November 22, 2019

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Opinion

Why we remember

Remembrance Day reminds us to thank those who died to protect our way of life

Remembrance Day is upon us and with such disruption in the world, it is indeed time to reflect not only on the past but also on what lies ahead for our future. It is time to say thanks to those who lost their lives in past wars. They died for Canada. They died protecting our Canadian values. They died protecting our future.

But just what are Canadian values?

Fred Chartrand / The Canadian Press</p><p>Two pairs of combat boots with poppies are shown at the foot of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the National War Memorial during a ceremony for the D-Day 75th Anniversary in Ottawa earlier this year.</p>

Fred Chartrand / The Canadian Press

Two pairs of combat boots with poppies are shown at the foot of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the National War Memorial during a ceremony for the D-Day 75th Anniversary in Ottawa earlier this year.

Some suggest our greatest value is a focus on freedom. Freedom to participate in political and cultural events and even protests. It is the freedom to live under a government that we play a role in choosing, a belief in the equality of law with respect to women and men, respect for different cultures and respect for the safety and peace that we experience in Canada. And, of course, we have two other values that we have become famous for, that of being polite and our sport of hockey.

As you might expect, our values and national character translate into how we run our organizations and treat our employees. Leaders are expected to work with shareholders and/or their community board to not only create organizational values but to uphold their values. The values then help to create the personality and/or culture of an organization, and it is this "personality" that is used to attract and retain employees and to develop lasting relationships with vendors, customers and stakeholder communities. As well, once employed, individuals are expected to understand and align themselves with the organizational values and to thrive within the culture of the organization.

Yet, stating a set of values and living those values at work are two different things. Too often, organization values become nothing more than a list of words tacked onto a bulletin board. People are not aware of them and no one follows them and, as a result, they do not translate into work behaviour in the organization. In other words, the values have become nothing more than window dressing and, in some cases, employees and customers actually laugh at the values as though they were a cruel joke.

Organizational values play a key role in determining the reputation of an organization and can be a powerful tool for recruiting and retaining long-term, loyal staff. Values should play a role in creating a framework for making tough decisions, especially when staff members are faced with ambiguity and/or conflicting issues. Values also serve to guide both leader and employee actions and they help to unite employees so that there is consistency in how things are done, thus creating a strong organizational culture.

The challenge, however, is how to select values that are truly meaningful and can be incorporated into all your processes inclusive of human resources, finance, marketing, public relations and other operational areas. The following suggestions will help you to map out a set of values:

Plan for involvement: Planning to have senior executives alone determine the organizational values doesn’t work. Yes, as leaders, they are the ones needed to show passion and purpose. But their enthusiasm must trickle down to all employees. Therefore, I suggest a series of focus groups be conducted to engage employees in creating organizational values. Learn what all levels of employee groups value. Why did they choose to work for you? Summarize the values from each group and find common ground.

Refine and define There are so many buzzwords used today that sound nice but don’t mean much. They are cookie-cutter generic words that can’t easily be translated into concrete action and frankly make your organization sound like everyone else’s. Take time to really examine what your words mean and define them in relation to the nature of your business. As well, be careful to limit the core values to no more than seven that have true, deep meaning.

Translate into action: Once you have a list of values, it’s important to discuss, debate and specifically describe what this means for the organization. How can these new values be applied? How do you want the organization to live by the values? What do you want employees to be doing to demonstrate they live by the values?

Finalize and solidify: Once the values have been determined, it is important to operationalize them. This means incorporating them into your human-resource policy manuals and human-resource functions, such as recruitment and performance management. These values also need to be incorporated into everything you do, including your marketing materials and your customer-service philosophy. It needs to be "present" throughout the organization.

Launch the values: Creating and/or revising organizational values is a big deal that is deserving of a special-event launch. This is especially important as a key strategy for getting personal commitment from employees. That’s because if there is no personal commitment, employees will not be sufficiently engaged, which in turn will impact productivity as well as employee turnover.

Train, train, train: A training program needs to be developed that will help employees understand the importance of values to the organization and what each value means with respect to employee behaviour. Training that uses role plays of potential scenarios will help employees apply the values in real-life situations. This makes the values become real and will help to build a consistent organizational culture.

Celebrate and reward: Organizations that provide rewards for values-based behaviour are known for their higher levels of job satisfaction and employee engagement. Therefore, it is important to find ways to honour individual employees who are champions of the organizational culture. This might be an employee-of-the-month program, a writeup in the company website or internal newsletter or simply a thank-you card. Find ways to reward individuals who go out of their way to protect the organization from difficult situations and relate this back to the importance of values.

Values are the cement that holds us together both organizationally and nationally. As mentioned earlier, on the national scene, Canadians value freedom and the ability to choose our government. In an organizational situation, employees value the freedom to be involved and consulted in shaping their corporate values.

However, employees also know and value the fact that Remembrance Day is a time to say thanks to those who made the ultimate sacrifice fighting for the Canadian values we apply every day at work and at home. And finally, employees know it is also time to say thanks for those in our current armed forces who are still fighting for these values.

Source: Why Remember? Veterans Affairs Canada, nd.

Barbara J. Bowes, FCPHR, CMC, CCP, M.Ed., is president of Legacy Bowes Group, the author of eight books, a radio personality, a speaker, an executive coach and a workshop leader. Additionally, she is chairwoman for the Manitoba Women’s Advisory Council. She can be reached at barb@legacybowes.com.

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