Those who know us well, or who have worked with us directly, will know that we are “pretty big” on the importance of articulating clear values in a business or organisation. So a conversation I had recently with a relatively new client in which she referenced the values of her business was pretty heartening (and I have to say rather rare!).

The client initially reached out to us as she was having some challenges with balancing the multiple demands upon the business during COVID-19, particularly declining revenues, high client expectations and staff not quite achieving the levels of performance required or in accordance with their current levels of remuneration.

Her specific dilemma was that a couple of young staff had been engaged on rates of pay that reflected what have turned out to be somewhat optimistic projections as to the pace of their personal and professional development, and hence contribution to the bottom-line of the business. In short, senior staff were needing to provide them with considerably more support than was anticipated, with the ultimate result that the financial performance of the business was being negatively impacted to the point that present arrangements were becoming unsustainable.

As we chatted things through, she reflected that part of her dilemma in terms of deciding how to resolve the issue was a tussle between the values of the business and the need to make difficult decisions for the long-term benefit of the business.

One of the values of the business is along the lines of “Developing Ourselves and One Another” – building and maintaining an environment in which staff at all levels are willing, expected and encouraged to continually develop themselves personally and professionally, and in which there’s an equivalent expectation that team members will support and contribute to the development of one another. Of course, the other side of the dilemma was the need to preserve the business from a financial perspective.

The options were several – persist with current arrangements and continue to pour resources into developing the young staff not quite performing at the level expected or required; manage the situation as an issue of poor performance that might ultimately lead to termination; downsize the business via staff redundancies, or; reduce pay rates for staff not quite performing at the level required (they were paid well above award rates).

In the end, the decision was made to be transparent about the situation with the staff involved. Advise them of the dilemma and the impact on the bottom-line, commit to continue to develop them but clarify the expectations of performance and seek their agreement to a modest reduction in wages during the further development period.

We’ll see how that turns out, but the most interesting thing for me reflecting on the conversation is that it presented a very practical, and as I say heartening, example of using well-articulated and well-communicated values to guide decision-making in the business.

I’d personally love to see more of it.

How about your business or organisation? Are there clear values that establish clear expectations? Are staff aware of and aligned to those values? Are the values integrated into key business processes (recruitment and onboarding, performance management, recognition strategies and decision-making processes for example)?

Establishing clear values for the business is a key component of Clear Vision, Values & Strategy in our Success Through People© Model