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Creating a values based business

The term ‘we are a values based business’ gets thrown around a lot. At a personal level values underpin how we behave and our sense of what is right and wrong, good or bad. Organisational values shape the culture, underpin the brand (reputation) and set a platform for expectations around behaviour, performance and decision making – “how does this align to our values?”.

I’ve worked in organisations that have undertaken values setting programmes. Where staff at all levels have been involved it has generated interest, resulting in improved engagement and motivation. People support what they have helped to design. The trouble is how to keep those values alive and embed them into everyday working.

Where there is a disconnect between what is promoted and what is actually delivered this, over time, erodes trust and engagement. Where managers are not ‘walking the talk’ this disconnect cuts even deeper. It’s a bit like being promised a party goody bag of treats and receiving a bag full of sour worms. Fine if you like sour worms, but otherwise leaves you with that feeling of ‘over promise and under deliver’.

A recent article in the CIPD journal, People Management, on this topic caught my eye.

UKRD, a radio station in the UK, have for two years running scored the top spot in the ‘Best Companies’ list. They put it down to creating a values based business environment.

UKRD work to six core values: Open, Honest, Fair, Fun, Professional, Unconventional.

UKRD six core values for success


Being open-minded to new ways of thinking, being open to criticism constructively delivered from wherever it may come and the welcoming of new ideas and opportunities. A requirement not just to hear but to listen.


The reflection of views and opinions delivered in a considered but clear and frank way. Expressing your real opinion, upward or downward, and an obligation to deal ethically and with integrity with colleagues and customers.


A requirement to consider fairness in the broadest sense of the word. Fairness to the business, to colleagues, to customers and, on occasion, to all in balance. What appears to be fair at first sight may be less fair after due consideration


Enjoy work. Whether it be spontaneous or organized, delivering an environment in which a smile hits the faces of you and your colleagues on a regular basis is the responsibility of all.


The highest standards of commitment and delivery across all areas of responsibility for which an individual, at any level, may have. Delivering on commitments, honouring obligations and respecting those things that make a difference to the reputation of the company and those that work for it.


Be different, try different things and challenge the norm. It may be “done that way”, but should it be? Innovate, take risks and be prepared to fail.

Source: CIPD People Management, August 2012.

UKRD are clear that their values are not about having a decent public face for the company, instead they go to the heart of their business decision making and around how the business engages with their people.

So how do UKRD keep these guiding values alive, kicking and relevant? Sharing of information widely, listening and being prepared to change, having regular conversations with staff, having regular one-to-ones between staff and the chief executive & senior leaders, upskilling staff and managers alike to have ‘courageous conversations’, travelling managers building in 15 minutes after a meeting ends to say goodbye to all. All simple to deliver but effective.

What about when people aren’t working to the values?

Their chief executive, William Rogers, suggests by taking action when people aren’t working to them, “people have left our business because they didn’t get it and people have joined our business because they do get it.” The company is uncompromising in cementing those values, “Two senior managers were removed from our organisation because they couldn’t deliver management in a style that reflected those values. Great sales people have been removed or have left because they couldn’t operate within those values”.

Rogers shares his personal example of living the values “one of the things I delight in most is when I get pulled aside by someone in our organisation who wants to challenge the way we do something”. Rogers suggests “focus on the culture and values of the business and the rest would come; in tough times that is important.”

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