Dave UlrichGuest Author

The Value of Values: Shaping the Future of Work through Human Capability

By | Dave Ulrich | Speaker, Author, Professor, Thought Partner on HR, Leadership, and Organization

Value and values are not the same, and when combined, they complement each other (see figure 1). When we understand the value of values, we focus our values on the value they create for others. While values matter because they shape beliefs, beliefs embody attitudes, and attitudes determine behaviors, defining the value of values matters more for all four domains of human capability (talent, leadership, organization, HR) in today’s evolving world of work.

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As the world evolves to new realities with ongoing viruses, technology/digital innovations, social justice movements, and political upheavals, traditional values-based questions about the four domains of human capability can be better answered by considering the value of values.

  1. Individual: How do I realize personal meaning from my work?
  2. Leadership: How do I (or we) lead, or prepare others for leadership, in the new world of work?
  3. Organization: How can my organization create the right culture to shape how work is done?
  4. Human Resources (HR): What can HR (department and people) do to influence the future of work? 

1. Value of Values for Individuals

At a personal level, values clarification is an initial step for personal progress. In coaching, my first question is often “What do you want?” If those I coach do not know what they want, based on their values, someone else will likely define their wants, often not always in their best interest. 

The second coaching question I ask magnifies the first and represents the value of personal values: “Whom do you serve?” Without serving others, personal wants (based on values) are acted on more often in isolation and distanced from others. This can cause loneliness, one of the fastest growing psychological threats, which increases as people socially isolate from each other.

When individuals define their values (based on heritage, predispositions, and experiences), they determine and build on their strengths. Then to pivot from loneliness to connection, one’s values can help others discover their value when individuals build on their strengths to strengthen others.

2. Value of Values for Leaders and Leadership

Perhaps the simplest and most intuitive test of an effective leader is how often one leaves an interaction with the leader feeling better about oneself.

While individual leaders are wisely encouraged to demonstrate character by living their values (called authenticity, emotional intelligence, credibility, trust), if their values do not create value for others, they fail to use their power to empower others. Leaders are ultimately known for the impact they have on others when they help others recognize and live their values.

In addition to helping individuals as leaders, most companies build leadership competency models based on successful leaders’ attitudes, knowledge, and behavior. While important, too often these competency models are inside-out, determined by looking back to identify competencies of leaders based on past actions inside the company. The value of values examines leadership outside-in by starting with the brand promises made to customers looking forward. When leadership actions reflect customer promises, leadership values create value for others through what we have called a leadership brand.

3. Value of Values for Organization Culture

A company’s culture is receiving enormous attention, particularly about how to create a culture in the new world of work. Traditionally, an organization’s culture is defined as values that shape behaviors, norms, expectations, patterns, unwritten rules, and rituals inside a company. The culture playbook has evolved the definition of culture to focus on the identity of the organization in the mind of its best customers, made real to every employee.

 The value of an organization’s culture is not just inside behaviors with employees but also increasingly the outside identity with customers, investors, and communities. For example, an airline had a list of values with words like respect for the individual, teamwork, serve, integrity, accountability, and so forth. But when they defined the value of those values to customers, this generic list became much more focused: on-time arrivals, quick response when things go wrong, and good in-flight services (food, movies, and staff). The value of the airline culture gave employees specific actions that gave customers better experiences. A similar outside-in logic (value of values) could be applied to investors or communities.

4. Value of Values for the HR Department and People

The HR department or function is like a business within a business with its own reputation, customers, mission, goals, products or services (HR practices), governance structure, analytics, and people. Increasingly, the value of these HR department actions is less about the activities and more the value the activities create for others. The values embedded in HR practices like staffing, training, compensation, and communication should create value for customers. This means being the employer of choice of employees customers would choose, offering training that would increase customer confidence, designing compensation consistent with the reputation desired from key customers, and communicating the same message to both employees and customers. HR is not just about how the values of the firm are embedded in HR practices but the value created by HR practices for customers, investors, and communities.

Value of Values and Future of Work

The human capability questions about the future of work can be best answered with a value of values logic

  • How do I realize personal meaning from my work? By individuals using their strengths to strengthen others and living their values to create value for others.
  • How do I lead, or prepare others for leadership, in the new world of work? By each leader using their power to empower others; and by establishing a leadership brand connecting leadership competencies to customer value.
  • How does my organization create a culture that shapes how work is done? By establishing the right culture by matching external stakeholder promises (value) to internal people and organization actions (values).
  • What can HR (department and people) do to influence the future of work? By defining HR less as HR practices and tools and more by the value they create for others.

The value of values assumes that sustainable value is defined by the receiver more than the giver.

So I hope these ideas create value for you!

Republished with permission and originally published at Dave Ulrich’s LinkedIn

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