“Culture” has been a workplace buzz word over the past 15 years or so, conjuring up images of fun and dynamic workplaces with foosball tables and happy hours. Going deeper, it also summarizes the way people work together at an organization. A lot of good can come out of having a strong culture, but lately, the term “cultural fit” has fallen from grace because it has been used (in some cases) to keep hiring and promoting people who look the same, think the same, went to the same schools or universities, etc.
So...Is Cultural Fit Dead?
Creating a great work culture is of course still front of mind for any leader. But is that culture inclusive? Is it accepting of different backgrounds and viewpoints? In an effort to build a more diverse and inclusive culture, leaders are starting to use the phrase “values fit” or “values focus” instead. What does this mean? And how can leaders encourage a values-focused work environment?
Although sometimes they are thought of as being interchangeable with culture, values are at the heart of behavioral action in the workplace. Integrity, Inclusiveness, and Collaborative are just three common values. When used correctly, an organization’s values can and should drive how people in that organization do their work and interact with others.
What Can Leaders Do to Encourage a Values Focus?
Assess your mission and values – Most organizations already have a mission statement and values. Are these values meaningful? Are they just words on a poster in the break room or do they actually drive your daily interactions with coworkers and customers? Encourage discussion on what the values look, feel, and sound like during a normal workday. And don’t be afraid to rewrite values that no longer fit.
Align your hiring practices with your values and not just with your culture – Start by looking at your Careers page and any marketing material you have about what it’s like to work in your organization. Are you capturing the values? Do the benefits you offer reflect those values? Create a job description and assessment process that embodies your values, and make sure that the way applicants are treated aligns well. If “Empathy” is one of your values, for example, treat each applicant with empathy by communicating clearly (and as quickly as possible) throughout the process.
Run meetings according to your values – Are meetings being run in a way that reflects your organization’s values? If not, what can you do to make changes? Involve others in coming up with ideas.
Communicate purposefully – Thanks to technology, there are now so many ways to communicate in the workplace. What platforms and methods are being used? Are any of these excluding anyone or allowing communication styles that go against your organization’s values? Ask for feedback on how each communication medium is impacting people and act on making improvements based on that feedback if necessary.
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Leaders are certainly in a position to influence how values focused their work environments really are. But even those who don’t manage people or have a “leaderly” title can still lead a values-focused mentality at work. The actual words in values statements aren’t typically written by a large group of people (although it’s always good to get as many people involved in that process as possible!) but everyone in an organization has the responsibility of creating a culture centered around values.