By Kathi Graham-Leviss
Values form the foundation of our attitudes, motivations, and behaviors, at home and at work. A person who values power will naturally embrace leadership positions, while a person who values support of others will often lean towards human relations or service oriented positions. Values are in large part an outcome of early life and career experiences and serve as the standard against which we measure our own, as well as others’, actions. While broad patterns of values exist within cultures, there are significant individual differences. When organizations ignore values and only consider skills, they miss out on valuable information about their people.Considering the large percentage of time people spend working, work experiences themselves play a key role in value formation. Values are reinforced through employee management and self-development programs. Effective company communication programs connect with the values of employees. Leaders must understand their employees’ value systems as part of their coaching process with staff members. Motivating employees includes relating work goals to employee values. The most effective leaders not only tap into employees’ existing values, but also emphasize values that are congruent with the organization. An employee’s self-awareness of his/her value system is a vital first step in self-development as it allows the individual to reflect on what work is most rewarding. This is an important part toward developing a career path.
Organizations are increasingly measuring values in a pre-employment context to better understand the fit that the individual has with a particular career as well as the organization’s own values. A healthcare organization often has different values than a consumer products organization. Likewise, individuals try to select jobs and organizations where they perceive high levels of fit between their own values and those of the position. While values do not predict job performance per se, the alignment of individual and job values is important in engagement and retention. The research demonstrates this.
Despite being relatively stable, values can, and do, shift over time and as individuals move through adulthood. The importance placed on a specific value can grow or diminish. Dramatic changes in one’s value system are not likely. For instance, an individual who highly valued Adventure early in his/her career may value this less over time with age and lifestyle changes, and begin to emphasize other values such as Power. Many organizations use socialization and training programs for new employees, attempting to further communicate, strengthen, and develop the organization’s values within their employees.
In a 2010 study of over 900 individual self-reported values, it is clear that the patterns of values differ significantly by XC InSight job categories. These categories were selected to capture the broad differences in competencies and job values. This recent study includes 8 values as shown in the chart below across 6 job types. The scores are standardized with a mean or average of 0, which allows us to look at what the top and bottom scoring values for each group are.
The XC InSight Values and Motivation Profile includes eight core values that drive an individual’s work behaviors. The Profile was developed for the business world building from existing values models (i.e., Schwartz’s model of universal values). The Values Profile was compared against XC InSight’s Competency Model, demonstrating that the Values are content valid and correlate to competencies that align with the value. The Profile provides insight into the values that have the strongest influence on an individual’s actions and decisions.
Those who score high in Altruism value work that involves service to others and contributes to the greater good of an organization/cause. Seeing others achieve and move forward is more rewarding to these individuals than personal gain.
Those who score high in Independence desire autonomy and prefer having flexibility and freedom in their job. These individuals take the initiative and set their own course based on their own judgment. Following the rules has lower priority.
Those who score high in Adventure are comfortable with unpredictability, thrive on taking calculated risks, and work well under pressure. They enjoy novel situations, competition, and tend to be thrill seekers.
Those who score high in Conceptual prefer work that is mentally stimulating and requires a high level of mental ability. They like to be seen as an expert, enjoy solving complex problems, and seek out learning opportunities to keep an active mind.
Those who score high in Achievement are driven to accomplish challenging goals. They push for results, stretching themselves and others to achieve more.
Those who score high in Creativity enjoy opportunities to be imaginative and inventive. They like to develop new ideas, methods and/or interpretations, and are driven by the need to express themselves in an original way.
Those who score high in Social value interactions and relationships with others. They enjoy helping and being of service to others. Relationships are a great source of satisfaction and fulfillment.
Power and Overt Influence
Those who score high in Power and Overt Influence seek recognition, prestige, authority, and/or control. They want to be respected by others and be seen as successful. Influencing others is a source of satisfaction and these individuals enjoy roles that require them to make decisions that are implemented by others.
Conceptual, Creativity, and Adventure values provide insight into how an individual prefers to engage at work. These tell us about one’s openness to change and preferences for stability and provide insights into the types of tasks that one finds stimulating. Values of Independence, Achievement, and Power and Overt Influence on the other hand provide information on an individual’s self-enhancement and self-reliance motives and the emphasis an individual places on developing and asserting him/herself. Lastly, Altruism and Social values provide insight into an individual’s motives to connect and relate to others. These help us understand the importance that an individual places on having contact with or helping others.
Value Patterns based on Job Type
Across the variety of jobs within an organization, it seems that specific values may be more prevalent for certain jobs. For example, a technical person may value Conceptual and Creativity, which is then reinforced through praise and successful performance. On the other hand, leadership positions emphasize other values such as Power. Additionally, at each level of increasing leadership there are some shifts in values. While these positions exhibit a similar pattern overall, Executive leaders generally place greater importance on the values of Adventure, Creativity, and Power.
One individual who is part of a high potential program is Jessica. She works for a major software development company and has been promoted to a Director, one year ago. The software is complex with long development cycles, which requires effective resource management and planning. Jessica’s position requires that she meet her division’s financial goals through her effective management, training, and development of her team. Jessica is a competent Director working well under pressure, setting and meeting difficult goals, and effectively leading those on her team. She recently completed the XC InSight Assessment as part of the company’s leadership development program. Included in the results was a summary of her values, the Values and Motivation Profile, which can help Jessica and her managers understand what motivates her in her role.
The Values Profile is beneficial in that it provides Jessica’s managers with information that will enable them to leverage her values in her job and facilitate Jessica’s career development. Comparing Jessica’s individual profile to the Values and Motivation Profile by job type illuminates some reasons why she has been successful in her role as a Director, which requires competencies of supervising effectively and maintaining a business perspective
Jessica’s three highest values were Achievement, Adventure, and Power and Overt Influence. Two of her strongest values, Adventure and Power and Overt Influence, were consistent with the Values and Motivation Profile for a Director job type. As such, she enjoys work that allows her to take calculated risks, compete with others, and will likely be motivated by recognition and her ability to influence others. As a Director, both of these values are great assets in that they are strongly related to the competencies of effective supervision, courageous leadership, exuding an executive presence, and maintaining a strategic business perspective.
Jessica’s value profile is distinct from the typical profile of a Director position in that her highest value is Achievement, indicating that she will be most motivated when presented with challenging goals. Jessica can utilize this value through setting difficult and specific goals for each business cycle or development plan and will likely thrive in a challenging environment. While the priority of Achievement is distinct from the typical profile, it is related to the important competencies of actively striving towards results and success. These strengths will likely facilitate the strategic development and pursuit of challenging business goals, which are important for the role of Director.
In considering whether Jessica will be a fit for a promotion to an Executive level position, the organization needs to consider that her value of Creativity is somewhat low. Creating new ways of approaching competitors and looking at strategy will be uncomfortable for her. She is also extremely low on Conceptual. Valuing conceptual work is needed at a moderate level for executives. Her score on Achievement is very high indicating that she will naturally gravitate toward tasks that fulfill her need to excel at well defined goals. Because she has a large gap between valuing doing (achievement) and valuing thinking (creativity and conceptual), time spent reflecting on the business and participating in dialogue about the future direction will be uncomfortable for her.