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Workplace values can help increase hiring, retention

B-corp certification is all about workplace values, and other corporations can learn from their goals.

6 min read


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Businesses around the globe are lamenting how difficult it is to hire people right now. Ask the businesses what the problem is, and some will say, “No one seems to want to work.” Ask employment candidates what the problem is, and you’re likely to get more nuanced answers that, at their core, translate to “It just isn’t worth it.” That’s where an employer’s workplace values can help. 

What makes work “worth it”?

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Employers should make clear that employee values and well-being matter. Financial compensation still matters, but the factors motivating many people to show up — whether getting dressed and traveling to an in-person office or staying in pajamas and logging on to a remote workplace — have shifted drastically.

Nine out of 10 employees surveyed want flexibility in location and number of hours worked, and 56% may quit if they can’t have it, according to the latest Work Reimagined Survey of 16,000 workers in various industries across 16 countries. Sixty-seven percent say employers can easily chart their productivity no matter where they work. 

Kaiser Consulting has offered employees their choice of work location for 30 years because it helps them attract better talent and thrive as a business, Lori Kaiser writes. “The remote model is scalable and applicable in ways traditional employers never imagined,” she adds. Her company’s Optimum Scheduling system even lets workers choose to adjust their hours — whether relating to child-care or working fewer hours in the summer — as long as they accomplish the work they’ve committed to. 

Take an interest in employees’ values

Job satisfaction and employee engagement increase when employers look out for employee purpose, employee well-being and employee values. This can be accomplished through health-related technology, schedule adjustments to suit child care and matching contributions to charities they sponsor, as just a few examples. 

However, don’t just copy what another company does. Sit down with employees and truly listen to their needs. “While business owners may think they know their workforce well, there is no substitute for real conversations around employees’ experiences. It’s important to remember that no two families are the same when it comes to taking care of their children,” Cheryl Oldham of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation writes.

Building in professional development as part of employees’ jobs and showing them possible career trajectories at the company can help improve employees’ purpose at work. Fewer than 20% of people surveyed by McKinsey & Co. say they get as much purpose from work as they’d like. 

Just what are workplace values?

For the employer, values — sometimes used as a synonym for a company’s culture — are basically a company’s guideposts, and Georgia Tech University, during its “Living Our Values Every Day” campaign, has defined them as “the way we interact with one another, the decisions that we make, and the culture we want to create. These collective values then ultimately impact our students, mission, and vision while guiding how we operate and interact with one another.”

For example, if “integrity” is a company’s value, the company should have “several straightforward and specific behaviors to back that up, including: ‘Never offer a deal we wouldn’t take ourselves,‘” Technically Media CEO Chris Wink writes.

Molly Matthews, CEO of Pushpay, recently explained how her company has turned poor morale into a welcoming company culture through transparency, goals, communication, employee resource groups and consistency.

Inward journey aligns B-corp workplace values

Certified B corporations make it a point to pursue a holistic approach to business. They marry their desire to make a profit with the intent to make social and environmental differences. 

Not every business will want to pursue B-corp certification, but all employers can learn lessons from B corps about how to blend employee purpose with organizational goals.

Athleta, which designs athletic apparel and leisurewear, became a B-corp in 2018. Emily Allbritten, who managed the B Corp application process, says the team felt excessively proud of themselves going into the application period — but was humbled during the evaluation process to realize how far they still had to go. As a result, Athleta has set up internal teams to monitor short-term and long-term improvement. 

Explain your workplace values inside and out

Be overt in letting your potential employees know what your company’s values at work are, especially if you’re finding it difficult to hire people right now.

Is it clear that you care about employee well-being? Do your existing employees demonstrate your values? Do they tell their professional acquaintances and friends (among whom there may be a potential candidate) what a typical day at work is like and how it brought them alive?

“It’s not enough for organizations to share their values, though. They have to be authentic to the organization and show up naturally in the employee experience. Values are empty promises if employees don’t see them in action across the organization,” Ayme Zemke writes in a blog post.

B Corp TomboyX lists its values on its website. One of them, “show up generously,” discusses how they “take immense pride in being able to serve our internal and external customers with thoughtfulness and care and listen to their ideas and feedback to create a powerful bond.”

That helps highlight a company’s values for potential employees, existing employees and customers, who also care if companies treat people well. 

Values-defining process improves public-facing image

All of this introspection and self-examination has set Athleta up to show up differently for potential (and current) employees. 

We’ve had so many more people come in through our recruiting process and mention one of the reasons why they applied is because of our B-corp certification — because Athleta is mission-driven and has that purpose,” Allbritten told B the Change. 

Athleta has won in business where others have not — such as sponsoring Olympian Allyson Felix in 2019. Felix cut ties with sponsor Nike in 2017 when Nike proposed a pay cut and failed to support maternity protections Felix had requested

“As women and athletes, we experience the joys and challenges that come from being both. It’s why we promise to support you – as an athlete, a mother, an activist – as you continue to break records, break barriers, and break the silence,” Athleta said when welcoming Felix.

The holistic approach is smart for business. Show them what you have to give; you may be pleased to see what they can do for you in return.

Paula Kiger is the vice president of special projects at Digimentors, a social media consultancy. She was previously the nonprofit sector editor at SmartBrief. You can find her at her blog Big Green Pen, on Instagram, at LinkedIn and on Twitter.


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