Be true to yourself: it’s good for business

8 July 2015, Blog

The recent case of Thomas Cook highlights the damage that can be done when there is a total disconnect between the behaviours of an organisation and its core values.

One of the leisure travel firm’s value statements is ‘act with integrity’ and claims:

“We maintain the highest ethical standards and transparency in our work, and in our dealings with customers, partners, stakeholders and fellow employees. We keep our commitments, and are honest, fair and trustworthy.”

We all now know this wasn’t the case with the company’s handling of the tragedy which involved the deaths of two British children in Corfu nine years ago. It emerged that Thomas Cook, who were found to have breached its duty of care, collected £3m compensation from the Greek hotel operator for damage to its reputation, lost revenue and court fees. The parents of the children received £350,000.

An apology from the CEO and an admittance that the company should not have held onto the compensation money came too late for many people and felt forced.

The result – a severely damaged reputation for the 174 year old business.

Some businesses dismiss values as ‘marketing fluff’. But being true to yourself and living up to what you stand for is good for business in many ways. It can help with retaining customers, recruiting the best talent or attracting investors.

A report by the Great Place to Work Institute UK in 2014 revealed that 97% of the top 100 best workplaces in the country put their values at the heart of everything they do. The other 3%, whilst they didn’t have value statements, had guiding principles which drove their organisations. More significantly it looked at how the 50 best workplaces compared with those who didn’t make the top 100 list. This showed a significant gap between such organisations when it came to ‘management actions match its words; and ‘management delivers on its promises.’

So how does a company behave according to its values for the benefit of its business? Here are four ways to ensure you get the most value out of your values.

#1. At the outset create a framework for developing values and underpinning behaviours: this needs to demonstrate why the business is going through such a process, for example to support a brand vision. At JBP we have recently launched our ‘business class’ culture initiative and we ran a values and behaviours session to support this desired positioning of the business.

#2. Develop an identity for your brand values programme: be creative and develop a clear, simple and unifying identity to communicate your values-based initiative so that it becomes memorable. The CAN DO values of consumer goods manufacturer PZ Cussons is a good example of this approach. They include the values of courage, accountability, networking, drive and oneness.

#3. Don’t invent values in the boardroom: make sure employees are engaged in the process. As part of our ‘business class’ culture programme, we asked our employees by asking them to rank a number of household brands in terms of how positively they were perceived and what was behind such a perception. This helped them think about values that underpin great service. We then asked them to apply this to our own business and how we could improve upon the way we operate as a business: from how we advise clients to the working practices within our organisation.

#4. Senior management must be seen as role models: it’s key that the senior executive team gets full behind any values-based initiative and behave as they want others to, otherwise it won’t succeed. If employees detect lack of commitment, they will see the values as having little meaning.

Done properly, living up to your values as a company is an important part of building trust with your stakeholders. Not living up to them can be extremely damaging.

By Chris Lawrance, Managing Director at JBP



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