By carefully defining their values, businesses have the chance to share their core beliefs and commitments with their employees, says Iain Thomson, from Sodexo Benefits and Rewards Services.

These ideals can take the form of a mission statement such as Twitter’s – “To give everyone the power to create and share ideas and information instantly, without barriers” – or they can simply be a list of values, as we’ve seen with Adidas: performance, passion, integrity and diversity.

Whilst some values might need explaining at first, the purpose of these values is to capture the aims and character of an organisation and align all work and employees accordingly. When used successfully, values can be used to inform all functions within a business, whether dealing with clients or employees, with the ultimate aim of helping everyone in the business to make their decisions and choices with consideration of the company’s ethos.

Values aren’t set in stone

Agreeing on a company’s values is an important exercise for businesses of all sizes, as it helps employees to understand what the business is looking to achieve – and how they want to achieve it. However, as time passes and the business grows and matures, it is important to reassess these values, adapt them to reflect any changes and ensure that employees are still on board.

The way in which staff behave will ultimately dictate the kind of culture a company has, so it is vital that employees understand the link between their behaviour and the company’s values. After all, the resulting culture will not only influence the day-to-day working environment, but also how a business attracts and retains talent and how the business is seen by the wider world.

Turning values into reality

But how can businesses align employees’ behaviour with their values? One solution is to recognise and reward behaviours that embody the values of the business. A recognition and reward programme that specifically looks to support these core values can be extremely effective.

The key here will be to define these values in practical terms. For example, a business may value “innovation” – but what does “being innovative” actually look like within the context of the employee’s role? Likewise, if ‘passion’ is a value, then dedication, hard work and loyalty to the company should be rewarded; if it’s diversity, the recognition scheme should reward employees who are actively supporting and encouraging diversity.

When implementing a new value, particularly within an established team, innovative communication supported with tactical reward will help individuals acknowledge and embrace the change. For example, if teamwork is a new value in a typically competitive and siloed working culture, employees could be rewarded for providing three examples of where teamwork produced a positive result for the company. Without these specific metrics in place, the company will simply be rewarding ‘good results’ and not behaviour which supports the new value.

A good recognition programme should also see each employee as an individual. People can share values but they don’t have to share personalities. In order to cater for these differences, it is important to offer both variety and flexibility in an incentives and rewards scheme. Different employees will obviously have different interests, so businesses will need to understand which rewards will be the most desirable – and therefore the most motivating.

There is a vast number of rewards on offer to employers, from vouchers, gift cards and e-codes to prepaid cash cards and experiential travel or lifestyle activities. Employers can use all of these to recognise and reward those employees who are demonstrating their values and by sharing their recognition across the organisation, will inspire others to do the same. The best solution will vary from one business to another, depending on its people, but employers will achieve the best results when their rewards are linked closely to the values they are trying to uphold.

Iain Thomson, is Director of Incentive & Recognition, Sodexo Benefits and Rewards Services