Where will you be when the tide turns?

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In my experience there are at least three types of managers or business owners.

First, the manager that isn’t really interested in values and ‘company culture’ as they believe the business is ‘profitable enough’. This type of manager is struggling more than others in these challenging market conditions.

Second, the manager that puts in some effort with company values and culture (ensuring a range of nice glossy posters in the office) in the hope that they will drive up profit.

Third, the manager that is most resilient, who lives by the values, embeds them in their organisation and is rewarded by a hike in profits as a positive result.

Productivity is more important now than ever. Productivity increases when people are engaged and unfortunately the reverse is also true. When people are engaged they work hard to make the company successful. Yet in tough times many put employee engagement on the back burner and rely on market forces to keep their people. This works to some extent but how productive are those people?

Leaders are currently focused on external factors like the oil price, as you would expect, unfortunately many of these factors are out with their control. Few are focusing internally where they can really make a difference.

But what happens when profits drop through a change in the commodity price? Arguably it makes the managers who are searching for more profit, at the expense of company values, highly visible.

‘We don’t have time for engagement – we are in recession’, ‘Our values are important but securing work is more important’, ‘Values are simply a guide, not how we run our company’ – we hear these comments daily.

As only a third of UK employees are actively engaged, (Red Letter Days 2015) take five minutes to think about your own team. Who in the team switches off when you leave the room and simply does enough to get by? Based on the statistics, this could equate to two thirds of your team or more. Typically at the moment, many managers are working with a smaller team, with less financial resource and a pressure on time. In order to do more with less an engaged team is critical.

Equally, some businesses fail to make tough decisions and look to their values to justify this failure to act. Staff often see this in itself as a breach of the company values. Be aware that being soft won’t help anyone and certainly not the sustainability of the future company.

Businesses change all of the time; new technology, new leaders, organic business growth or growth through M&A activity. One of the most commonly used and successful ways of bringing people together and helping staff to deliver is by ensuring that the values form the DNA or the backbone of the business. If companies are going to thrive though volatility, it needs to have one set of agreed, embedded values that staff have contributed to and believe in.

So how can our embedded values help in times of change?

Values Tell Your People What You Stand For – during recession and headcount reduction it’s difficult for companies not to take knock on their company culture. Openness, transparency and living your values turns a difficult ‘at risk’ conversation into a mutual ‘lets find a solution’ conversation. This may not be the end of the relationship with the employees currently leaving your business so think ahead.

Values Drive Engagement – you need more than the UK average of a third of your workforce engaged if you are going to navigate through tough times. Embedded values influence the culture which is the group level of engagement. Businesses with sound values are considerably more likely to engage staff than those who use engagement as a money maker. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to work out that you are going to keep more customers happy and make more profit with 90% staff engagement versus 30%.

Values Bring People Together – following some of the major acquisitions in Scotland, particularly in the Banking Sector but also in the O&G sector, new or revised values have worked to join people together and to create one team. Values often start life as ground rules before being touted as DNA.

Values Aid Staff Retention – most managers think about retention in recession. Unfortunately for them, the top performers can always find alternative employment. There are many factors that aid staff retention but people are less likely to be lured away by the manager who is purely focussed on driving profit. This type of knowledge tends to be known in the marketplace and is damaging to the company brand.

Values are not an HR initiative or programme. Put it simply they are the route to engagement and productivity.

So where will you be when the tide turns?

Wrote and created by Dean Hunter for energyvoice.com