Pia Klemetti, HR Business Partner, Tosibox
Values. Flashed in strategy sharing events and action plan slides. Carved in the official PowerPoint templates. Referred to when there is no other justification for how we do or should do things. Slammed to table with joy when they happen to coincide with decisions we make – to prove to oneself that they matter and we bring them alive. Often, they are so vague that the staff doesn’t even remember them – not to mention how they are supposed to be used in the everyday life. I quote. My words from a few years back.
According to Charles Taylor, a Canadanian philosopher (e.g. “Sources of the Self: The Making of Modern Identity” and “A secular age”), authenticity and values may be studied in 3 dimensions – individualism, collectivism and communitarianism. To describe these very simply: Individualism focuses on individual freedom. In collectivism, a community or society defines the individual’s position, defying individual freedom and responsibility for one’s own values. In communitarianism, individual’s values are acknowledged but restricted by a society or community to the ones that are commonly accepted and valued in the group. Out of these 3, the modern society has been claimed very individualistic, even hedonistic, and these traits naturally reflect to the companies existing within the system. Naturally, the 3 isms are to be discussed also in cultural perspective – in the European-American context individualism has different connotation than for example in Asian cultures.
The taylorian theories claim that an individual not owning a strong value base is easily impacted and steered by external values. In other words, when an individual has a clear vision of his own values, it actualizes as strengthened self-determination, as ability to make decisions and to compassionate with others, and as a sense of purpose. These are the qualities that are typically appreciated in contemporary European-American societies and companies, and that’s basically the reason companies are eager to have defined values. These values are assumed to actualize in reality as financial benefits to both company and the staff.
Values are very slow to change, as they define how an individual sees the self and the world. If one can’t find any common ground between his values and the company’s ones (or finds them utterly alienating), it will show at some point as behaviors like general dissatisfaction, strong negative criticism, negative organizational politics or overall unproductivity. In the opposite situation, it’s assumed to actualize as higher productivity through individual’s general well-being and contentment. In addition to shareholders, better company results should benefit also the individuals, whether they actualize as better benefits, raised compensation levels, nicer work environment, added opportunities to training and development or new bonus schemes.
If it’s a mission impossible to implement the values to reflect the real company culture, why are companies using the time and money in defining them? One unscrupulous point of view is: to maximize the euros, through such things as lower employee turnover (e.g. in ICT, a turnover of 1 senior specialist costs in average €60,000 in company result) and maximized efficiency, as companies are established to produce value to the shareholders. Then again, there is also a second perspective: for purposes like social responsibility and individual’s wealth and health. For either, both or other purpose, it benefits all, right?
The challenge is in how companies bring values, these principles we are supposed to follow, alive in our everyday life. It’s through practice, in the principles we use to make decisions, in the chats with a staff member or colleague, in the way we talk to each other, in the structures we create, in the attitude we take when things get beyond straight forward.
Whether company values may be created from zero or if they are brought to the company by the employees and just discovered is yet another question. At Tosibox, as the company strategy and values were developed last year, each member of the staff had an opportunity to have their say. As I joined the company only 2 months ago, let me mention a few practical things which – to me – demonstrate the values in practice:
We care: The flue season hit us hard and heavy: health care service contract was extended to cover also the weekend days. A colleague needed to work less hours for a few weeks due to family reasons: no problem, we can make it work!
We simplify: We agreed on a bonus model that is equal to all, all the way to the Executive Management Team.
We trust in high quality and integrity: A recognition is given to the individuals it belongs to, and these experts are invited to present their work to the Executive Management Team and company Board of Directors.
We are brave: We stepped out from the comfort zone, decided to change the strategy and enter the world of SW business. We boldly focus on key areas and actions that will enable us to reach the set targets.
We encourage our team members to practice our values in the everyday life. Personally, I think we have a fair shot – come and see for yourself!
“We encourage our team members to practice our values in the everyday life.”
Pia Klemetti, HR Business Partner, Tosibox