The Top Three Corporate values that come to mind include…

This topic could quite easily deteriorate into a minefield of confusion and doubt.
What are Corporate Values? Can they be a single value or need their be more than one Value? What is the difference because we are always talking about Corporate Citizenship, Vision, Mission, Goals & Objectives, Social and Global responsibility,  etc, etc?

My personal Top Corporate Value has always been Integrity in Leadership…and here are a few thoughts that may support why I think that way:

First of all…Corporate Values can only flow from one source and one source alone…the Leader or the Leadership. I heartily disagree with some of my peers and colleagues who have commented that Corporate Values need to be ‘from the people’ and not just driven down by leadership. In this instance, Corporate Values are always driven from the Leader’s personal value system…that personal compass that points them always and consistently towards the true north.
Therefore the Values are not something that organizations can somehow percolate upwards from rank and file (and I say that most respectfully, archaic as that may sound). Corporate Values cannot be a brainstormed list from the Team that is then blessed by Leadership and adopted as the Organization’s values.
They are almost always the value system that the Leader has adopted, nurtured and defended fiercely –  over a lifetime.

Consider this:
If leadership permits the procurement of competitive information through unethical means,  to strengthen a bid, that behaviour would soon become standard practice in the Organization.

If Leadership encourages irresponsible, unethical behaviours to flourish unchallenged within the Organization, those behaviours soon become the norm (Sexual harassment, nepotism, lack of diversity in hiring, etc).

If Leadership behaves in a manner that is clearly disregardful (my own word ) or non supportive of current and contemporary Corporate, Global, Social mores (think Diversity, Ecology and protection of the Environment, Unethical cross-border business practices during Outsourcng transactions) those behaviours soon become adopted by the organization at large.

So we can see from just the few examples above, that there is a direct correlation between how the Leader behaves and acts, with the general behaviours of the organization at large.

The Leader’s role in the Formation and ‘Operationalization’ of Corporate Values, is much like that of a parent. Parents have always been the greatest role model for their children. Children tend to remember their parents instructions and guidance over their lifetimes…and also strive to mimic their parents behaviours as far as possible (both the good behaviour and the not so good behaviours as well…unfortunately).
Corporate values therefore need almost always flow down from the top…and they are generally ‘Black and White’ with a very little gray area that is open to discussion. The Organization’s behaviours…Corporate, Global or Social…is a consistent reflection of what the Leadership behaviours are…and that’s just the way it ought to be.

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Is there really any debate here???
An Organization’s greatest single Corporate Value needs to be it’s People…nothing less will suffice!

What do all (let’s say Fortune 500 Companies) as an example, have in common?
They all have volumes of documentation around their Corporate Values, Corporate Citizenship commitments, Vision, Mission and Business Goals & Objectives.

If you were to analyze these companies from an HR perspective, I guarantee you would find year upon year of so called ‘Rightsizing, Downsizing, Strategic outsourcing and Strategic Cost Reduction measures’ – all of which directly impact (in the most horrible and personal way) their greatest value – their people?

So what is wrong with this picture? Here we are waxing eloquent on the subject of what we believe to be the greatest Corporate Values for Organizations to embrace and commit to…when we know that they continue to execute the harshest and often time truly life-crippling HR actions on their greatest Value – their People?

I believe that until Organizations truly recognize that there is really no corporate success to be built on the broken promises, shattered dreams and utterly unfair severance packages that they dish out to the hapless workforce they are removing from their business plan, there can be no talk of Corporate Values. Anything they to the effect say is just ‘lip service.’

I can understand how the upper echelons of management view workforce reductions to be the surest way to demonstrate improved bottom line (with immediate effect). However I can no longer sit on the fence and pretend that an Organization truly mean what they say when they espouse their Values from the pulpit of maniacally controlled press, social media and other communication options that they share with their Shareholders, Board of Directors and general public at large.

So I repeat – I believe there can only be one single value for any organization today…and that is to Value, Respect and Care for It’s People…the rest will take care of itself thereafter!

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In the final analysis I would suggest that any Corporate values that are cast in stone edifices over the Corporate Boardroom, or emblazoned across the gates to the Corp. H/Q, or indeed enjoying pride of place on the Corp. Web site should be utterly and roundly ignored. They are Not!

You see, the only real Corporate value that makes any sense at all is how the community that the Corporation serves, ‘Values’ the Corporation. In other words,The Corporation may say that Fair Trade Practice is  ‘Core Value’, while seemingly engaged in  protracted unfair trade practice litigations with other organizations or countries?
The Corporation may say that Respect and protection of the environment is a ‘Core Value’, while turning a blind eye to environmentally ‘harmful  business partner operations in countries that do not enforce such regulations?

The only values that we ought to look for and hold Corporations to are those that we can see, feel and touch in terms of being able to verify for ourselves that the Corporation truly embodies such values.
The amazing thing is that we  can easily discern the Corporate Values that some Corporations truly embody…and we don’t need to look at those stone edifices and banner web site declarations to tell us…we just know!

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1. Integrity and Honesty in word, deed and actions

2. The ability to influence change that achieves two key objectives:
a. Helps the Corporation to grow
b. Helps the Community in which the Corporation operates and serves – to grow

3. Provide security, growth and fair compensation to it’s employees in the context of the prevailing market conditions
(we should no longer expect lifetime employment, however the decisions that the Corporation takes to reduce the workforce need to be fair, justifiable and always predicated upon the need to retain high skill/value employees who are critical to the business)

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The Most Important Corporate value has to be the innate quality that a Corporation has that allows it to occupy a specific share of the Hearts and Minds of the community within which it operates, for values that the community can attest to, without the need for Corporation funded media, advertising, pompous self aggrandizement and suchlike…only then can the Corporation say it has truly operationalized it’s Core Values!

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If I had to name one single Corporate Value it would have to be Integrity.

I believe a brief definition of both Honesty and Integrity is in order, since we often time confuse the both, while both words retain fairly unique connotations – here is an extract from Wikipedia on Honesty//Integrity:

“To summarize (and simplify a bit): honesty is about what you say; integrity is about what you do.”

Therefore is behooves an Organization to always and consistently act with Integrity in all that it does.

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