Do We Know What We Stand For? A Strategy for Recruitment and Retention

By Jeanne Martinson


Does your employees’ knowledge of your organizational values impact retention and engagement?


Does an employee’s or candidate’s clarity of their own personal values impact their attainment, retention and engagement as your employee?


Surprisingly, the answer to the second question may be more important than the first.


Posner and Schmidt1 studied the correlation between engagement and personal and organizational values. They found that people who have the clearest understanding about both organizational and their own personal values have the highest level of commitment and engagement.


That makes sense, doesn’t it? But surprisingly, the score was not significantly less for those who have high clarity of personal values, but low clarity on organizational values!


Here are their findings:
Low clarity on own values  +  low clarity on organizational values = Commitment  Score of 4.90


Low clarity on own values + high clarity on organizational values =  Commitment Score of 4.87


High clarity on own values + low clarity on organizational values  = Commitment Score of 6.12


High clarity on own values + high clarity on organizational values = Commitment  Score of 6.26


This study raises a couple of interesting observations. It seems that people can be very clear about the organization’s values and still not be highly committed to the organization! The people who are clear on who they are but can’t recite your mission, vision or values are more likely to stick around and give the 110% you are all looking for than those who wrote the corporate values but are unclear as to who they are as individuals. 


How can we use this knowledge as a tool for recruitment, retention and engagement?


1 – Immediately in the recruitment process begin the discussion of values. If the candidate is unsure what values mean, describe situations in your workplace that illustrate your corporate values and test their reactions. The sooner you come to an awareness of the degree of alignment the better. Many hiring decisions are based on experience, education, references, attitude – all great components – but do not include this essential piece that may determine the success of this individual in your organization.


2 – Challenge the honeymoon phase theory of human resource management. The honeymoon period discussion goes something like this, “He seemed like such a great candidate – great references, track record, good educational match – but after a few months he seemed to settle back into second gear and stay there.”


We have a natural desire to be in a workplace that aligns with our own personal values. This desire is unconscious unless we have spent the time figuring out who we are and what we stand for as individuals. We just know that we don’t ‘fit’ well.  When the values in the workplace don’t align with our own, soon we break down into a compliant, non-committed level of engagement. Certainly, individuals slip from commitment to compliance for many reasons – question whether value misalignment may be the cause. If it is the root of the slide into compliance, you then have a choice of re-selling them on your organization, showing them how what they personally value connects strongly to the organization’s values and goals. Or, letting them go on to somewhere they would be aligned and therefore happier and more productive.


3 – Create learning tools for employees to understand their personal values. Provide opportunities and resources for individual employees to understand who they are – their perspectives, values and beliefs.


The challenge illuminated by this information is for an employer to find the value alignment with job candidates. An ability for an organization to say “This is us!” and for a candidate to be able to say “This is me!” is crucial for the employee’s success and engagement in the organization.


Employees who have the greatest clarity about both their personal and your organizational values will have the highest degree of commitment to the organization.


(1) “Values Congruence and Differences Between the Interplay of Personal and Organizational Value Systems” published in the Journal of Business Ethics, 1993. Written by B.Z. Posner and W.H. Schmidt.


Jeanne Martinson is a best selling author and diversity strategist. Her goal is to assist leaders in understanding diversity issues so they may attract, retain and engage their ideal workforce. Copyright 2008 Jeanne Martinson


Recruit & Retain


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