Companies spend a great amount of time, energy, and money selecting, developing and implementing their core values. But why? Because people’s behaviors are deeply rooted in their values. And in the workplace, people’s behaviors can spell success or failure.
There is great value to be found when employees are able to form strong bonds with their enterprise as well as with their colleagues. Sharing the same kind of beliefs and values as the people around them not only helps people to bond when times are good; it also allows them to create a “social safety net” they can depend on in times of uncertainty, stress or change.
The science says it all
Stanford Neuroscientist Jamil Zaki has studied the cognitive and neural bases of social behavior, and in particular how people understand each other’s emotions, why they conform to each other, and why they choose to help each other.
His research has demonstrated that people respond positively when they share values with the rest of their social group. In one experiment, people who were told that their opinions were the same as the rest of their assigned group experienced a reward response in their brains.
But those who disagreed with the group showed negative activity in the region of the brain linked to reward — and later, they made an effort to be more like the group and to establish a social connection.
In their 2015 Industry Ranking Report, the Robert Half Company asked employees to rate their workplace happiness. Here’s what two employees in the highest-ranking industry (Construction & Facilities Services) had to say about their company’s values:
“One of the most satisfying things about working here is the close alignment of the company values to my own. That my peers overwhelmingly share the same values is icing on the cake.”
“I share the values of the company in my personal life. That is one of the things that makes it very easy to love working here.”
It’s obvious that employee happiness is the result of many different factors, but there’s a clear message here: sharing personal and corporate values is rewarding for everyone.
On the other hand, employees working at companies that ranked lower on the workplace happiness scale had quite a different take on their companies’ values:
“I value quality and the work ethic, but it seems all that matters here is the hours.”
“The values of the organization are aligned with complacency. I’d like this place to stand for something more than average day-to-day busy work.”
The bottom line
Employees spend more than a third of their lives at work, so their colleagues represent an extremely important social group — possibly the most important one outside of family. Being in agreement with that group feeds the brain’s reward response. And one of the most important ways in which colleagues can agree is through sharing workplace values.
The importance of corporate values cannot be overemphasized. Today, the best companies to work for know that to attract top talent, they must look beyond salaries and benefits and consider traits that make their organizations not only great places to work, but enviable ones.