The Meaning of Organisational Values. An Interview with Pansensic CEO

Eleanor Barlow

From quaint start-ups to great corporate beasts. Organisational values affect us all.

Office Culture

Today we are joined by the CEO of Pansensic, Paul Howarth. Paul, what are your beliefs when it comes to organisational values?

Paul Howarth: ‘I believe organisational values are exceedingly important. They are important because they strongly influence company behaviours. These behaviours become the company culture. Get the organisational values right from day one you can affect the culture in a positive/negative way. Depending on the values you implement of course.

Often people don’t live by the values they preach. Words on a motivational poster mean very little if they are not actually acted upon. Establishing values is a useless process if no real changes are made.

Perhaps the best example I have seen is at Guys and St Thomas’ Hospital, London. This hospital is colossal. Values here are implemented within every level of the organisation, despite its size. Leadership, middle management and front-line staff. Everybody understands the core values. They are ingrained. When principles become habitual, these values become culture. Which means they are not just words on a form.

So, for me, organisational values can become behaviours. These behaviours can drive culture. Another factor of upholding values is that they provide everyone with a moral and corporate compass to follow.’

How would you define the term ‘values’?

Paul: ‘Values can mean very different things for different people, organisations, and type of leadership team.

In healthcare you might have values based around compassion and care. Whereas in a corporate organisation, the equivalent may be more customer-centric. There are many things that you can have as values. It depends on what matters to you as a company. Your values should be broader than your business objectives. So that you get to the values destination. As well as achieving your business objectives.’

Do you think that by having good values people feel more valued themselves, and then work harder?

Paul: ‘It depends on the values you set and what environment you are trying to create. The values you establish will determine the culture and working environment of your organisation. If you are trying to create an intimidating corporate office you can do so with certain values. If you want to fashion a relaxed coastal vibe (like we do) you can with values. It really depends on what the organisation wants from their employees. I see values more as the intangible aspects. Values encompass the moral and emotional qualities. But that’s just my personal preference.

Whether or not your organisation goes through a process to identify values or not, values are implicit. But often implied values are not well thought through. Because the company is in a very macho orientated industry you may have a macho management culture. This is not necessarily a good thing. 

Often values are inherited. Many originate from our heritage, social culture, class systems and so on.’

Dean Kamen said that…

'Nothing that has value,
real value, has no cost.
Not freedom, not food,
not shelter, not healthcare.'

What do you make of this quote?

Paul: ‘All these things do have costs. But it does not cost anything to be empathetic. Empathy is a value. A very useful value that is free to businesses. Not only is it free, but the behaviours that they drive become free. The culture this creates becomes free. It is a huge tool to get the best out of your organisation.’

So, how does Pansensic help businesses with their value compass?

Paul: ‘Organisations need to measure whether their business and its employees align to the desired values or not. These aspects can be difficult to measure. Little useful information is accumulated via quantitative analysis and, therefore, little can actually be acted upon and improved.

(Click here for our article on measuring the intangible.)

Pansensic steps in with qualitative data analysis. We can decipher people’s experiences, comments and stories.

Quantitative questions are usually set up in anticipation for a particular answer. Say a company has a survey. A question on this survey is ‘do you understand the company’s values?’. Yes or no will often be the only response. This is not useful. But, by using qualitative data, we can see exactly what people are saying. With this information you can decipher whether or not your values are being adhered to. And if not, why not.

It is living the values rather than stating the values that is crucial. Without living the values you are just dreaming.’

Thank you, Paul.

View our previous interview with Paul Howarth on Blockchain and the Wisdom of the Crowd.

(This interview has been edited for the purpose of clarity)

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