Values in induction

All five Wellbeing Teams have now completed their induction and are up and running. Like our recruitment process, we realised that how we approached induction would need to be very different. We wanted to create a process that built a team, got them started with self-management, and confident to support people at home. In this blog I invited my colleague and values expert, Jackie le Fevre to think with me about the role of values in induction, and what this means in Wellbeing Teams.

So you’ve advertised, selected and appointed. New recruits arrive and the real work can begin. How much does it matter exactly what happens next? Various research studies suggest it matters a very great deal. Did you know for example

  • on average new employees decided whether they feel ‘at home’ in their organisation in the first 3 weeks;
  • around 20% of early leavers form an intention to leave within 45 days
  • new employees who participate in a structured orientation are 69% more likely to still be in their job three years later than employees with little or no orientation
  • new employees who are carefully orientated to both the job and the organisation reach full productivity 2 months earlier than employees with little or no orientation.

Work by Kouzes and Posner exploring job satisfaction and employee commitment uncovered some surprising effects of values clarity. When organisations are clear about their corporate values and communicate these to employees but do not create time, space and means for employees to gain clarity about their individual, personal values then satisfaction and commitment fall. Conversely if organisations simply focus their efforts on supporting individuals to develop a conscious connection with their personal values than satisfaction and commitment go up: in fact up to 17% more commitment can flow from personal values connection. If an organisation goes the whole way and supports individuals to connect personally with their values and then communicates the corporate values in a meaningful way commitment and satisfaction can go up again; although in the interests of transparency I should admit that the jump from 17% to 19% is not statistically significant.

“Personal values drive commitment. Personal values are the route to loyalty and commitment, not organisational values.” Kouzes and Posner (The Leadership Challenge 2010, p56)

 So thinking about Wellbeing Team new recruits this made the question how and when to begin to explore personal and shared values. Values sit in the Limbic system below the level of our conscious mind. To stand the best chance of generating useful insights for individual Wellbeing Workers and the group as a whole we needed an ‘ipsative’ instrument: something long enough and complex enough to mimic the ‘structure’ of values in the brain reaching through to unconscious preferences and priorities.

We turned to a leading online values profiling tool, the AVI which is the flagship of the Minessence International Co-operative and has been in use around the world since 1988. As part of their preparation for induction new recruits received an email containing a link and instructions for the AVI and were asked to make the time to complete their profile before the first day and everyone did.
There is, unsurprisingly, a lot of ground to cover when bringing members of a new team together to begin the task of working out how to work. The first time we used the individual and group values profile reports we settled upon the morning of Day 2 as an appropriate point. By this time work had begun on the team agreement and people were feeling more familiar with one another.

To encourage everyone to have the confidence to approach the values profiling with candour and  an open mind we promised that the individual values profiles would be confidential between the individual and the facilitators – me and Helen. There was no expectation or obligation to show individual profiles to colleagues. Yet within 5 minutes of receiving their profiles everyone was sharing (and laughing).

There is no such thing as the ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ values. There just are values that we consistently prefer and prioritise over others. In the Minessence Values Framework which underpins the AVI there are 128 distinct and different human values. According to probability the chances of any one particular value appearing at random in say the top 5 shared values of any given group is 5 in 127 – and 0.039 is a very small chance. You can probably imagine the delight of the team (and Helen and I) when in the top 5 shared values for one of the first teams we found:

  1. Human Rights
  2. Human Dignity
  3. Wisdom
  4. Care/Nurture
  5. Social Equilibrium

Now one of these values had profound possibly limiting implications for the team and how they would develop their own approach to self management. Remember that there is no such thing as the ‘wrong’ value. Each value has its own roots in our past experience and appears high in our priority list to serve a particular purpose. The wrinkle in this comes when we have one or more values that stimulate particular behaviours in situations where different behaviours would be more useful or appropriate.

The value we needed to look at was Social Equilibrium.

Nothing wrong with Social Equilibrium. This value says ‘to do what is necessary to maintain a peaceful social environment’. People and groups with this as high priority often have great rapport building skills and seem to have a gift for being able to sense the temperature of mood in a room in the blink of an eye. We are all aware that alongside strengths there are weaknesses: in fact weakness is a consequence of strength for example someone who values the quality of their work produces great stuff but is vulnerable to perfectionism even when the work they have done is already more than ‘good enough’.

What is the Achilles heel of Social Equilibrium? Peacekeeping.

When in unconscious peacekeeper mode individuals and groups may actively avoid conflict, placate or appease angry parties or even turn a blind eye to errors or misdeeds. At its extreme peacekeeping can place such a strain upon an individual or group that things will look on the surface to be absolutely fine for ages and ages and then one day the whole thing simply explodes when the pressure finally becomes too much.

Not only was this a risk that was important to minimise it is also true that from debate, disagreement and challenge comes improvement and creativity: when everybody simply agrees all of the time very little innovation takes place.

So we explored with the team Social Equilibrium: whether they recognised it, what it looked like in their experience, and whether they wanted to keep hold of it in its current form.

This struck a cord with Annie. She talked about how she usually worked hard to keep the peace in her work relationships, and how this came at a price. We started to think together about what team agreements could look like that would support Annie to be able to ask for what she needed and address areas of difference or conflict with the team. As Wellbeing Teams are self-managing, it is even more important that teams are able to recognise and address issues and problems together. We support this through training in Non Violent Communication and a team meeting process designed to raise and address tensions, and through the team agreements.

When we (Jackie and I) facilitated the discussion around what could support Annie with this, James suggested a team agreement of ‘No peacekeeping’. I have never seen this on any team agreement before, and can see how it is important for this team. Annie agreed,

Since then, in their team meetings, James would remind Annie of their team agreement. The team used this to actively support one another to speak up and speak out in pursuit of becoming the best self managing team they could.

From our first experience it became clear that maintaining the momentum of the values based recruitment and selection should be central to the overall design of Wellbeing Workers induction. It also felt important to ensure that values were not treated as a stand alone topic within a larger programme. The design approach we have since taken is to ensure that values surface regularly throughout the process serving as a conscious framework upon which all the different elements hang together creating a coherent whole.
Three new Wellbeing Teams have now taken part in this Values Based Induction  and to find out more about how that went listen here is a podcast I did with three team members after the second day of their induction.