When the truth came out, and it became clear that NatWest had debanked a certain high-profile figure because his views did not match their values, it raised all sorts of questions.
For instance: What, precisely, are their lofty values? And how does NatWest stack up against those values itself?
The bank was recently ordered to pay a former employee £87,700 in damages by an industrial tribunal. This came after they sacked her for being “unreliable” just two days after a cancer treatment. In the background, her mother and brother had also been diagnosed with cancer and the tribunal ruled that the bank’s decision was “tainted with discrimination”.
Casting an eye back further, in 2014 they were ordered to pay what was thought to be a record £4,670,535 for a disability discrimination claim. An employee was found to have faced 60 separate acts of discrimination, and made to feel “worthless” following a car accident. The ordeal lasted for six years and culminated in what a tribunal considered constructive dismissal.
Neither episode suggests a company aligned to act as a moral arbiter. Whether a company should aspire to assume such a role is another matter. Today, we are interested in looking at how you can ensure your policies match your values, so that those values are not a hollow gesture that do more harm than good.
Benefits of having values for SMEs
Values should generally be a good thing for a company. While they may lead you to take strong positions on issues, values should of course remain within the boundaries of law and not jeopardise commercial viability.
Defined and enacted well, they can help give you clarity about your purpose. This can differentiate you from your competitors, assist you in attracting staff who are a good fit, and help inform your decision-making. For example, at The HR Dept, one of our values is to be “The voice of the SME”.
Creating or reviewing your values
Of course, you need to have authentic values to begin with, ones which reflect your business as it stands today.
As an SME business leader, you will probably have strong feelings on company values yourself. But to bring your team along with you, canvas their views. Assess, also, how your values sit with other key stakeholders. As you’ll know, the last thing you want to do is alienate your customer base, or you may not have a business through which to hold any values.
Commit your values to an internal document – a single source of truth if you like – which you can then use to create other documentation; marketing yes, but also your people policies.
Policies that reflect your company values
Policies are separate from any cultural guidelines that are born out of your values.
Ultimately, the way your people behave will be governed by your company policies. They guide staff in how to act, and give you the framework to respond should they fall below the standards expected of them.
From recruitment and promotion policies to disciplinary and grievance, what they say will trump values if they are not aligned.
So if you have a value of “equal opportunity” but your promotion policy indirectly favours, say men over women, or young over old, then the value will not hold true. Likewise if you have values of “hard work” and “team spirit” but your policies allow certain members of staff to roll in late two or three times a week without consequence, then the rest of the team will lose faith in your values and ultimately the company.
Help aligning your policies
At The HR Dept, one of our unique selling points is in how we work with business owners to provide bespoke policies that match their company values, rather than relying on generic documentation off the Internet.
If you would like to find out more about how we can help you get this aligned in your business to spark growth and/or prevent people problems, please contact us.