Gulf between the values of businesses and those of employees

organisational valuesA new study from The Institute of Leadership & Management claims there is a significant gulf between the organisational values held by UK businesses and the personal values of their workers, and highlights the different values considered important to men and women, younger and older workers and between sectors. The study, Colliding or Aligning: reconciling organisational and personal values by The Institute of Leadership & Management, in collaboration with Glassdoor, into workplace values, found that as many as 70 per cent of the personal values held by workers are not those championed by employers.

Key findings:

• 70 per cent of the personal values held by workers are not those championed by employers.
• Men have 50 per cent of their personal core values in common with the Top 10 organisation values, while women have only 30 percent in common.
• Millennials and Generation Z are being excluded from organisational value setting.
• ‘Make a difference’ is the only Top 10 value held by workers across all industries (except military/defence), but is only ranked in the Top 10 organisational value by the charitable sector.

Workers place greater value on the human aspects of the work environment (such as honesty, doing the right thing and making a difference), whereas organisations’ values give greater focus to more functional and outcome driven measures, such as accountability, quality and teamwork.

Top 10 organisational values

This potential division in the workplace is also compounded by further differences in the personal values held by male and female workers.

Top 10 personal values of men and women

Men share 50 per cent of their top personal values with the Top 10 values of organisations (integrity, excellence, accountability, collaboration/cooperation and trust) while women have only 30 per cent in common (respect, integrity and trust). Male values are also more aligned with the more masculine language often used in recruitment adverts, such as leadership, commitment and accountability, whereas female personal values predominantly focus on the wellbeing of self and others, including caring, work-life balance, respect and communication – this disconnect may contribute towards the perpetuation of gender inequality in the workplace, with more male values being shared with their employer.

The study also claims that organisations don’t share the values most important to younger employees – work-life balance is the second highest value to the 18-30s age group but this is not represented in the top values of organisations at all.

Not only do younger workers prioritise a different set of values than their employers and older workers, but they’re also often excluded in setting the organisation’s values – organisations are failing to capitalise on the enthusiasm and creativity of their junior employees, as just 21 per cent are involved in the process, compared to 57 per cent of over 60s.

Overall, two thirds of people feel they have no input into the organisation’s values, as it’s often led by senior management teams and CEOs.

It’s not just gender and age where stark differences were observed, with the authors of the study finding that while ‘customer-focus’ was ranked top in terms of values held by organisations in the private sector – it didn’t even make it into the Top 10 for public sector organisations.


Sector differences

The greatest mismatch between personal values and organisational values is in the education sector – where only two values align.

Organisations in professional services/consultancy, military and health industries shared the most values with their staff, with six values in common. ‘Make a difference’ was named as a Top 10 value by workers across all industries (except military/defence) but was only prioritised by charitable organisations.

Kate Cooper, Head of Research, Policy and Standards at The Institute of Leadership & Management, said: “This research shines a light on how disconnected some organisations are from their employees and questions the credibility of the values that are so often displayed on walls and websites. We’re calling on UK businesses to consider how they might improve their value setting processes to align their values with those of their workforce.

“Previous generations were encouraged to make their personal values a private matter, but we’re now seeing a blurring between these two domains and an increasing willingness for people to stand up for – and sometimes take direct action to secure – what they believe in. This includes seeking employers whose values we share.

“There is real value to be obtained by engaging with staff at all levels to achieve a coherency between organisation and personal values; enabling staff to take ownership and genuinely live the company values that contribute to more motivated teams and better performance.”