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What Does It Mean For Employees' Values to Align with Their Employers?

When thinking about work, we often talk about VALUES. What are the company's VALUES? What words are painted on the walls or featured on our website? We know a winning strategy for retention is hiring employees whose VALUES align with the VALUES of the company.

Unfortunately, we often default to cliched VALUES like "honesty" and "integrity" and "customer service." Well, yeah, those are true for every company. No company would claim dishonesty, cheating, and greed as company VALUES. (Even though that's how some behave. But that's a story for another day.)

We can see how meaningless the cliched VALUES are when we put them in the context of this rhetorical question: "Does what the company VALUES align with what employees VALUE?" We don't learn anything interesting about the employee relative to how well they will do in our environment and how well they will measure up to our expectations if we ask about things like honesty, integrity, and customer service because, again, everyone is going to say yes to those.

We need to be clear about OUR VALUES and we need to understand THEIR VALUES. If they don't align, it's not going to work.

For instance, as McKinsey put it recently, "For today’s workers, flexible hours or the ability to work remotely is a higher priority [i.e., VALUE] than work–life balance or pay [i.e., VALUES], according to a 2021 LinkedIn survey of nearly 5,300 US workers. Employees—particularly younger ones—increasingly expect the freedom to choose when and how they work [i.e., VALUES]. Companies must grapple with a postpandemic workforce that values net freedom over net worth."

Asking the rhetorical question again: If the company VALUES employees who sit at their desks in the office from 8 am to 5 pm Monday through Friday, does that align with what employees VALUE, which is the freedom to choose when and how they work?

I think not. And these employers should not be surprised that it is hard to find people these days who share their VALUES and get them to stay.

Do your company's values align with the values of the people you seek to employ? If they don't align, what are you going to do?

In this particular case, I'm not convinced that holding tight to VALUES that are out-of-step with society is a winning strategy.

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