The Value of Values: How to Attract and Retain Productive Employees with Strategic Values-Focused Management

The Value of Values: How to Attract and Retain Productive Employees with Strategic Values-Focused Management

This is the second in a three-part series. The original full-length article was published by CMA Canada's Management Magazine in August/September 2006.

The battle for talent is only going to get tougher over the next few years. One of the best ways to attract the right talent is to show your true colors - the values that anchor your business. The use of a values-focused scorecard can be a helpful guide

In 2003, the MK Level Playing Field Institute in collaboration with the Centre for Survey Research at the University of Connecticut surveyed U.S. employees and employers about their most important workplace values. The results (shown in Tables 1 and 2 below) are surprising because they reveal differences between how employers and employees ranked the most important values.

Table 1 - The most important workplace values

Two notable differences are the importance of a good public image from an employer (ranked #6) versus employee (ranked #1) perspective, and how ethics and honesty were rated by the employer (ranked #2) and employees (ranked #5). However, the second part of the survey was very revealing with regards to the "perception gap."

The second part of the survey asked employers on a scale from "10 - Extremely important to 0 - Not important at all" how important each of workplace values were to the organization. The percentage shown in Table 2 shows the percentage of employers that rated the workplace value as "10 - Extremely important." Employees were also asked their perception on how well their employers were doing with regards to each workplace value. Table 2 displays the percentage of employees who felt their employers were doing a good job in meeting these values.

Table 2 – Workplace values perception gap

The significant (i.e. greater than 20% for a value) perception gaps among six of the top eight workplace values should be of concern to employers as these gaps are leading and mostly non-financial indicators with regards to future success; or lack thereof.

People generally agree that values are both relevant and important. Two studies, one of MBAs and one of consumers, reveal just how important values are to employees.

A 2004 study conducted by the Stanford Graduate School of Business of more than 800 MBAs at 11 leading North American and European business schools provides ample evidence that organizational values are critically important to both recruitment and retention of employees. Ninety-seven per cent of the MBAs surveyed as part of the Stanford study stated they prefer to work for an employer that shares similar values, or organizations that have a positive reputation, can demonstrate good ethical performance, and focus on corporate social responsibility (CSR).

Even more surprising was the discovery that these MBAs, on average, are prepared to forgo up to 14% of their expected compensation in order to work for an organization with similar values; this number increased to nearly 20% in the aftermath of the WorldCom and Enron ethical and financial disasters in late 2003. It may seem counterintuitive to think organizations that can illustrate and demonstrate their commitment to important values could actually pay their employees less than their competitors. However, the Stanford study clearly indicates this is the case.

In early 2006 Fleishman-Hillard and the U.S. National Consumers League partnered to survey American adult consumers about their corporate social responsibility attitudes and behaviors. Four areas of note from the Fleishman-Hillard survey are provided below:

  • 79% of survey respondents believe it's either extremely or very important to work for an employer with similar values.
  • 65% believe it's either extremely or very important to purchase products or services from companies with similar values.
  • 66% believe it's either extremely or very important invest in companies with similar values
  • The three most common ways to learn more about an organizations' CSR record and values are:

-- Internet search engines

-- Independent websites

-- Word of mouth

As the two surveys above indicate, organizations can use values and valuable attributes to attract employees – the question is how? One obvious challenge is most of us are puzzled by values because many of them are ethereal, such as accountability, honesty, peace, loyalty or sensitivity. This situation is further complicated by the fact these values can mean different things to different people. Consequently, there are several questions that must be answered. Is there any logic behind values? Can values be identified, organized or measured? The answers are yes and yes. It becomes a matter of finding and using the appropriate tools. The third article in this three-part series will explore one of these tools – the Balanced Scorecard.


David Crawford, CMA, CCEP, ([email protected]) is the market and technical services manager at Manitoba Product Stewardship Corporation. Todd Scaletta, CMA, MBA, ([email protected]) is an educator and partner with Scoperta Solutions, a management consulting company located in Winnipeg, Manitoba.