From my experience working as an independent consultant, I’d say it’s when teams collectively share, respect, and live up to their shared values. We even know from research, values-driven companies achieve better brand and business performance.
However, company values are often determined behind closed doors in leadership meetings. They might then be used on the website, in corporate communication, and, from time to time, even become artwork displayed on the office walls.
While the words feel empowering, aspirational even, and might “trick” an applicant into believing their employer reflects their personal values, the chosen values – if not followed by action – might demotivate employees. Especially if they don’t see such values translate into action.
It’s not like executive teams formulate values they don’t believe in. Rather, the problem is usually that values are easy to write down but hard to live up to – or maybe the expectations and interpretations people have of the different terms declared as corporate values have just never been discussed.
A value is a belief that guides the team’s choices and everyone’s actions. It’s a principle that conveys what is right and what is wrong. Values are what unites the employees and defines the brand.
Just like in any good relationship, it’s important to regularly discuss expectations and acknowledge what team members value about one another. It’s important to regularly discuss how they want to evolve and develop their skills. Each employee deserves to work in a company that’s supportive of their individual development. A team that acknowledges their ideas and creates space for implementation – regardless of the company’s hierarchy.
According to the University of Cambridge, job seekers look up the sustainability declaration right after they’ve informed themselves about a company’s career opportunities.
It’s mostly because climate anxiety, Fridays4Future, and COVID-19 have become our New Normal.
Many of the recent occurrences – from bush fires to droughts – had made many of us realize the world is changing. And many of us might be asking ourselves whether business as usual is still an appropriate coping mechanism.
Many of us might experience a creeping fear we might not quite know how to deal with.
We might also not know how to discuss these issues with others – especially when trying to act professionally.
As Doug McKenzie-Mohr explained in his book Fostering Sustainable Behavior: “Richard Lazarus’ research suggests that individuals respond to threats by using either problem-focused coping, or emotion-focused coping. Problem-focused coping, as the name suggests, refers to taking direct action to alleviate the threat. In the case of global warming, problem-focused coping might entail using alternative transportation, or increasing the energy efficiency of your home. In contrast, emotion-focused coping might involve ignoring the issue, changing the topic whenever it is raised in conversation, or denying that there is anything that can or needs to be done. Whether someone uses problem-focused coping or emotion-focused coping appears to be determined by their perception of how much control they have to correct the problem. If we perceive that we have a significant amount of control, we are likely to use problem-focused coping. If we perceive that we have very little, we are likely to use emotion-focused coping.”
The topic of sustainability is the pink elephant in the room – whether ignored or simply not communicated, it’s a topic that might slowly divide teams and make employees feel disengaged.
We’ve founded this studio to support teams in taking conscious action. As designers, we understand our discipline as a tool to make behavioral change easy. We guide the conversation and help adapt processes to strengthen teams and align actions with the shared value of sustainability.
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