Can you answer that question? It can be a tricky one. First of all you need the definition of an organisation value, as opposed to a personal value, this will be something that encompasses every individual in the company. From the top level, to the client facing employees and in some cases the customer themselves. When someone comes to look at your company they should be able to pick at random and say that is someone that encompasses, or strives, for those values.
So here comes the tricky bit, agreeing on what values you have. This can be difficult because everyone is an individual, and in that egotistical way we are we all generally think we’re right. Several challenges can come with this, some of the common ones are that your values actually end up contradicting themselves. For example if a company wants to achieve excellence in everything they do but at the same time want to take risks this cannot work; by taking risks you will sometimes fail (which is valuable in learning) but that means by definition you can’t achieve perfection or excellence. Another common issue could be that the values are too similar or just generic and don’t relate to your organisation. A great example is teamwork, I think everyone agrees being able to work in a team is a key skill and relatable to any job role in an organisation, but quite frankly it’s obvious. Having values that don’t engage with your organisation and its employee base would be the foundation for issues like alienation; you might as well say your company wants to make profit!
So, how do you find these values? To start with quite simply you just need to go into a room and hash it out with the decision makers. This may be frustrating and time consuming but the effort invested there will return in an engaged employee base, a motivated organisation and a clear impression to potential clients. It’s important to have the whole organisation in mind with these values, try and take emotional and ambiguous terms out of it and very importantly make each short, these aren’t mission statements. But it doesn’t stop there, you need to measure whether these values actually are a representative of your people.
This is the bit where you hear a scream in the background as people scramble for the door, not a 360! But no wait, we’re not like the rest we swear you tell them, just give this one a chance. What they’ll find is you’ve taken that interest to make it bespoke to your organisation, this won’t just be a generic file that is measuring teamwork and then put on the HR Manager’s shelf. When you engage with people and target something relatable they will return interest. This can be the starting point of bringing the organisation closer, optimising the talent it has there and going on to great successes.
It’s generally assumed that 7 seconds is the time it takes to form an impression of someone and, depending on what research you read, it can be as little as a fraction of a second. This is because as humans we’re designed to judge; it’s an evolutionary trait, we need to judge what is a threat and who is a friend and we need to do this fast. The problem with this is it makes us form stereotypes and judgements than can be damaging. Everything that we have experienced in our lives makes us programmed to perceive events in our own special way, making us incredibly unique in the fact that every person has their own story and an individual take on the world but as a sacrifice it makes us subjective in our judgements.
In the world of work the judgements made in a recruitment assessment need to try and be as objective as possible, this doesn’t mean taking the heart out of a decision, it means not letting that heart rule the decision. Handshakes for example have always irked me, I personally like to think I have a good handshake, I like many learnt a good style, practiced it and I understand its purpose of respect in business. But then you get the soft hander or the crusher and I’ll admit it evokes a knee jerk reaction in me about that person, but what has that handshake (with 100% certainty) told me about that person or how well they do their job? I’m sorry if this bursts some bubbles but it’s Nothing. That hand crusher could be just what you need in your organisation but because of a subjective interaction they are hindered in that selection process.
Hence why for an assessment processes of a candidate certain levels of objectivity should be brought in. Psychometrics and scientific methods come into play here, they don’t care if you’ve got long hair, like the 4th Indiana Jones movie or anything for that matter; these tools will simply assess on what’s needed for the job role. Objective assessments gets straight to the stuff that actually matters about a candidate, and why tools such as psychometrics should be part of any assessment process. Nepotism, Unconscious Bias and Assessment Fatigue, all these things are limited when you bring in objective assessments.
I want to make the point that letting subjective factors deciding who goes into your business is a dangerous gamble. Of course, a purely objective assessment would be just as bad because of how inhuman it would make a company seem but what is needed is a compromise to take out the issues from both subjective and objective assessments. It’s sometimes good to take a step back from the process to allow you to see the big picture, you want the best people in your business regardless about how you feel about them.
In 1968 Dick Fosbury took the gold medal at the Summer Olympics in the high jump. Aside from the great achievement of winning the gold Mr Fosbury drew great attention to himself because he did it using a technique that nobody else was using that year or any Olympics prior. A technique he had been perfecting for three years, now known as the ‘Fosbury Flop’; is now used by every high jumping Olympian.
When first hearing about this I was filled with the same kind of excitement that a child gets when they prove their parent wrong for the first time, that feeling that you have the ability to think of a better idea. Throughout my life I, like many, have tried to come up with good ideas for how to live and work but I think people should go further than that strive for that change in paradigm that can transform how something is seen to the rest of the world.
As I started my career I found it difficult to attempt any of this as I’d get shot down with the “this is how business is done” mentality, which I find both disheartening and frankly irritating. I do understand the importance of experience, great things can be achieved from listening to someone who has been through it all; however, I think it is naïve to just accept that without criticism. If someone says this is how we do it here at Organisation X I will always question why, this of course has got me in some trouble in the past but none the less I feel I should get an answer.
Organisations need to be able to facilitate open discussions that allow the question why and justify explanations when faced with scrutiny, else how on earth are they expected to develop? There is a particular saying that goes around that seems to have the lyrical rhythm to it that makes such phrases so appealing: “If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it”. This expression is something that represents the mentality of a population willing to accept the way things are as they are. This placid mentality is something that is damaging to any organisation, not in the explosive, corruptible way, but in the way that if you leave milk out for too long it’ll curdle.
If there is nothing in place in an organisation to encourage critical thought that organisation is wasting the key resource that is has, the innovation of an employee. A passionate employee will always strive to improve the company around them, but even the most enthusiastic of us start shutting up when we realise no one is listening. There’s one thing saying you’re open to discussion and you’re an innovative organisation but what actual policies do you have to allow the next “Fosbury Flop” to happen?
“When you reach that elite level, 90 percent is mental and 10 percent is physical. You are competing against yourself. Not against the other athlete.”
~ Dick Fosbury, Champion Olympic High Jump Athlete
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