THE CLIENT’S PERSPECTIVE
A large national nonprofit organization didn’t just want its staff to think differently about how they approached their work—they needed them to. A rapidly changing competitive landscape called for employees to question old ways of doing things and embrace new possibilities. Leadership saw changing employee behaviors as so essential to a prosperous future that core values now formed a principal component of the organization’s strategic plan.
Nearly a year after the new values had been defined and rolled out, it became clear that they were not taking hold. Employees, used to a historically risk-averse operating culture, continued in familiar patterns. The organizational course correction needed a course correction of its own.
A new view
After working with Eagle Hill for over 10 years, the nonprofit’s leadership trusted our expertise in culture and core values. They asked us to help determine why their core values did not seem to be taking hold, and what the organization could do to make them stick.
Eagle Hill immediately suspected a gap in understanding. Because employees only played a small role in defining the core values, the values were left open to interpretation after the fact. Moreover, the rollout of the values had been limited to one organization-wide town hall and posting of the values on flyers.
We began by gauging values awareness with multiple focus groups. Our instincts proved to be correct: among the dozens of people who participated in the focus groups, only two could name all four corporate values. Drilling down further, we found disagreement among employees about what the values meant and what behaviors manifested the values.
Armed with data about employees’ awareness levels, we helped the organization put together a plan to clarify the values and rewrite behaviors. Our recommendations covered five areas:
The nonprofit now has structured mechanisms for solidifying and raising the profile of the values within the organization, as well as developing the capabilities needed to manifest them.
Eagle Hill also developed an employee lifecycle that demonstrated in concrete terms how core values could be infused at every stage. For example, we helped pilot a manager training program that incorporates core values and added values as a screening tool to identify high-potential employees.
Crucially, we introduced measurement and reward incentives that focus on rewarding not just the stellar work employees have done, but how they did it. We also helped HR begin incorporating values-related behaviors into formal performance review processes.
Unconventional consulting — and breakthrough results
In this organization, having clear-cut definitions of what living the values means for day-to-day work life has helped bring the values off the pages of HR strategy and into the desired role of business transformer.
The HR team now embraces the idea that a successful values program requires sustained effort and has made it a priority to integrate values messages into nearly every interaction with staff.
The client appreciated how Eagle Hill constructed and facilitated the focus groups to solicit diverse opinions through a multitude of methods, which led to truly eye-opening results. For example, 83 percent of participants reported never having discussed the meaning of the organizational core values before. Participants provided overwhelmingly positive feedback about the benefits they had gained from participating.
83 percent of participants reported never before having discussed the meaning of the organizational core values.
Our proprietary research and our experiences implementing core values programs at other large organizations gave our team a strong framework to modify and apply for this client. By meeting the client’s team where they were in the process and developing a plan that was aligned to their needs, we helped the organization make major strides toward accomplishing their awareness goals.