Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

The power of values in times of economic uncertainty

By Janine Jacobs, Co-Founder HappyHQ

As the Co-Founder of a culture consultancy, and ex-Communications Director —both on the agency and brand side — I’ve experienced firsthand the indispensable role of core values. For the companies who get it right, core values form a solid foundation for every decision a company makes, including its crisis management strategies.

On the flipside, I’ve also witnessed the challenges that arise when companies lack a strong set of core values. In such environments, decision-making becomes erratic, employee engagement wanes, and client and partner relationships suffer due to a lack of alignment.

Especially in recent times where the world of work has been marked by relentless instability—transitioning to remote work, facing layoffs, driving rapid innovation, undergoing budget reductions, and navigating a fiercely competitive job market, without core values to guide a company through economic uncertainty, it risks becoming directionless.

So, how are companies using their core values to guide them through periods of uncertainty towards better business outcomes?

The process begins with discovering, and clearly defining, and communicating core values, followed by ingraining them into every aspect of the company, steering hiring practices, onboarding experiences, daily operations, and every critical decision along the way. It’s this shared commitment that often becomes the deciding factor in long-term business success and sustainability.

Building trust

The 2024 Global Talent Trends report by Mercer, a leading financial consultancy firm, revealed a notable decline in trust; confidence that employers will act in the best interest of their employees fell from 80% in 2022 to 69%.

Additionally, 45% of HR leaders described their company culture as having low trust. The report attributes this decline to employers not fulfilling promises related to promotions, raises, and career opportunities.

Similarly, the 2024 Edelman Trust Barometer highlights the pressing necessity for companies to align their actions with their stated values transparently and authentically. This alignment is critical in addressing the overall decline in trust towards companies.

Actions speak louder than words

When core values are authentically integrated into a company’s culture, their presence is not just evident in words on office walls or public ethical statements, but in the actions of everyone within the company.

For instance, when a company professes ‘transparency’, this principle should manifest through open communication about budget cuts. Similarly, if a company claims to prioritise ‘belonging’, it must go beyond mere declarations; it should actively involve diverse employee groups in dialogue and decision-making processes, ensuring every employee feels heard and valued.

Likewise, a company committed to sustainability would demonstrate its dedication even during challenging times. In a world where unpredictability looms large, employees, customers, partners, and investors all seek assurance about future actions.

Hiring the right people

The younger generations are in search of more than just a job; they aim to join companies that resonate with their personal values and beliefs. With forecasts indicating that 58% of Gen Z will be part of the workforce by 2023, it’s companies should future-proof their culture for the next generation or risk becoming unappealing workplaces for a significant segment of the workforce.

Core values are an essential tool in recruitment, empowering companies to attract and retain talented individuals who seek purpose, meaning, and clear direction in their careers.

Given this shift towards a values-driven job search among younger generations, with a pronounced focus on finding workplaces that reflect their personal ethics and aspirations for making a significant impact, a critical question arises: How are businesses adapting their recruitment strategies to meet these expectations? Specifically, how are companies effectively communicating their core values and missions to prospective employees to ensure alignment and attract the right talent—individuals who possess not only the necessary skills but are also passionate about embodying the company’s fundamental principles.

Strengthening cohesion for remote teams

Creating and sustaining a robust company culture in a remote work environment poses unique challenges. Last summer, KOTA, a creative web design agency tackled this head-on alongside with the help of HappyHQ. Known for its world-class award-winning projects, with a team distributed across various locations, KOTA wanted to come together as a team to discover and embed a genuine set of heartfelt values that resonated with everyone.

The result?

Jonathan Bradford, Managing Director, at KOTA shares;

“Today, our values aren’t just a proudly-placed section on our new website; they’re the heartbeat of the agency. Being a remote team spanning time zones makes them not just important, but essential. They help us stay aligned, celebrate everything that makes us unique, and bring in the right kind of talent and clients, regardless of where we log on from”.

Attracting clients and partners

Increasingly, companies are also showcasing their core values to potential clients and partners as a testament to who they are, how they work, and what they care about. Not just to differentiate themselves in a competitive market, but to ensure collaborations are meaningful and sustainable over the long term.

In summary, certainly, place them on the office walls for recall, but don’t stop there. Core values are not just vital for nurturing a great culture; they’re an invaluable strategic tool for navigating uncertainty in the dynamic, ever-changing world of work.