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This article was published 18/3/2017 (1685 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
There’s a lot of buzz about values circulating around the various ongoing Canadian leadership races. And we aren’t alone, as U.S. President Donald Trump has quickly made his beliefs known by directing new initiatives toward accepting only those country entrants who have similar values.
If you think about it, every community and/or country has its own values.
However, a key part of this challenge is the whole issue of confirming what values are important and then determining specific ways and means to "test" for them.
While many people will scoff at the direction this apparent values "movement" is taking, it might surprise you to know that the same issue of values is found in corporate and organizational life. However, let’s back up a moment and look at the concept of values more closely.
What are values?
The simple answer is values are moral principles, sometimes called internalized "right" principles that guide individuals toward knowing what is right or wrong. These values reflect one’s personal character and show the world what they consider to be worth striving for. These principles or values then guide one’s everyday life.
A list of personal moral principles is very long but include such elements as showing respect, caring for people, equality, service, responsibility, hard work, honesty and ethics, being accountable and/or contributing back to one’s community.
On the other hand, shared values at a "country" level are typically unique to a historic culture and not necessarily shared by others across the world. Canada, for instance, values elements such as freedom of speech and religion, as well as multiculturalism. As a democratic society, Canada is accepting and tolerant of others and treats people with respect and dignity. Canadians also are known for being modest and polite.
The same concept of values applies to every organization, be it an industry sector corporation, a not-for-profit agency or a government department.
Each of these attempts to create and build shared values. While there may be many common values, each is also unique. For instance, corporations typically value speed of service and revenue generation while not-for-profits focus on programs and services. Government departments focus on democracy, stewardship, responsiveness and protection.
So the next question is where and how are values learned?
First, values are learned through one’s family and parental conditioning when growing up. Then, as young children enter school or religious training, their values are validated and expanded through community socialization. As individuals enter the work world, they will encounter the values of their employer.
At this point, values have become an interesting issue — especially for a new employee. One of the first things organizations do is to engage a new employee in an orientation program. The program is not just designed to show the employee his or her new job but to help them understand the values and the "rules of the game" they will need to absorb in order to be successful. The program goal is to help the new employee understand the culture and values so that they "fit" into the organization.
Values and organization culture have a physical and psychological impact, as well. In other words, if an individual doesn’t "fit" into the organization, that person can sense it as well as physically feel it. The issue of "fit" can cause anxiety because the new employee will begin to feel he or she does not belong.
Sometimes the orientation and adaptation of values happens very quickly. Before you know it, the new employee is espousing the values of the employer at every turn. Others new employees may take up to one year to absorb their new value framework while others may find they simply don’t fit and will soon leave the organization.
Another challenge regarding values is they can change quickly. This occurs when there is a leadership change and/or when the overall corporate values change. Just ask those TD Bank tellers who reported that a change in values from client service to aggressive sales quotas led to dishonest client charges in order to meet their new goals.
As you can see, values — either at the national, government, corporate or personal level — are a lot more complex than one might think. And that creates the challenge of how to assess individual values. In other words: how can corporate leaders be assured that a new employee’s values will fit with their culture? How does one "test" for this?
Some organizations are now applying an online integrity test to assess the personal values of their potential candidates and match these to corporate values. Still others are now more systematically applying psychometric assessments, personality tests and character assessments as a means to try to understand who their candidate really is. They then use the results to select a successful candidate.
Yet there are numerous small-business owners and not-for-profit organizations that do not have the funds to purchase these online assessments. They need to make the best of what they have and that is using a solid question format to interview their candidates.
The art of asking questions has become just that — an art! That’s because it was recognized the way a question is framed could lead to an inappropriate answer that is meaningless in terms of determining one’s values. For instance, asking an individual question such as "Do you work hard?" is absolutely useless.
Over the past 20 years, the world of human resources in almost every industry sector has thus turned to a questioning strategy called the behavioural interview technique. In this type of job interview, questions are considered to be far more effective in predicting future behavior than those that solicit a simple yes/no answer. That’s because behavioural questions are framed around how a candidate has managed specific situations in the past.
Behavioural questions are essentially "deep dives" into a candidate’s experience. They require detailed responses describing a specific situation, challenge or problem and how it was resolved. The question style expects a logical, detailed outline of how a situation was managed, what role a candidate played and what the result was. As well, the question often provides an opportunity to discuss what was learned and how a similar situation would be handled in future. Essentially, responding to a behavioural question is the art of telling a story of how a candidate accomplished something and/or overcame the challenge described.
So, what does a behavioural question look like? How is it framed? Questions usually start with the phrase, "Tell me about a time." Sometimes the interviewer will give a bit more of a situation and then ask how the candidate has dealt with a similar situation.
However, no matter how complex the question is, the candidate is expected to tell a logical story of how their previous behaviour enabled them to overcome the challenge described. The strategy is effective because the interviewer can easily discriminate between real and made-up experience.
While these questions are quite effective in identifying the skills, thinking strategy and values that a candidate possesses as they go about life and work, the process is still not foolproof.
Good communicators who can talk their way around any obstacle are particularly challenging but for the most part, behavioural questions gather quite accurate responses.
If this strategy might work for you, check out the internet because today, there are multiple examples of behavioural questions that can be applied to your workplace. However, be sure to follow provincial legislation and avoid questions that are inappropriate or that violate human rights.
Barbara J. Bowes, FCPHR, CMC, CCP, M.Ed, is president of Legacy Bowes Group in Winnipeg. She is also an author, professional speaker, workshop leader and executive coach. She can be reached at email@example.com and/or barbarabowes.com.