Apr 6

Business values: myth or reality?

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Business values: myth or reality?

We hear lots of organisations speak about their values especially in terms of fairness and equality. A lot of the time you are left wondering if this is simply virtue signalling rather than the truth. What does an organisation that REALLY lives its values look like?

Finding talent

Anyone in the UK will be familiar with the Timpson brand – it’s a family business that primarily focuses on shoe repairs, though it is now quite a diverse business. Five generations of Timpsons have been involved since the first Timpson shop was opened in Manchester in 1869.

Timpsons are aware that they are fortunate to have a successful business, but also believe that with success comes a great deal of responsibility. In 2002 the CEO James Timpson visited a local prison. He was impressed with one of the young men he met and felt he would be someone who would do really well in the business. After being released from prison James offered him a job and the individual went on to become one of Timpsons most successful branch managers.  

James realised there must be more great people in our prisons, and from that moment on, decided to pro-actively recruit ex-offenders. Today Timpson employs around 540 people who have left prison, which is around 10% of its workforce.

Why does Timpson do this, the following quote is  from the Timpson Foundation:

We believe in giving people a second chance. We don’t judge people on what they have done in the past, preferring instead to focus on what they can do in the future.

Timpson Foundation web site

This approach sets out that not only do Timpsons have strong organisational values, but they also fully enact them.

What about other businesses?

A quick Google of some well-known companies comes up with value statements such as:

  • We value difference/we value every person.
  • We harness the power of diversity and inclusion in our business, trust those we work with, and value everyone’s contribution.
  • Our Values and Behaviours are the foundations of our culture; our guiding light and our moral compass.
  • …(we) make sure nobody is excluded, discriminated against or left behind.

Nothing wrong with these as aspirational statements, but unlike with Timpson, you find it really hard to find solid examples of where these values are actually put into practice.

It’s food for thought:

Is your business all message and no substance?

What will you do about it?

Timpson explains the benefit of their more unusual approach to recruitment as follows:

“The vast majority of ex-offenders we recruit are extremely loyal, productive, hardworking and make excellent colleagues. Many have been promoted and fully grasped the second chance they have been given.”

I am sure the vast majority of ex-offenders know that they are never going to get a job in a Bank or working with young or vulnerable people. However, how many of them are given a second chance noting that locking people up in prisons costs the UK taxpayer £11 billion per year?

Paraphrasing one of the values mentioned above “we value everyone’s contribution”, I’d ask if this is this something you can hand on heart say really happens in your business?

Values mean more than the odd bit of fundraising on a headline charity day, they have to be an essential part of your business to have any real meaning. For Timpson it is quite clear that they really do live their values. If your business doesn’t, what does that say about your organisation? More importantly, what might that say about you?

Its not an abstract issue, younger workers are increasingly turning down job offers with companies where their ethos or values misalign with their own. Let this run on long enough and good luck staffing and growing your business in the future.

Further food for thought:

Do you judge people on their past or their potential?

If you want to explore your personal values or talk through ideas about how you might change your business  why not get in touch… Creating extraordinary results often means ignoring the status quo and making courageous decisions.

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