The benefits of values-based communication

How can you have values-based communication in your organisation?

Today I have a guest post by values expert Jackie Le Fevre, @magmaeffect, to share with you. Regular readers of my blog will know I enjoy reading the pearls of wisdom Jackie offers, and she’s here with a reflective piece.

I’ll hand you over…

The benefits of values-based communication

The stage was set. The audience on tenterhooks. The golden envelope was about to be opened…….

In the face of a future, in which the Institute for Fiscal Studies says that the public sector should be braced for “more difficult years”, the Guardian Public Service Awards 2018 bore witness to teams the length and breadth of the land displaying remarkable ingenuity.

The Awards event on 27 November was a big moment for a (currently) relatively small social enterprise called Wellbeing Teams.

Long story short – they won. They won the HR and Recruitment category and they don’t even have a ‘human resources’ department. They won from a shortlist which included the Children and Families Court Service and the Department for International Trade both of whom have far larger budgets. They won the judges said because “it’s about people taking responsibility, organising themselves in a difficult area, and building enthusiasm and morale”. They won for their values-based recruitment.

Wellbeing Teams are the opposite to Carillion (and others), the words on the wall really are their values and they bring them to life. Here are just a few of the ways in which they do this in how they approach recruitment.

Value No 1: Compassion.

In these days of increasingly automated application processes Wellbeing Teams remember that they are looking for people who would both enjoy, and do well, working with other people. No lengthy forms here or daunting online portals to navigate.

Wellbeing Teams remember that it can be hard, even stressful applying for a new job so they start with three simple reflective questions to enable the potential applicant to gain clarity about whether they really might like this work. If the person thinks they would like it then they are invited to book a convenient time and date for a call with a member of the team they may be joining and the coach for that team.

Value No 2: Responsibility.

If the conversation goes well, and everybody is still interested, the potential recruit is invited to attend a recruitment workshop. Preparation for the workshop is required. The candidate has to create a one-page profile about what people appreciate about them, what matters to them and how best to support them at work. A template for the one-page profile is provided and candidates receive the one-page profiles of the staff who play a role in the recruitment workshop.

Value No 3: Collaboration.

All candidates attending the workshop take part in a variety of activities with different people – other candidates, staff and local older people who use the services of the Wellbeing Team. Frequent opportunities occur during the day to help, to encourage, to support others recognising that not everybody relaxes at the same rate and some folk need time to get their bearings (so that’s another touch of ‘compassion’).

Values No 4 and 5: Curiosity and Creativity

There is as you might expect an ‘interview’ component. The candidate sits with a small panel and questions are asked and answered but perhaps not in the way that you might expect. Here the candidate interviews the panel. Candidates are encouraged to be curious, to probe, to explore assumptions, put forward their own ideas for the service and ask existing team members for their thoughts; all this to really chew over whether this opportunity feels like a good fit for them or not.

Value No 6: Flourishing

Whether a candidate is offered a position or not they are personally contacted following the workshop. No one is left hanging or wondering (oh look there’s compassion again) and many who do not receive a job offer are encouraged to keep an open mind about applying again. That ‘growth mindset’ approach of not ‘No’ but instead ‘Not yet’ with the people who either got very close or clearly have potential both helps candidates with their personal development and strengthens the employer brand for Wellbeing Teams.

So is this unorthodox, values based, approach simply so quirky that it wins awards (the Guardian award is the third national recruitment award for Wellbeing Teams this year) or does it actually work?

A look at the numbers
Well, let’s look at a couple of numbers. Providers of domiciliary care in England have a turnover rate of 42% and Wellbeing Teams turnover after probation is less than 10%. Around 11% of the workforce in adult social care is aged under 25 and with an aging population being able to attract 18-24’s is important: 16% of current Wellbeing Team members are under 25.

Wellbeing Teams put their vacancies on Facebook and on cards in Post Offices. Wellbeing Team members carry ‘Compliments’ cards. When they experience a real connection with someone working in café, or a shop, or centre, they give the person a card and let them know they were great and might flourish as part of a Wellbeing Team in future.

So far 90% of team members have not come through other home care providers and between 30-40% of those who attend recruitment workshops have arrived there with earlier positive word-of-mouth experiences of the world of Wellbeing Teams.

What’s the lesson?

Values based communication is not about simply attributing channels, media or messages to the list of words on the wall which someone somewhere calls ‘Our Values’.

It is about using the authentic shared priority values which characterise the uniqueness of spirit of the organisation to deliberately inform both what is communicated and how it is communicated. Wellbeing Teams could not say their top value was ‘Compassion’ and then push candidates through a cold, impersonal process and get these results.

Key takeaways for IC pros

  1. Use the stated values of the organisation to shape ‘how’ things are communicated just as much as ‘what’ is communicated – Wellbeing Teams ask themselves ‘what is a compassionate way to not offer someone a job’
  2. Seize opportunities to reinforce the core values even if only informally in processes or conversations – when a prospective candidate is ready to move to the initial exploratory call Wellbeing Teams put the responsibility for making the booking in the hands of the individual
  3. Ask the people who want you to communicate their messages how this or that aligns with the stated values if it is not immediately apparent – after all, if you can’t see the alignment from your viewpoint what hope has everyone else got
  4. Use the stated values as ‘frames’ to explore and unpack the meaning of events/developments for the people they touch, as opposed to simply conveying the facts of the matter and leaving folk to come to their own conclusions about what it might mean for them and their work

All of us have our own personal pattern of priority values. We flourish in environments where we can bring our best self to the fore.

We are wired to seek connection and to find a place to work and learn which is meaningful in ways that matter to us as people.

When organisations have clarity about the shared values at the core of their culture, using those values to consciously shape how they communicate both internally and externally massively increases the opportunities for truly human connections to form.

And that matters. As Henry Mintzberg, a great researcher and writer on leadership and management, says

“Effective organisations are communities of human beings, not collections of human resources.”

It is my belief that communicators hold a powerful position. We can gently but firmly remind decision makers that ‘the organisation’ is a collection of individuals just trying to achieve something worthwhile together and that treating ‘it’ as a flow diagram or structure chart rarely, if ever, produces the best results.

Being as ‘human’ as Wellbeing Teams may not feel like option for your organisation, but do try to use the stated values to do what you can with what you have: even just a little more humanity can make things feel a whole lot less alien.

Post author: Jackie Le Fevre.

Thank you Jackie, I couldn’t agree more with your thoughts around what an organisation is and the importance of using stating values well.

What do you think? As ever, you’re welcome to comment below, to find Jackie on Twitter @Magmaeffect or Tweet me @AllthingsIC.

Further reading about values on the All Things IC blog

First published on the All Things IC blog 3 December 2018.






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