When I lost my mobile recently it took 3 calls to my provider, over an hour waiting, two failed attempts and 11 days in total for them to deliver a new SIM card for my spare handset. A quick look at their website tells me they want to ensure their customers “receive the best possible service” but it doesn’t take a genius to see that service like this sucks – so what’s going wrong?

When call centre reps transfer customers without giving them or the colleagues they route them to any explanation or warning – what’s going wrong?

When employees aren’t given meaningful feedback from one appraisal to the next – what’s going wrong?

When companies cover their walls with Vision and Values statements but employee feedback says senior management say one thing and do another – what’s going wrong?

The values gap – the gaping hole between an organisation’s espoused values and how its staff actually behave – is a major demotivator for people at all levels in all types and all sizes of organisation.

Andy Pearson, former President of PepsiCo, believes it to be the largest single source of cynicism and scepticism in the workplace today.

But why? Send any bunch of middle managers – any staff at all, for that matter – on a one-day course and ask them to draw up a list of values and 10 to 1 they’ll all come back with the same list of words written on a sheet of flip-chart paper as every other bunch of middle managers….

…..quality…..integrity…..customer service…..teamwork…..respect….innovation…..

So, no arguments there, then. In fact, give everyone a laminated copy of the values and let’s get cracking guys!

And there’s the rub. In the face of stiffer competition, tighter margins and having so much work to do, actually living these values is another thing entirely. When calls are stacking, paperwork is mounting and meetings have simply got to be attended, issues like this fray – but at what cost? Angry customers – ex-customers! – frustrated senior managers, confused and inconsistent middle managers, disengaged employees….the list could go on and on.

So what’s the answer?

When The Colour Works run a values workshop we have at least half a dozen things we aim to achieve – and laminating values cards isn’t one of them. What we do aim to do is:

  • ask some searching – maybe even provocative – questions about how things are going with your business right now
  • identify current values gaps, what they tell you about your business and what you need to do to close them
  • help you create meaningful values statements that truly reflect and differentiate your business
  • identify what those values look and feel like for your customers and your employees and what behaviours people need to adopt to make them a living reality
  • have the foundations of a buy-in and roll-out plan in place

And – most important of all – make sure people leave knowing that how they do things is just as important as what they do, that genuinely living the values – walking the talk – isn’t just one more thing they have to do when they get back to the office – it’s all they have to do.

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