Biz Blog: The vital role of a values-based culture

Empower employees to do the right thing

In recent years, companies like Zappos, Google and USAA have done more than spark a conversation about company culture; they are thriving success stories that validate the importance of operating under authentic core values.

According to The Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM), a values-based organization is “a living, breathing culture of shared core values among all employees.”

To me, a values-based culture is more than a set of values listed on a company’s intranet or written on the lobby wall.

Yes, it’s important to share your values where employees can see them. But I firmly believe that for a values-based culture to work, these guiding principles must live within each employee from day one on the job.

As credit union professionals, we seek to operate under the same principles that drive the credit union movement. We let our philosophy of “people helping people” guide us. After all, it is our customers and their families who provide purpose to the work we do every day.

At CUNA Mutual Group, our core values of collaboration, courage, focus, inclusion, innovation, integrity and passion guide us to support credit unions as they help members protect, invest and plan for their future.

Our goal is to create a culture in which employees feel empowered to do the right thing by being immersed in an environment where they see their peers engaged and working enthusiastically toward a mutual goal.

How can you cultivate a strong values-based culture at workplace? Take these three steps:

1. Establish your workplace’s core values

Ask yourself, where did your organization come from? Where is your organization going? What is your organization’s purpose?

What principles have gotten your organization to where it is today? And how will your organization continue to support clients, customers or members into the future?

Look for common themes, and let your organization’s core values fall out of those principles. Because your organization’s core values will become the foundation for how your organization acts, the decisions you make, and the employees you hire, be strategic about the values you select.

2. Integrate core values into your business strategy

Once you’ve identified your core values, you should integrate them into your organization, including:

  • Work environment: Create a space where employees feel inspired and empowered to live the core values.
  • Business processes: Ensure internal procedures align with and support the mission.
  • Community partnerships: Seek businesses that align with the core values.
  • Talent management: Recruit and hire with core values in mind.
  • Strategy: Hold all leaders and employees accountable for core values.

Take a holistic approach to embed the core values into every part of your organization. This will give life to your organization’s mission and ensure everyone is striving toward the same goal.

3. Acknowledge and reward employees

Create a peer recognition program to recognize those who clearly demonstrate excellence in their results and behaviors.

The award will honor and thank employees for embodying the mission and provide a “face” for each of your organization’s core values.

Creating a values-based culture is a commitment to doing business the right way. It will have a positive ripple effect on your organization, employees and all other stakeholders, and it will help your organization to serve its community for generations to come.

To me, it’s simple: Create a culture in which employees feel empowered to do the right thing.

Cedric Ellis is the chief human resources officer of CUNA Mutual Group.

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