By Claire West

40% of employees report that individuals whose behaviour consistently goes against the values of the organisations they work for are either left unpunished or are rewarded or promoted.

This is according to research launched on the first day of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) annual conference and exhibition.

Only a third (33%) of those asked said that individuals were reprimanded for consistent rule breaking, indicating that employers are not doing enough to ensure that their business values are being upheld.

Just over half (52%) of the 2,000 employees surveyed for the latest CIPD Employee Outlook report agreed that their organisation's values positively influence behaviour at work. The top reason cited by employees who don't believe values have an impact on people's behaviours and decisions in the private sector is that profit is placed ahead of organisational values. The most cited reason by those in the public sector is that there is one rule for senior managers and one rule for everyone else, highlighting the importance of consistency and accountability at all levels within the organisation.
The research suggests that communication of values is also a problem as less than a third (29%) of employees say they are aware of the values of the organisation they work for to a great extent. Businesses are also failing to match their values to those of their workforce with just 6 in 10 (58%) of employees reporting that their personal values match those of the organisations they work for.
Despite these findings most employees recognise the significance of organisational values, with almost three quarters (73%) stating that it is important for organisations to have defined values which govern employee behaviour. The research suggests that there is currently a disconnect between what employees expect and the way that values are currently embedded and upheld by business leaders.
Peter Cheese, CEO at the CIPD, said: “In the wake of the banking crisis and other corporate scandals, now more than ever, organisational values should be at the forefront of business leaders’ minds. At the heart of an organisation’s culture has to be a set of agreed values that resonate with employees at all levels from the board to the front line in order to provide a template for the behaviours and standards expected.
“Employers must also demonstrate that failure to act in accordance with the organisation’s defined values has real consequences. Unless business leaders and HR are prepared to take a stand and ensure that their organisational values are seen to make a difference and are worth more than a passing reference in the company report or on the intranet, then they will lose the trust and confidence of staff.”
Also commenting, Claire McCartney, Research Adviser at the CIPD, said: “The big challenge facing employers is how to embed values so they are meaningful. HR professionals have a key role to play in ensuring that values personally resonate with employees. Involving employees in the values creation process will certainly help to make them more meaningful and integrating values into people management processes and the way people do their jobs will also help to ensure values matter.
“Our evidence shows that there is currently a disconnect between business values and the personal values of employees. In view of this it is unsurprising that only half believe that organisations’ values positively influence people’s behaviour. This imbalance needs to be urgently addressed if we are to really see a new era of improved business culture.”