This is a fragment of a fuller article that I originally published on my website in 2016 - Omega is my business. You may notice some consistency with my colour schemes.
In a recent survey conducted by Omega when asked to define what is meant by values a wide range of interesting answers were received. Although not everything is covered the majority of answers can be summarised as follows:
a moral spine
a way to behave
something you take from home
a set of rules to live by
something we take from our beliefs
Between them these answers seem to fit with the dictionary definition of ‘the principles that help you to decide what is right and wrong, and how to act in various situations’ (Cambridge Dictionary Definition).
The concept of values is not only personal, but has increasingly come to represent corporations and their outlook on the world as a whole and these same values frequently appear at the forefront of most publicly accessible materials. Here at Omega we also have a set of values that provide our guiding principles and service ethic. They have been reproduced in the image below. Omega’s principal ensures that these values are adhered to as they are fundamental to the Omega way, which is in turn based on customer service.
Larger companies also proclaim their values before the world as a statement of This is who we are and what we stand for! Tea and coffee companies declare that they are committed to fair trade and sustainability, paper producers believe in recycling or reforestation (one well-known UK toilet paper manufacturer claims to plant two trees for every tree they cut down), banks declare they are customer-focussed and clothing sellers declare that they source their stock ethically and not from sweatshops.
However having values within a company raises a number of issues which were further explored in the original article, but for now I am just picking up on a couple of them.
Who are the values for?
When conducting the same research mentioned above most interviewees answered that values are for the customers / clients and not the employees of an organisation. This creates a paradoxical situation where values – that by definition are about behaviours and therefore internal – have become the opposite as they have taken on an external focus. Admittedly the answers received were also backed up with the fact that companies primarily exist to make a profit and any other concerns take second place or are lower down the priority list. If this is the case then it means that values only exist within a company as PR, marketing or a way of providing spin on its products. This surely has to be a wrong way of thinking. For values to be important they should shape the internal dynamics of an organisation, which in turn could define relationships with clients / customers.
What is the point of having values?
If values represent the ‘moral spine’ of an organisation, a sense of right and wrong and indeed an ethic they should surely be immutable.
Right is right – right?
A declaration of being customer focused should mean just that – nothing more and nothing less, as with more abstract values such as transparency or respect. Is this always the case?
Imagine an international bank that operates in the UK. They offer free personal banking as is the norm in UK (it is possible to upgrade to an account with a monthly fee that offers better interest rates, overdraft terms, etc) and declare as one of their values ‘Free Banking for Personal Customers’. Now imagine that same international bank operates in Poland. As is often the case in Poland this same bank charges personal customers a number of fees, including for taking any kind of a printout from their cash machines, using a cash machine other than their own for simply checking a balance, a monthly fee for the bank card and a monthly fee for the insurance on the same bank card.
Such a bank exists! *
Therefore this value is not a value at all!
* The author cannot name this bank for legal reasons, and whilst the bank in question has a different high street brand in the UK to that in Poland it is still the same bank.
The rest of the article explores some other related themes, but the main point that I want to share today is that values should be immutable and consistent and not confused with being a slogan.
Slogan's have their place but should never be confused with values that are deeply personal and ethically based
Stay safe and stay well my friends