The Role of Values in Employee Engagement

Posted on January 9, 2015 by Don MacPherson.

Modern Survey’s Fall 2014 State of Engagement report shows that engagement levels have hit their highest point since Modern Survey began conducting the survey in 2007. Perhaps more remarkably, the data found that employees are 51 times more likely to be fully engaged when they know and understand the company’s values.

“Values are extremely important to an organization,” says Dave Witt of The Ken Blanchard Companies.

The problem is that, on paper, many values look about the same. Here are some ways to ensure your employees understand your company’s values and find ways to prioritize them in their work.

Witt recommends ranking values, so everyone knows which are the most important. “When a tough decision comes up, it gives us a chance to figure out how we should look at it,” he says. His company’s most important value is ethical behavior — so when there is a challenge, they talk about what an ethical solution would look like. Second is relationship values, so they explore outcomes that are in the best interests of all stakeholders. Success comes in third.

“When decisions get tough, it’s harder to sort through values and understand which one applies,” he says. Ranking can make the difference.

Witt adds that giving all employees a chance to weigh in on what the organization’s values should be can help create buy-in. Senior leaders can put together a first draft and then share it with everyone, who then can provide their own feedback and refine the list.

It is important to not allow values to become something like the flavor of the month, says Eileen Timmins, global human resources executive and adjunct professor at DePaul University. They need to be a central tenant of meetings and leaders need to incorporate them into everyday dealings. “If one value is candor and I see another executive not using candor when communicating, I can use that to facilitate the meeting by saying ‘let’s be candid — this is a safe environment to speak freely,’” she says.

Frequently communicating company values is important, but it is important to link them to other initiatives, such as recognition or development programs, says Liz Monahan, Quintiq’s global head of human resources. “A company that highly values teamwork, for example, may want to think about putting a program in place to recognize an individual or team who demonstrates teamwork.”

Keeping up the momentum on high engagement will be important in the coming months. Having a set of values that is communicated clearly and consistently to employees can help them understand what is important to the organization — and boost their engagement as well.

To learn more about the current state of employee engagement, go to

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