When an organisation is in its earliest start-up phase, the very reason for its existence often centres around the foresight, ambition and passion of one individual. It is therefore unsurprising that the values of that same individual run deep throughout the company for years to come – sometimes irrespective of growth.
The founder may recruit like-minded individuals with shared values, for example, or the strength of their leadership and communication may result in their personal values naturally cascading down throughout the team.
Of course, this is not a bad thing. However, challenges can naturally arise with every new colleague that joins the organisation. Again, this is not a cause for concern, providing these challenges are acknowledged and worked through.
For example, while the purpose, principles and personality of a company should be authentic and sustainable – irrespective of what is going on in the outside world – this does not mean they should remain rigid.
So, as new employees come onboard, it is important to understand how they each interpret the values and vision of the brand. Words can be subjective, after all, so simply presuming that they are widely and uniformly understood and embraced by all, is risky.
Instead, spend time, periodically at least, checking in on what the brand stands for, why the company exists, and what drives the team. This will help to ensure that every new starter – and even long-standing colleagues – are supported to transform the principles of the brand into behaviours that can be embodied every day.
Such an exercise may feel repetitious or unnecessary. But without this even intermittent commitment of effort, the brand may lose its sense of purpose, certainly in the eyes of the people who matter the most. The risk of cognitive dissonance (discomfort) among employees is also too great.
Celebrate and call out
The wider involvement of all – rather than solely the company founder or management team alone – will also help brand accomplishments, however small, to be celebrated. Behaviours can even be woven into job descriptions, KPIs and appraisals. Similarly, incongruent behaviour also stands a greater chance of being proactively called out and prevented, if people mutually agree on what is and isn’t OK.
This isn’t about trying to develop a brand narrative that encompasses everyone’s individual values. However, without the involvement of colleagues, it will be difficult to sustain value alignment – or at least empathy for the values that the business was borne out of – over the passage of time. Even with the best of intentions, a company can forget to walk the walk, so some ‘housekeeping’ is important.
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