Core Values – How Relevant are they in Multinational Companies ?

Lately interest for value based work in companies is increasing considerably. It may be called core values, common principles, or company culture – changes and reorganizations are happening faster and more often and there is a need to govern from the perspective of common values to keep continuity and motivation. Another aspect is that we are moving as a society from materialistic to post-materialistic values, when the employees are asking not only for a reasonable salary but also for meaningful work with career growth and participation.

Globalization and establishment of companies on international markets make value based work more important than ever. This comes into focus in situations like takeovers and mergers. To concentrate on economic and organizational changes only and underestimate a clear communication of what we stand for can lead to a costly and lengthy integration process. Value based work is significant for how a multinational company establishes its operation on the global market. There are challenges and cultural differences in different countries, which need to be taken in to account.

An ideal way to create company values is to start with the employees and work based on their perceptions and wishes. However, this approach is not possible in big multinational companies, where values are already established and well defined and in the best case complete the company’s vision. Value based work is focused more on implementation and right interpretation of values – we have to be aware that words and values can have different meaning in another country.

The values should be firm and consistent and not customized/adjusted depending on culture. The company has to have a solid communication plan to ensure that all employees understand the meaning of words, at the same time allowing for some space when interpreting the values. Communication is crucial. Bad interpretation and poor understanding of other cultures leads to lower effectivity when expanding to new countries. Problems in communication need to be identified and solved in an early stage by investing in multicultural training to save money and problems in the long run and increase productivity and reduce attrition. When establishing a company in a new country, it is crucial to have the core values well formulated and crystal clear, as there is usually a large recruiting activity in the country and core values might be one of the reasons why candidates are looking for a position with the company. Multinational companies need to dedicate more time and effort to interpreting core values in the right ways. In the first place it might be the language – core values are in English and it is important that the meaning is not lost or changed in translation.

An ethical value is grounds for our understanding about what is right. They decide what alternative we choose when we act and are the base for our norms. Today we are asking our employees to act independently, prioritize and take own initiatives. However, they need a clear guidance in terms of goals, purpose and vision, and ethical values. Core values need to be clear, understood and accepted by all. That gives the employees a freedom to act independently within the given frame, and find the best solutions to their work tasks. Micro management is not needed.

The most important part is that the management is committed. If the managers don’t work actively with their employees and lead by example, words become empty shells without meaning.

Another significant aspect is new recruitment. The recruiters need to make sure that the values of candidates are in accordance with company values. People are sociable creatures and want to associate with other people with the same base. All good recruiters are aware that today, young people are asking during interviews about company values, want to know how a company acts in some ethical situations, what is the company’s environmental policy etc. Those factors are as important for them as a salary and if we want to attract the best talent, we have to offer guiding principles in accordance with their own perception about integrity and ethics. A common ground helps to make right decisions, collaborate and accomplish optimal results.

By Zuzana Hatas

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