and expectations), and social (such as perception and values). All three dimensions are what guide and help dictate the norms in the relationship between employer and employee (1).
As a result, it’s critical to address all three areas to reconcile a gap that can exist between personal and organizational values during this kind of change. To help gauge how aligned personal and organizational values are, leaders can examine and seek feedback on the following:
Formal factors: Is the new value being integrated into job descriptions? Is the evolved purpose (or value) being supported via relevant training or learning opportunities?
Psychological factors: Are employees feeling rewarded or recognized for behaviors that support this value or evolved purpose? Are there expectations set that align with or further support the value(s)?
Social factors: Is there consistency between what’s being said and what’s really being practiced? Are there ample opportunities for this value to be lived out?
“For this to be a value that’s adopted, then, it’s something that you want your employees and managers and leaders to believe. You also want to see the actions of the organization helping to realize this belief,” adds Talmetrix CEO Chris Powell, when speaking about social factors, the third dimension.
“You can have all these values, but what actions demonstrate that you’re living those values?” says Powell. [clickToTweet tweet=”If values are talked about, but not actually lived out, there will be a disconnect for employees.” quote=”If values are talked about, but not actually lived out on a day to day basis, there will be a disconnect for employees.”]
Inform your hiring practices through employee engagement data.
Powell echoes how the first step is to make the newly adopted value a priority for the business. Over time, it’s also about finding people who have that value as an intrinsic driver, however.
“If you’re trying to convince people to be more sustainable, for example, you need to get people aligned around this as a priority for your business. Then, it’s about, how does the company recruit and hire more people that have that as a driver or a value or a belief? The clearer that the organization is around what’s important—what they believe as an organization, and what they act on—it’s going to naturally attract more people that [the purpose or values] resonate with,” says Powell.
Emphasize the long-term when evolving your purpose.
[clickToTweet tweet=”Driving sustainability will only be successful if it’s cultivated across all levels.” quote=”Driving the adoption of sustainability may start at the top, but it will only be successfully embedded in the organization if it’s cultivated across all levels.”]
When talent feels strain on their values versus their work responsibilities, one way to help resolve this is to reset perspective. Leaders can do this by showing how purpose ties back to employee (and company) success.
According to COE Paul Polman, Unilever was tasked with doing this when the company evolved its long-held purpose of “making cleanliness commonplace” to its new purpose, “making sustainable living commonplace.” In doing so, they wanted to be sure to communicate and fully support the long-term vision that aligned with this purpose. They also needed to show talent the case for sustainability, in particular, what this meant for the success of the employees and the organization itself.
Unilever introduced a program, in 2010, called the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan, a plan that acted as a blueprint for employees to be able to follow. It succeeding in communicating how the company’s success was also tied to the success of the planet and society—which helped start to touch on social factors that would matter to many employees. In turn, the blueprint detailed each of its goals as it related to this vision (1, 2).
What followed were steps by leaders to ensure that the new focus on sustainability was reflected in formal, psychological, and social dimensions for employees. The result: over time, Unilever has succeeded integrated sustainability into every employee’s job (1, 2).
Continually educate your team when evolving your purpose.
Another important step, writes IEDP, is to create competence around the new value that’s been adopted. “It is important to invest in educating employees about sustainability as well as to create systems and processes that make it easier for them to integrate sustainability into their business decisions,” reads the article (2).
In areas where specialized expertise or ongoing skills are required, this is fundamental. But one of the biggest mistakes an organization can make is to stop there. “Also provide opportunity to apply or demonstrate the knowledge that has been acquired,” says Powell.
For further details on learning, read “Why Learning is an Essential Tool for Attracting, Engaging & Retaining Talent” >>>>>
“Companies have to not only provide opportunities for people to learn, but they also have to provide opportunities for people to ‘do’ and connect, if they want that particular value or activity or strategy to manifest itself in the organization. It’s both a connection around feeling, a connection around learning, and a connection around doing,” adds Powell.
The idea is to be sure you provide opportunity for the values to not just be in a blueprint—but to come to life. “For any company value, make sure that the employees can connect with heart, mind, and body.”
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