The operating system of most organizations is written into its culture. Good or bad, workplace culture is what shapes how we do things, including how we interact with and treat our coworkers.
At the heart of workplace culture is values. If we value openness, for example, the way we approach a disagreement might be quite different than if we value harmony or subordination.
Most companies these days have some stated values. Unfortunately, most of these values don’t really shape culture because they were derived to check a box (we need some values…) rather than to provide a framework and foundation for how work and business gets done.
Even those who take their values seriously typically start the process by thinking about the business they are in and the experience they wish to show customers. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it begs the question, what about the employees? What about the people who are most heavily influenced by these values (and those who play the biggest role in creating customer experience)?
For years, we’ve been writing about making work more human, because when an organization creates an experience of work where people feel whole and accepted, they will be rewarded with greater effort, creativity and commitment.
A truly human organization is one that builds a culture where humans can have this experience. Regardless of the business, if people feel they work for a place that truly understands, embraces and supports them, they will do whatever it takes to create success.
All of this leads to the question, what would the values of a workplace culture designed for humans look like?
Take a minute and reflect on this. If you were given an investment to start a human-friendly company from scratch, but you had to define the core values for your culture before you could define what business you were in, what values would you choose?
As I’ve reflected on this question, here’s a list of the values I would include:
- Forgiveness – Everyone makes mistakes, so we forgive and forget quickly.
- Acceptance – What makes us different makes us invaluable. We embrace everyone as they are.
- Progress – Our direction is forward. We grow individually so that we can move forward together.
- Love – Our hearts lead our actions. We appreciate, embrace and lift others up.
- Cooperation – Together, we can achieve anything if we commit to each other’s success.
- Openness – Communication flows like water here. We believe that truth is power and we have no room for secrets.
What values would be on your list? What did I miss?
It’s fun to think about what work would feel like in an organization whose workplace culture had these values at its core. I’m betting it would feel pretty good, regardless of the type of business you’re in.
If you were designing an organization from scratch with this culture, how might you do it? What implications would it have on how you organize and manage work? How would you hire and train people? Who would emerge as leaders? How would you handle performance or behavior issues?
If you really want to create more human work experiences that unleash individual and collective potential, these are the questions you need to wrestle with. While you might not be in a position to add “forgiveness” to your organization’s core values, that doesn’t mean you can’t start designing more of it into how work happens (or at the very least, how you do things).