Company Values? You Really Need to Live Them — or Leave

Not too long ago, I was thrilled to see a stark and riveting example of a CEO fearlessly leading culture change in his organization – Antony Jenkins, CEO of Barclays Bank.

Osney Media pointed out research from CIPD and Edelman showing the dramatic dip in employee “trust” in their senior leaders. The article then goes on to share the dramatic step Mr. Jenkins took to change that perception at Barclays:

Last year the UK’s CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) warned that corporate and executive scandals were eroding employee trust in their employers. Their 2012 Employee Outlook survey, which questioned more than 2,000 employees, revealed that only 36 percent felt a level of trust in their senior leaders. It said lack of trust was having a ‘damaging’ impact on employee engagement with their work…

The 2013 edition of the annual Edelman Trust Barometer, released ahead of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland last week, explores rising and falling levels of trust across 26 markets and 35,000 people and found ‘a very significant crisis of leadership’. Heads of financial institutions did particularly poorly…

In a bid to win back the trust of their customers and employees alike, it was announced last week that the CEO of Barclays Bank, Antony Jenkins, had told 140,000 staff worldwide they would be expected to adopt a new set of values, or leave the company. In a memo to all staff Jenkins said: ‘We must never again be in a position of rewarding people for making the bank money in a way which is unethical or inconsistent with our values. Unless we operate to the highest standards and our stakeholders trust us to behave with integrity, no business – and certainly no financial institution – can continue to be successful.’

“Barclays employees have been told to adopt five key values: respect, integrity, service, excellence and stewardship. Jenkins warned: ‘There might be some who don’t feel they can fully buy in to an approach which so squarely links performance to the upholding of our values. ‘My message to those people is simple: Barclays is not the place for you. The rules have changed. You won’t feel comfortable at Barclays and, to be frank, we won’t feel comfortable with you as colleagues.’”

How do you make values stick?

Would that all CEOs lead so firmly and clearly on their culture. That’s fairly straightforward – “Live and work by our values, or leave.”

This statement from the CEO is all well and good, but how do you make those values stick? This was the central question featured in a Financial Times article on much the same topic:

It is a strong start to reforming the bank’s culture but, as Barclays’ recent history shows, the problem with values statements is making them stick. For, even as some employees were fiddling the London interbank offered rate and selling customers interest rate swaps and unnecessary payment protection insurance, the bank already had an apparently robust code of conduct…

Bob Diamond [former Barclays CEO] said in a radio lecture in late 2011: ‘Culture is difficult to define. I think it’s even more difficult to mandate. But, for me, the evidence of culture is how people behave when no one is watching.’”

Knowing who isn’t being properly recognized

But what if everyone is watching? What if you were to empower every employee in the organization as cultural ambassadors, responsible for noticing and appreciating the good work happening around them every day – especially when that effort is in line with the core values?

You’re not encouraging people to be spies and report negatively on their colleagues, but instead to recognize and praise each other regularly, frequently and specifically for living the core values as they get the work done.

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With that kind of big data now available to you in real-time, quick-view infographic reporting through a strategic, social recognition program, you can easily see which employees (or entire divisions) are not being recognized for certain values. Now you know where you need to intervene, retrain, or take other action.

Do you trust your executive leaders? Do most employees? How strongly does your CEO promote a culture based on your values?

You can find more from Derek Irvine on his Recognize This! blog.

Derek Irvine is one of the world’s foremost experts on employee recognition and engagement, helping business leaders set a higher vision and ambition for their company culture. As the Vice President of Client Strategy and Consulting at Globoforce, Derek helps clients — including some of world’s most admired companies such as Proctor and Gamble, Intuit, KPMG, and Thomson Reuters — leverage recognition strategies and best practices to better manage company culture, elevate employee engagement, increase retention, and improve the bottom line. He's also a renowned speaker and co-author of Winning with a Culture of Recognition. Contact him at


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