Tuesday, April 14, 2020
By Kathryn Davanzo
Categories: Leadership, Research

What is the Story Your Employees Are Telling?

Core Values in the Days of COVID-19

 Losing your values in a crisis is a sure way to create a loss of confidence and trust.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic it was hard to find a company that did not have a set of core values posted on their website, framed on the walls of  their meeting rooms, highlighted in recruiting materials, described in employee handbooks, and reflected in their marketing materials.  Will those core values survive the crisis?

A quick internet search shows that value statements invariably speak to how the organization purports to value customers, employees, quality, or innovation.  Value statements generally include the organization’s definition of trust, honesty, or integrity.  Many company’s state how they show a commitment to their community, the environment, or other responsibilities of good corporate citizens.

Leaders, internal or external consultants, or others who help organizations “discover, define, and live” their values will generally claim they are doing so because having core values provides a means and a measurement to ensure leaders and employees at all levels are modeling the behaviors this organization has deemed important for business success.  Values are to be the criteria by which the organization makes decisions, big and small.

As your employees talk with each other, their family, their friends, their work connections, their unions, and others what are they saying about your organization?  Is the story different if they are working under new conditions, working fewer hours, furloughed, laid-off, or terminated?

If respect is one of your values – do employees feel they are being respected? 

If transparency is one of your values do employees believe you are being transparent? 

If supporting your communities is one of your values do employees see you doing this now in their home communities?

It is the impact of leadership’s choices and decisions that influence the stories your employees are telling.  It is the content, tone, and frequency of your communications that shape the stories your employees are sharing.  It is the ability to access answers about their benefits, their pay, their safety, their future that write the stories your employees are relating.

Do the stories your employees are sharing show that your stated values are resilient?   Do the stories your employees are relating show that your stated values are being tossed aside?

What your organization, including HR and leadership at all levels, have done over the last few weeks, and what you do over the coming weeks, matters in the lives of all your stakeholders – employees, customers, vendors, and more.  The resilience of your values during the pandemic will shape your future workplace. As you seek to reinstate or rehire, re-board, and re-engage your workforce these stories will resonate.

It is time to start the conversation within HR and with leadership at all levels.  Do our values matter?  How will we use their strength to build a strong future?  How will we address disconnects to avoid a dis-engaged, disgruntled workforce?


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