Rethinking your Organisational Values? Don’t make it just a paper exercise!

When I step out the door in the morning, I don’t always recognise or like what I see around me.

What’s happened to the bold and brave, value driven Britain I grew up in? There are a few glimmers of it, but some would say that when life becomes too soft, people stop trying. Why even bother getting out of bed if Dominos will bring pizza to your bedroom, the remote control down your duvet will gift you thousands of hours of mind numbing Sky viewing and Amazon, with just one click, will bring you a beer! I’m curious as to whether Uber or Deliveroo will venture into ‘bed pan emptying’ at any point?

Is that what’s happened? Has our society got so lazy its lost its teeth and claws? Lost what it needs to be able to fight for what is right and what is better?

As I consider reviewing Jaluch’s values which, for many years, have been Caring, Committed and Courageous, I have taken time to read and think about my own values and behaviours in recent times.

I’ve also been looking more closely at people around me and what other organisations say are their values…

…Many people say they are appalled at how Amazon are reported to treat their staff and how little tax they pay, but we all continue to buy from them. Does Amazon coerce us into ignoring our values in pursuit of ease and cost efficiencies? If so, perhaps our values are too lightly held? Or perhaps we are too easily duped into believing messages about low cost products or services that promise us quality solutions?

Ultimately, someone somewhere always pays the price for ‘low cost’ – typically the supplier/manufacturer who has been paid a pittance or, as a consumer, the quality is less than we expected. And don’t bang on about the gap getting bigger in society between the rich and the poor if your buying habits are helping to create that – why not put your phone down, drag yourself out of bed and hit the high street again instead? The sole traders that make up traditional high streets need footfall and for that to happen you have to get out of bed! And yes, corporate procurement teams – I‘m including you too! Stop being so lazy and buying at the cheapest possible price. Why not go find yourselves some ethical suppliers if your organisational values talk about things like ethics, integrity and sustainability.  Stand up and be counted!

Amazon aside, many individuals (including, no doubt, many that you employ) say they are hugely concerned about the environment, but then they don’t put that much effort into recycling, shopping ethically or changing their behaviours to reduce the impact. Was it just populism that prompted people to gush about Blue Planet? A desire to move with the ‘in crowd’? I haven’t seen the programme, so I don’t know. But I do know that the litter and waste that fills fields after every music festival is surely an indicator that Blue Planet, whilst creating great discussion points in our society has changed few behaviours. Some organisations are taking it seriously, but are individuals themselves taking responsibility, or just waiting for others to ‘go first’?

But moving on again, leaving the Environment behind, let’s look at the workplace ‘environment’. Many say that diversity is critical but then fail to stand up and be counted when it comes to their own behaviours. #MeToo has driven awareness of the abuse that so many women encounter in the workplace, the like of which I have never before seen. So why then did a group of 40 educated professional men in their 20’s. 30‘s and 40’s recently keep their heads down when one of them sent an email to just the men in the department saying ‘it’s time for a lad’s night out’ so we can discuss whether that new blonde’s baps are real or fake?’ Cowardice, laziness or diversity values far too loosely held? (And yes, Mr Big Corporate in Canary Wharf you know exactly who you are as Mr ‘I’m lusting after the new blonde’, copied his male mates in HR in to the email too).

Perhaps we should do a poll to ascertain how many HR Departments truly uphold their own organisation’s values? If you want to effect change, perhaps the laissez faire approach in some HR teams is a good place to start?

I was recently called ‘principled’. I’ve never really thought of myself that way. But I’ve always known what my values are, so perhaps I am principled. A lot of time and effort goes into giving back at Jaluch. We don’t believe that profit is the be all and end all within the business. Instead, we value sustainable business, client relationships, client and staff wellbeing, ethics and integrity and giving back to society. Profit is just the icing on the cake after we have achieved the rest of it. But, as a result of our approach, we don’t and cannot afford to pay top whack salaries. Curiously though, over the years many have applied to us for a job as a result of our values but, when it comes to talking money, insist that their salary must match where they have come from. Why don’t they get that there is always a price to pay for values? Sometimes its monetary, other times it might be personal security or friendships. No doubt a few over the years have even lost their jobs over the personal values they refuse to budge on.

But my big question today is how many people understand and accept that as they live out their lives? How many people want to really live the values their organisations have worked so hard to come up with and communicate? And are they prepared to pay the price for ‘integrity’, or ‘commitment’ etc.?

As I said before absolutely nothing in life that is worth making a stand for, comes without some sort price. Of course, in the long term, rewards can come too, but in the early days, there is always a price to pay.

It has cost us too in my business. At Jaluch, against much advice over the years, we don’t tie clients into 3 or 5 year contracts. That simple business decision not to tie clients up in legal knots hugely affects the value of the business should we ever wish to sell. But we strongly believe that if clients like what we do, then they will continue to work with us, no lengthy contract required.

At Jaluch we often ‘lose’ money by seeking to solve our client’s problems at the earliest possible stage. We advise a simple apology or early settlement if mistakes have been made. Who wants to spend thousands on legal fees when you already know you have made an error? A lawyer friend recently told me that her whole training as a young lawyer was about always seeking to escalate conflict in order to increase fee earning. That makes me want to scream when I see the impact of conflict on people’s (managers and staff alike) well-being, quality time spent with their families, enjoyment of holidays, satisfaction at work etc. I would even go so far as to say deliberately escalating conflict is, in my view, one of the most supreme acts of greed and selfishness.

So… how many in society stand up to be counted?… how many in your workplace stand up to be counted?…and what values do you yourself want to live by and be held to account on?

Are you ready to be a serious player in the world of values or just someone who hides behind empty values that mean absolutely nothing? Be brave, be bold, stand up to be counted!

Looking forward to hearing your comments! Please do leave them below and if you are brave enough to be looking for a plain speaking, conflict resolving HR business to support you, please do get in touch. We seldom bite!

This is a personal blog written by Helen Jamieson. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Jaluch Ltd. The views and opinions posted in response to this blog are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily represent those of Helen Jamieson or Jaluch Ltd. Jaluch Ltd is not responsible for the accuracy of the information within this blog.

2 replies added

  1. Meredith O'Shaughnessy 26 September, 2018 Reply

    Brilliant article. It’s actions, not words that matter. It’s just such a pity the tides of change are so slow.

    • Helen 27 September, 2018 Reply

      Meredith thank you! But if we all pull in the same direction perhaps we can speed up those tides of change a bit?

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