Reinforcing Clarity through Organizational Values

ARTICLE | Apr 26, 2016

Thoughts from The Advantage – Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business

At a recent meeting of City department heads, we asked them the following question:  How do YOU define and evaluate success of the City’s organizational values?  The answer was not surprising and quite simple really – when each employee demonstrates the values without thinking about it as an extra step, or being told to.  What the department heads were saying is that it should happen without the imposition of burdensome structures that are sometimes built around dictating such behavior -- that they won’t have to remind their employees how to treat customers and provide a great service.  But how do you get there?  I would argue that it does start with some structures in place, at least to create that clarity that translates into behaviors the organization desires to see demonstrated.  But over time, those structures are less and less the carrot and/or stick, and the values instead drive those behaviors all on their own.  At the City of Charlottesville we are working hard to create that clarity, through structures now of course, but the goal being in the future that it’s an organic and non-bureaucratic system driving the values and the behavior we desire each employee to exhibit every day. 

In 2014, City Council adopted a new Strategic Plan with a revised set of organizational values:  Creativity, Leadership, Trust, Respect and Excellence.   We actually developed these values with the help of employees, holding several meetings that drew over a third of the workforce over a period of several months.  Here is where the discussion started about how employees can demonstrate the values, which then reinforce clarity of what’s really important to the organization.  From that we developed value stories featured on large posters displayed around various work areas, and an employee newsletter that focuses on the values, among other things of interest to employees.  These visuals serve to continually remind employees all the time, everyday how important the values are to the organization!  In other words, clarity! 

We have worked since this time to incorporate the values into those systems that touch employees, some being already in place, and others still under development. 

Hiring for Fit with Values in Mind - I was given the opportunity to hire an additional Budget and Management Analyst, a much needed position in a small but busy office.   One candidate stood out - she had never been a budget analyst, never worked in a budget office at all for that matter.  Here’s what she does/did have that blew us away – passion for learning, creativity, innovation, drive and an amazing work ethic.  I knew some of this because she already worked for the City in another department.   I could have hired a budget analyst, with years of experience in a budget office - instead I went for something that spoke more to our values and “fit” within the office – and it’s been a great success for her and for us. 

Employee Orientation with Values in Mind – A few years ago we added an aspect of employee orientation that focuses on the values.  New employees find it interesting to hear about how employees can and do demonstrate the values in real time.  I also leave the group with a few goodies that have our values and strategic plan logo on them – which is a big hit!  New employees hearing these stories of how the values can really work in the day to day aspects of their jobs offers a great introduction into the organization and what’s really important and gives them that clarity from day one.

Here are some areas that, to be honest, are a work in progress still. 

Setting Employee Goals and Reviewing Progress with Values in Mind – For many years the City has not had a system wide process of reviewing employees’ performance.  Some departments have on their own developed review systems with mixed success.  For the past year, a group of employees has been working on a new performance evaluation system.  Elements will include setting goals and expectations that are measurable and a section that features each of the five organizational values and how that employee contributed to each of them.  As part of the goal setting, employees would review goals and their progress from the last review period and then establish new goals or revised goals going forward.  These goals would follow SMAART guildines, Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Agreed-Upon, Realistic and Time-oriented.  For the values, employees would demonstrate their success, or not in some cases, as to how their work has contributed to each of the values.  Areas of improvement will be identified where necessary and a plan made going forward.  This is a work in progress and in a future article, it would be fun to talk about how this is going and the challenges and successes of its implementation. 

Rewarding Excellence with Values in Mind – Finally, at our last strategic focused meeting with department heads, we talked about rewards and recognitions.  The City has not had a formal program for some time and with the new values in place, the timing seemed perfect to develop a new program.  So at that meeting, we put together a small team of department heads to convene and offer a recommended program at our next strategic meeting, which will take place in May.  Again, since this is still in development, I would be happy to do a follow up in the next year as what we came up with and how it’s going so far. 

The City is doing some exciting things currently and in the future around creating that clarity that employees need to  be successful and fully engaged  – and we do this through our five organizational values – Creativity, Leadership, Trust, Respect and Excellence.

Last chance to Join the Alliance's Ambassador Book club - REGISTER TODAY

This article is part of an ongoing series where we are encouraging the Ambassadors to read with us.  On May 3, we will have a live virtual forum to hear how these concepts are resonating throughout the Alliance membership. 


You may also be interested in