Company Values, Done Right, Help To Drive Retail Engagement

Company Values, Done Right, Help To Drive Retail Engagement

I write (and talk) a lot about company values and hiring people who share and are aligned with most, if not all, of the company values. I have only worked in two companies that spoke about their values. One of them was Disneyland and one of them was my own seasonal pop-up business. These values, combined with a compelling and energizing Mission Statement, were the driving force of the workplace cultures, delivering an exceptional customer experience, and fostering amazing workplace relationships. When you hire people in who share values on a personal level with the company, you create a foundation of understanding with which to shape other guiding principles and business practices.

“The voice in the head tells a story that the body believes in and reacts to. Those reactions are the emotions. The emotions, in turn, feed the energy back to the thoughts that created the emotion in the first place.”Eckhart Tolle

When I was hiring my amazing teams, last year, for my apparel pop-ups shops, I provided candidates with a “pre-interview kit”, inside the kit I, of course, included our Mission Statement and our Company Values. I asked the candidates to email me, before their interview, a quick example of two of our values that particularly resonated with them on a personal level and asked them to explain why in a paragraph. I wasn’t sure what to expect because I’d never done that exercise before but it showed me a true reflection of who was going to embrace, champion, and put forth the effort into supporting the vision of the business for the 14-16 weeks we were open, and it allowed for some common ground to be established initially as we started working together.

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Your company values help you define who you are as an organization — to your employees, to your customers, and even to you as a retail leader. They shape your culture and act as a compass to guide your smart decisions. What’s more, they’re also vital to workplace happiness. When retail organizations either don’t have values (this happens, I worked in one of the these organizations) or simply put them on a poster in the back room they become a meaningless and forgotten space filler. When they are used as the genesis of your culture – people make great choices, they feel empowered, they aspire to deliver a performance that silently speak to the values, daily.

According to TINYPulse’s 2015 Industry Ranking Report, here is what people had to say when their values and those of their company weren’t aligned:

“I value quality and work ethic where it seems all that matters here is the hours.”

“The values of the organization are aligned with complacency. I’d like this place to stand for something more than average day to day busy work.”

“I think that the company’s values are, at times, confused. The practice doesn’t always match what is preached. A lot is said about integrity, decency, professionalism but this is not always visible in day to day working practice.”

Sound familiar?

Values translate to articulating “the way we do things around here” which then empowers employees to make decisions and it supports creativity and innovation. The resulting company culture is super powerful, to quote Peter Drucker: “Culture will always eat strategy for breakfast.” And today, this is so incredibly accurate.

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Here are two incredibly compelling explanations of the enduring importance of culture:

“Organizational culture does have an impact on financial performance. It provides additional evidence of the significant role of corporate culture not only in overall organizational effectiveness, but also in the so-called bottom line.” — Eric Flamholtz.

“Without exception, the dominance and coherence of culture proved to be an essential quality of the excellent companies [we identified] ….. the stronger the culture and the more it was directed toward the marketplace, the less need was there for policy manuals, organization charts or detailed procedure and rules.” — Tom Peters and Robert Waterman, from In Search of Excellence.

The evolving landscape for retail is bringing values into even greater focus. Retail organizations that maintain an omnichannel presence through the Internet and various social media platforms require greater transparency than ever before. At any given moment you can see retailer’s mission statements and values and weigh those things against your experience with those brands as a consumer or an employee.  20 years ago, it was absolutely possible for organizations to create an image that was manufactured by the marketing departments, but now…everyone has a say [and super fast, too]. Employees can give you the run-down of the internal processes on Glassdoor, Facebook, Twitter, etc.. Customers can give you a real-time review of a brand via Facebook, Twitter, etc. Retailers are no longer what they say they are but what others say they are, and of course customer perception is the experience formed by the attitudes and actions of the employees.

Values Drive Behavior

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Today’s world of fluid social networking, means that it’s no longer sufficient to simply have a company mission statement and values that are meaningless and ignored. The need is compounded by the growth of social norms as well as the ascendance of Millennials & Gen Y’ers who bring a new set of behavioral expectations and perspectives to the workplace.

Retail organizations need to establish and integrate company values into their company mission statement and into its day-to-day operations, including their hiring process, as well as in daily performance guidance and as well as making it part of professional talent development and career path planning. Nan DeMars, author of You’ve Got to be Kidding – How to Keep Your Job Without Losing Your Integrity“We’re like fishes in a bowl. Everyone is watching what corporations and employees are doing and ethics has an important role to play.” No longer can organizations hide or push problems/mistakes/lack of integrity under the proverbial rug – they all come to light at some point – through any number of channels and sources.

Living and breathing values will support retail organizations in their initiatives to:

  • Recruit and retain employee whose personal values align with company values
  • Build a robust talent management strategy
  • Reward and recognize employees for making great decisions
  • Protect your brand’s reputation and image

According to research by Jamil Zaki, Assistant Professor of Psychology – Stanford Social Neuroscience Laboratory, it’s important for people to share values with the rest of their social group. In his research, people who were told that their opinions were the same as the rest of the group experienced a reward response in their brains. Conversely, those who disagreed with the group showed negative activity in the brain region for reward, and later, they made an effort to be more like group and to establish a social connection. Hence the reason it is important to seek people that share values in the first place. The workplace is one of the most important and interactive social groups we have as grown ups – we spend half of our time with our colleagues and coworkers. Values should drive alignment, engagement, and experience inside the workplace cultures by supporting great working relationships and delivering outstanding customer experience.

The Role Of The Organization

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Unfortunately, research shows that less than half of employees actually know their company’s values. But – here’s this – according to Workforce Moodtracker, “88% of workers who know and understand their companies core values reported engagement at work”.  So, clearly, not only do you need to make your organizational values clear through consistent communication, practice, and recognition around them with your employees – but…you also have to build a team that fits in with those values. Determine the guiding principles for your company,  whether it’s ruthlessly delivering customer experience, relentless innovation, resilience, commitment to learning/professional growth, etc. and hire a team who will support and embrace these things – with enthusiasm.

Aligning your employees’ priorities with those of the organization as a whole results in rewards for both you and your employees. Understanding the company objective and goals and ensuring your employees understand their role and how it fits into the objectives gives your team meaning and purpose, and it’s that kind of investment that will capture their engagement, alignment with, and commitment to the success of the company, their colleagues, and the customer experience.


Founder and Editor in Chief of Excellence In Retail. Published writer. Frequent Podcast Guest. Speaker. Twenty year [oy vey!] retailer. I am passionate about leadership development and workplace culture. 646 246 1380 | [No Sales Contact, please} But it you want to call just to say hello or have a question - that's awesome!

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