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Are vision and values holding back your corporate culture?

Are vision and values holding back your corporate culture?

Vision isn’t 2020. In fact, in a world where change and uncertainty are now a constant, can anything be as incongruous as a vision?

During the 2000s, all leaders were implored to dream up engaging and powerful visions. At my previous company, I remember being given a piece of flipchart paper and challenged to draw a visual representation of a world changing vision:

To be the best………..

To be the world leader in…………

Very quickly people realized that a vision without building blocks to maintain the journey wouldn’t work, and so we then entered the world of values. Before you knew it, the whole organization was being asked to carefully craft a series of words or statements that represented the values of the business. These values soon took on an integral part of an organization’s messaging, becoming posted on company websites, emblazoned on mugs, plastered on posters around the office; everyone was asked to live the articulated values as they increasingly became an essential part of any employer value proposition (EVP) or pitch document.

While I travelled that journey myself, I never really bought into it and was always asking where “culture” fitted into the equation.

Culture holds the key to employee engagement

The relevance of this question is becoming more and more obvious as the New World of Work continues to evolve, with different generations requiring different things from their careers and their employers. Hudson’s own research indicates that employees are looking more at portfolio careers that consist of a series of rewarding experiences, potentially in a number of different organizations, with less career planning and more frequent two-way feedback. Is this really the setting for traditional “vision and values”?

We suggest not. Every leader is trying to create the right culture for their organization in order to increase productivity, engagement and tenure. After all, consistency produces better results and incremental innovation. So what now?

Finding a sense of purpose in a sea of change

We believe vision has been replaced by purpose. Purpose can be seen on a number of different fronts: social, corporate, environmental, humanitarian, commercial, etc. - but for the sake of simplicity let’s focus on corporate purpose.

Purpose defines why an organization exists, why we do what we do, and how we feel about it in the process. Is there anything more compelling than a great company purpose? Is there a way to define that purpose within our organizations?

Values have had their day, and purpose should be underpinned by behavioral norms and standards. As Rob Cooke, CEO of Human Synergistics says: “We all view the subject of culture from our perspective, and the word has nearly lost its meaning…focus on behavioral norms because they are more visible aspects [of culture]”.

It is about what we do and how we do it, wrapped up in why we do it. Maybe the new world employee will be able to better engage with a purpose and standard based culture, and will become more aligned to the journey. Maybe culture in itself is about purpose aligned with standards?

And a final thought - what if you could assess individual preferences and attitudes, and how they align with culture?

Read our blog: How to Thrive in the New World of Work 

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