How can focusing on company values be key in successful change management?

December 3, 2018


Most management groups need to grapple with successfully implementing some type of change in their organisation. To work with company values and link them to the business strategy can be the communicative platform needed to unite the company during times of change. How does a company succeed in maintaining good productivity in periods of change? And who really owns the corporate culture – the company or the employees? And above all, how can you implement values that last over time?

Malin Grundström, Manager at Harvey Nash in our Malmö office has previously worked as HR Director at several international companies and has for many years been involved in driving some type of change management within those companies. We took the opportunity to ask her a few questions about her experience from working with corporate culture and values-driven work. 

“Company values create a communicative platform and can be a tool to unite a company in times of change. To succeed, the company needs to set out a long-term plan to systematically and methodically review and reflect on company values, and also implement the values in every aspect of company operations, such as the company’s talent management strategies, employee engagement surveys, payroll and development talks and last but not least in the business plan. The company values need to be visible in every channel to ensure that they come to life and gain value in their own right. Implementation of company values requires patience, especially during times of change, but where the meeting between management and employees becomes a forum for dialogue about common goals and future direction.”

 Who owns the company’s culture and values?

“The company owns the so-called structural capital i.e. the company vision, brand and the strategic direction for the business. The management sets out the business strategy and the overall goals that the organisation then often breaks down into sub-goals.

But all employees together own – in everyday life – the company culture and attitude we choose to have towards each other as colleagues and towards customers. That’s why it’s so important to keep talking about how we wish to relate to each other and our customers.”

But if employees own the culture and values, why should the company have to work with the values?

“Integrating the company’s business strategy with the company values and thereto desired behaviors, is a way of clarifying and specifying expectations. A way to communicate how to treat colleagues and customers. It is also a way to create a common platform, neutral from any ongoing changes within the company, but interlinked in regard to how we treat the people we interact with. It becomes a way to clarify what behaviors are important for the future success of the company and ofcourse, everyone’s continued commitment and well-being at work.”

But how do you create values that relate both to the company’s goals and which appeal to the employees?

“The starting point is to figure out what cultural platform you stand on as a company. Is it an entrepreneurial company or an international company that needs to be more innovative in its way of working? Are you a relatively young company, or are you steeped in history? What story do you lean on?”

One way to begin is to do structured interviews with key people within the company, preferably those who have been there for a long time. The purpose is to make them put words to what the company’s DNA really is. It is important to understand the history and where the company originates from, in order to then identify those values that will be important for the company’s future journey. There is nothing that says there can be no correlation between the historical legacy and the future. Often it is useful to merge history with the future direction so that both employees and customers can recognise the company’s description.

When this is done, then you connect the business plan. Where is the company going? What behaviours among the employees need to be strengthened for the company to succeed.

It is imperative that all employees can relate to the values regardless of their function within the company. Everyone has to feel included, whether you work in sales, HR or in finance. The values have to be applicable to everyone’s everyday work.

“That being said the values still need to be visionary so that they give room to constantly reach for something more. They should provide a description of a goal that is never quite achieved, but which will constantly lead to improvements ahead. “

What are the main success factors?

  • Identify values related to the company’s goals and long-term business plan
  • Make a three-year plan – set tasks over time – be patient
  • Implement values in the overall processes, such as payroll and development talks, employee survey, leadership criteria, employer branding, and corporate presentation.
  • Illustrate the values, preferably using your own employees

 “Understand that change takes time, uniting an organisation (especially one that is undergoing change) demands patience. Even though the company is undergoing change, there is no reason not to work with good values and how we interact and behave towards both customers and colleagues. On the contrary, it is all the more important to care a bit extra for each other when we experience pressure. Under periods of difficulty and adversity people tend to act out more and be more confrontational. In order not to spread destructive energy and risk dropping in productivity, it is important to be able to meet employee concerns head-on and hold on to an open dialogue. “