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13 Sep 2021


As we start to slowly open up again towards a post Covid world, how fit for purpose are our company values?

Are they still appropriate for that business critical need to respond to changing customer and employee behaviour?

Probably not.

But in most cases this won’t involve changing those words used for values. Even though many of them are seen as platitudinous. This would be a major exercise. And as many companies are in survival mode that exercise may be seen as a daunting task.

So the focus should be on ways that existing values can be given a ‘twist’ as to how they are interpreted to match current needs and how employees behave as a result.

In the middle of lockdown last year, we ran a short survey in co-operation with Staffbase. This identified the positive behaviour which we were starting to adopt during the pandemic.

Four key findings were:

Our increasing ability to work more flexibly

So if a company value is that ubiquitous word ‘Innovative’ (which all companies should be anyway) a key resulting behaviour could be to constantly seek more innovative ways of working – using the equally ubiquitous hybrid model for instance. In this case, the twist on ‘Innovative’ could be ‘Smart’ – to describe this new working practice.

Encouraging our colleagues to create a healthier work life balance

The word ‘Caring’ is regularly used by the NHS in terms of patient care. This is obviously paramount. But for them and others who use ‘Caring’ as a value, it could also be applied to how we must be both mindful and act upon the need for everyone to enjoy a healthier balance between work and home life. So how about ‘Considerate’ being the twist word here?

Taking more ownership of our actions and being more accountable

‘Empowerment’ and ‘Accountability’ are both commonly used values. But again, implications of this on resulting behaviour should also be made clearer. Taking ownership and being accountable for what we do should both be encouraged amongst all employees who, in turn, should also be allowed to learn from their mistakes. ‘Responsible’ is a twist word which describes this better. It’s also a clearer guide to behaviour.

Feeling more responsible for the customer experience rather than just leaving this to customer facing staff

As we’ve all had to cover more for each other during the pandemic, this is an important working practice which shouldn’t be lost.

The most commonly (over!) used value is ‘Trust’. So rather than this just being interpreted as trustworthy (which all organisations and people should be) resulting behaviour should focus on enabling each employee and function to feel that they are entrusted. This means they are all ‘Committed’ (as the twist word)  to delivering the desired customer experience.

These four ‘twist’ words – Smart, Considerate, Responsible and Committed – all have a strong call to action feel to them, which fits with the new era.

But how can such actions be embedded day to day?

Let’s tap into another research finding in a Covid Work Experience report from HSM. This found that 45% of people have been turning to immediate co-workers, not managers or leaders, for impactful support during the pandemic.

A further value word to describe this could be ‘Mutuality’.  This is already one of the Five Mars Company Principles.

We’ve all had to re-evaluate our lives during the pandemic. Outside of work for instance, this has involved looking out for our neighbours and helping them more. This is mutuality in action.

So let’s not wait for any formal update of the company values. Instead let’s turn to our immediate teams and mutually decide on those twist words which will guide the behaviour that matches current post Covid needs.

We’ll all be better for it.

And that’s valuable.