In the latest instalment of our Startup Summit guest blogs, Lisa Thomson, Founder of PurposeHR, shines a light on what it truly means to live your values as a business. She explores why it can be tough at times, but that it’s an essential element to success and how integrating values will benefit your business.
Trust is essential to how people operate and having trust in those around us is integral to every decision we make.
So it’s no surprise that who we trust has changed profoundly in the past year to those we spend the most time with: our employers. The 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer reveals that, globally, 75% of people trust ‘my employer’ to do what is right - significantly more than NGOs (57%), business (56%) and media (47%).
This shift is in response to the current political climate and is also aligned to a broader societal and business trend. Increasingly, people want to work for a business that has values, a purpose, and answers societal needs. For employers that want to attract, retain and develop top talent, understanding and integrating these values and mission is key to developing a strong and engaged team and a successful, sustainable business. This process can start at any stage in your growth journey.
What does it mean in practice to embed and live these values throughout your business? And how do you sustain this when times get tough - as they invariably do in a startup journey?
Answering these questions and staying true to your values through times of high pressure can make all the difference, giving your business a competitive advantage. Values flow through every level and function of your business - from the commercial decisions to the smallest actions you make, particularly where it comes to your team.
How do you apply values in real life?
Simply, it means doing the right thing. Sometimes you will have to make hard decisions, even though you might not want to, but you know not acting would hurt more in the long term.
Some examples of these situations could be:
Parting ways with a client or associate when you know the fit is no longer right.
Turning down business that you wouldn’t be best placed to deliver on and learning to say “no”.
Championing others and offering support and time without expecting the same back.
Delivering a hard message or feedback to a client when it’s not what they want to hear.
Tackling toxic or bad hires and challenging performance issues within an organisation.
Making disruptive changes where what worked before is no longer fit for purpose – especially when your business is going through a period of high growth.
As an HR partner, my team and I often face tough situations with people. We don’t shy away from the difficult decisions where necessary, but we stay aligned to our core values framework as we support our clients.
We acknowledge and appreciate how hard these decisions can be for everyone involved and focus on treating those involved with respect, empathy and compassion. Treating people with compassion, empathy and respect in challenging situations doesn’t make you weak. It makes you more resilient and grounded as you align your actions to your values framework.
Short term vs long term gain
As a business owner, I have learned (the hard way!) that focusing my time, energy and talents on opportunities that are aligned with my values leads to sustainable long term business growth.
I have parted ways with a client or business associate and decided not to take on something that, at face value, could have been potentially lucrative simply because it wouldn’t have sat right with my values. Not only were these decisions the right thing to do long term, as soon as I did it, I usually wished I had ‘bit the bullet’ sooner!
Scotland is a small and connected country where your reputation and ethos precede you. What do you want people to say about you when you're not in the room, and how do you want to leave people feeling after contact with you and your business?
The culmination of this is to remember to also treat yourself with that same empathy, respect and compassion. By incorporating your values through every decision and action you make, you'll make sure you're there for the people around you and the causes that matter.