How values-based leadership builds strong employer brands

Today I did a quick search for open life science and biotech jobs on the careers website, Indeed, to get a reality check on the landscape my clients face. I found more than 4,500 postings in the San Francisco Bay Area alone. For job seekers there’s abundant opportunity; for employers, intense competition for talent.

So how can you make your company stand out in such a competitive market? You tell a compelling employer brand story rooted in purpose and aligned with a meaningful brand mission. You also foster a magnetic “success” culture – a culture that helps attract people with the right skills and mindsets to fuel your company’s value creation efforts.

A healthy and well-articulated culture is the centerpiece for attracting, retaining and inspiring principled employees. Success cultures happen when leaders make a conscious commitment to live by a set of values that create an environment where goals are met and everyone can thrive. 

Fostering a Success Culture

To foster a success culture, start with your people. Here’s how:

Get an authentic read on your current culture.

  1. Talk with a representative sample of leaders and employees.
  2. Listen for themes and perceptions of the principles that guide the way work gets done, decisions get made and information gets shared.
  3. Examine what actions get rewarded and how people interact.
  4. Look for the positives and the negatives.
  5. Identify the three or four Core Values that serve as the foundation of your culture.
  6. Reflect on the input to create a list of specific behaviors that define the values. Involving your people in this effort will provide important perspective and create buy-in.
  7. Ensure the behaviors are relevant no matter what job people do and are distinctive to your company.

Identify missing but essential behaviors for creating a magnetic success culture.

  1. Consider how people will need to act to build the reputation that will support your business strategy and drive brand allegiance. Recognize that brands are built from the inside, out.
  2. Identify two or three future themes that are key to success.
  3. Use those themes as a lens to review and refine the values to add behaviors that are missing. For example, to execute on your strategy your team may need to be more agile, innovative or better able to create productive partnerships. Perhaps these behaviors exist to some extent in your current culture, but need more cultivation.
  4. Assess the negative aspects of your current culture and ensure the behavior statements address these concerns.
  5. Expand the Core Values and behavior statements to include these new, more operational elements.

With consistent communication and focus, leaders can operationalize essential values behaviors and embed them into the cultural bedrock. This is Values-Based Leadership.

Taking a Values-Based Leadership Approach

Values-Based Leadership is communications centric. It is the practice of linking back to the values and ensuring that the way you get results is consistent with your stated values.  

Values-Based Leadership is not a matter of adding another 20 things to your already overfilled day. Instead, it’s about seizing natural opportunities to do all the things you already do in a way that amplifies the importance of your company values and consistently demonstrates that culture matters.

Here are some common activities you might perform on any given day in the office. Think about how you might do each of them in a manner that models and reinforces your stated values and behaviors.

Benefits of Values-Based Leadership

When employees consistently experience a healthy company culture, they work better together because they know what to expect from each other. This minimizes politics and time wasted on unproductive behaviors so vital work energy can be spent on making a difference, as a team. From here, word spreads and that’s how Values-Based Leadership builds a strong employer brand.

Leading By Example

Just before launching the company values at Aduro, I heard Harry Kraemer, professor at the Kellogg School of Management and former CEO of Baxter International, speak at their company All Hands meeting. One of his main themes was the importance of being your best self every day. To him, the heart of Values-Based Leadership is using the company values as a touchstone for your actions and decisions. When leaders do, employees will too.

When it comes to upholding company values, everyone can be a leader and help create a magnetic success culture where everyone thrives and top talent is eager to come to work!

Harry Kraemer is the author of Becoming the Best: Build a World-Class Organization Through Values-Based Leadership and From Values to Action: The Four Principles of Values-Based Leadership. He is a well-known advocate for Values-Based Leadership and I highly recommend his books if you’re interested in adopting a mindset that will truly change your organization for the better.

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