Why Values are Very Important for Innovation

The majority of studies exploring employee engagement and productivity place a high value on ‘purpose’.  In other words, when we do work that matters to us, for an employer whose values match our own, our happiness levels and performance rise.

A recent paper highlights how value incongruence can emerge and the impact it has on us at work.  Perhaps most worrying of all is that it can rear it’s head as early as the recruitment process itself. If the employer, or indeed the applicant, fails to successfully communicate the values they hold dear, it can get things off on the wrong foot from the start.

It’s also common for both parties to proclaim desirable values that they don’t really hold in order to create a good impression.

The risks involved

This is bad news as it encourages the expenditure of a lot of energy on keeping up appearances, with that energy much better spent doing useful things. It also heightens the risk of burning out, or at the very least becoming exhausted.

Of course, things can start off on a good footing but then change, whether that’s as a result of a change in strategy from the company, or even a change in ones direct manager.  If this change leads to incongruence, it’s likely to result in the employee feeling an outcast in their own organization.

This is likely to result in disengagement, and therefore a reluctance to participate fully in their work, especially for things that fall outside of the official job description.  In the end, it’s likely to result in that employee leaving the organization.

Unfortunately, such is the depth involved in such cultural misalignment, it isn’t something that can be rectified by the usual carrots and sticks employed by managers.  Fortunately, there are other, rather simple, ways to show an employee that their efforts are valued and appreciated.

Showing interest

One simple method, for instance, is to provide employees with autonomy and responsibility.  Studies show that giving employees a degree of agency is a hugely effective way of motivating them, but equally powerful is simply showing an interest in what values your employees have.

I suspect however that culture and values is something that is not really discussed at work a great deal.  Of course, from the employers perspective, it’s discussed a whole lot, but how many managers could tell you the values their employees hold dear?

We have various means of engaging with our teams, but I suspect most of these engagements stay at a very high level rather than delving into what really makes a person tick.

Maybe this in itself is a missed opportunity to help craft a job that really fits that person like a glove, especially if you co-create it with them to ensure that both theirs and your interests are met.

As this values alignment is likely to result in not only stronger job performance but greater ‘extra-curricular’ involvement, it’s likely to have a big impact on innovation as well as job satisfaction as employees are more invested in the health of the company. It becomes, in essence, a positive feedback loop.

Of course, none of this is really that new, but it’s something that is too often overlooked as having this level of interest in your employees is perhaps seen as inappropriate for work, or too expensive to perform. Hopefully, this will convince you that the merits far outweigh any risks.

image credits: keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk

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Adi Gaskell tells us: “I am a free range human who believes that the future already exists, if we know where to look. From the bustling Knowledge Quarter in London, it is my mission in life to hunt down those things and bring them to a wider audience, with my posts here focusing particularly on the latest research on innovation and change.” Follow Adi @adigaskell

Adi Gaskell




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