When Your Values Are Not Evenly Distilled

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I traveled on Air Peace for the first time this weekend. The flight from Lagos to Warri was pleasant and smooth. Good customer service at the Lagos Airport and the flight took off fairly on time, which was not too bad considering the experience we’ve had from other airlines in the industry in recent times. But, it was a completely different story returning to Lagos via the Benin airport on Sunday afternoon.

We got there, and found out that checking in was chaotic. Standing in front of the Check in counter and it being your turn to be attended to, did not guarantee that you would be attended to. Names were being brought from places nobody knew. It didn’t matter that you had priority attendance because you held a business class ticket.

After struggling to get your boarding pass and being about to be checked into the plane also came with additional challenges of bad customer service. I was not the only one who suffered this shambolic treatment. Many other passengers had to tell the check in officials that they needed to ensure that customers were treated well and those with a higher class ticket should get the service they paid extra for.

This fell on deaf ears and the attitude of the check in officials was very negative. I am sure this type of behavior is not what the airline’s management wants for its business. But one person in one location has decided to behave contrary to the values the business wants to portray.

I say this because, I enjoyed good service in one location and very poor service in another location, with the same organisation. What this suggests, is that the business has tried to instill good customer values, but some people have not imbibed these values sufficiently and consistently across the business. This has ramifications for the business, especially because it is a service oriented business.

What appears to be happening is that the airline has taught its staff the requisite skills and techniques to get its work done, which is easy to do, but may be finding it difficult to ensure that its beliefs, values and attitudes are being imbibed, which is much harder to achieve. This is why there is an unevenness in the quality of service I received in the two locations.

According to Michael Hyatt, the author of the New York Times bestseller, Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World, who said, “it is crucial to translate the core values into behaviors that are easy to understand by your employees” and Amin Palizban, from his article on How to Communicate and Integrate Your Core Values Into Your Organisation, who both identified 6 ways to communicate the core values to every member of the organization as indicated below:

• Living the values – Leading by example is the best communication tool any leader possesses. A survey conducted by Deloitte has found that 70% of the employees who agreed that their companies had performed well financially said their executive management team speaks to them often about the core values associated with the culture of the company. Albert Bandura, a famous psychologist, coined the term “observational learning” – human beings are social and learn by observing others. Therefore, it is important for you and others in your organisation that have influence to live the values so that others can learn. Can it be that the values were not being exhibited by the
leadership in the said location?

• Teaching the values – Integrating the values into new employees’ orientation training program. It is helpful to tell the story or the reason behind each value chosen and what your organisation expects in terms of behaviours related to the values. An interesting data from “Recognition Linked to Core Values Delivers Increased ROI” shows that 88% of employees who know their core values say they are engaged compared to 54% of respondents who say they did not know any of their company’s core values.

• Recognising the values – Reinforcing the behaviours of people who are demonstrating the core values by rewarding them in real time. Based on the article “Recognition Linked to Core Values Delivers Increased ROI”, 79% of employees say recognition tied to core values gave them a stronger sense of company goals and objectives. Some companies would have the “Core Value Employee of the Month” where every member of the organisation vote for the person they view as endorsing the core values of the company the most, and this person is recognized company wide.

• Hiring new people based on the values – Recruiting people who already have values that are in alignment with the company’s core values. This point is linked to the Competency Iceberg model which demonstrates that 20% of an individual (above the surface of an iceberg) is mostly the technical competencies i.e. education, work experience, whereas 80% (the hidden/below the surface of an iceberg) is all about the essence of the individual i.e. values and beliefs. Competency-based recruiting has been focusing on hiring people based on the “below the surface” competencies as those cannot be trained. You can always easily train a person on how to do a job, but it becomes much harder to train a person to have the same values as your organisation.

• Reviewing people based on the values – Incorporating core values as part of your performance management process. Each core value comes with a set of behaviors that are measurable and specific that forms part of performance review. Reviewing people based on values is interrelated with rewarding people for demonstrating the values. During performance reviews, your managers can coach and support employees on how to demonstrate the core values which eventually lead to recognition and rewards.

• Letting people go based on values – As mentioned above, it is very hard to train a person to behave consistently in alignment with core values if they don’t truly have those values themselves. No matter how good of a performer that employee is, at the end of the day, your organization needs to maintain its credibility and commitment to its core values. Ensure that people who stay in the company have the ability to demonstrate behaviors related to the core values. For example, if being ethical or customer service oriented is the key to your core values, it would be detrimental to keep an employee who is not living these values like being rude to customers, no matter how well he is doing his job.

One employee has the power to destroy your brand by not living your organisation’s values. Distill your values with diligence.