5 Core Values for a Next Generation Organization


Traditional organizational values were fashioned many decades ago. Organizational structures, bureaucracies and your basic organizational principles have not changed much in the past fifty years.  The IBM’s of the world, the G.E.’s and other juggernauts helped set the landscape of recent organizational history.  The popular show Mad Men gives us a glimpse of what work environments were like many decades ago.  That peek back in time is one of the allures of the great drama that keeps viewers tuning in and wanting more.  Part of why that show is so fascinating is the fact that things have changed.

Today, despite the obvious fact that our work place rules, our culture and our employees have significantly changed, many core values have not changed to reflect that progress.  Many core values have simply not kept up with the pace of change.  They are trapped in the Mad Men era of governance.

The world we live in today moves at break-neck speeds. Sure, there’s no cigarettes smoked or scotch poured in meetings (at least not in City government), but it’s our employees and the pace of information that has changed the most.  As the popular video series “Did you Know” highlights: change is happening now—exponentially.

Our world is digital.  It is quick.  Attention spans are short.  The 24 hour news-cycle is dead. News is now shared in real-time and in 140 characters.  There is no “way of doing things” that won’t change within the next two years.  Agility has increasingly become one of the most valuable assets; trust within an organization, too, has become critical because change is not eminent, it is actually here—all around us. This makes the speed of trust and adaptation matter more.

Our employees are changing too.  The next generation of employees come from an era that can’t remember life prior to cell phones and the Internet.  They are diverse in their backgrounds bringing every ethnicity, culture and point-of-view to the table.  And they want different things than their predecessors. Discussed in a recent article by Dr. Marla Gottschalk, current employees want a “shared vision” and meaningful work, much different from employee “wants” outlined in the 1956 bestseller, The Organization Manwhich include job security and a predicable future.

Adding to this change, in the next 5 years City government will see 36% of its employees (our baby-boomer generation) retirement-eligible. This brings vacancies to experienced positions and a demand for knowledge that not every candidate has access to.  Now, in an age where agility is paramount, organizations are scrambling to cater to a new generation of workers while supporting and developing longtime employees. This is why we created the Center of Excellence, under the direction of Jackie Linton, to help drive our organizational development efforts and succession planning.

In this real-time world, an organization’s core values have never been more important.  Your values must strike a balance to stay relevant and poignant to your long-term employees while also adapting to the next generation.  Too many organizations are trapped in a Mad Men mentality in their values.  In the Managing Director’s Office, we recently adopted 5 core values that strike that balance and are critical to creating a great next generation organization.

1.     Excellence:  Be meticulous in creating a culture that strives for excellence in everything you do: every project, every effort. Be sure that these efforts exceed expectations—make that high standard the new expectation.  Be responsive and service-centered at every opportunity and recognize exceptional performance along the way.  Get things done.

2.     Passion:  Foster a creative, diverse and fun environment.  Thrive on what your organization accomplishes and celebrate success no matter how small.  Be battery-chargers and accept new challenges with enthusiasm.  Accept constructive conflict as a way to grow professionally.  Demonstrate passion and commitment to desired outcomes.

3.     Engagement:  Strive for an inclusive collaborative process and value the opinions of all team members.  Take the chance to listen and learn from each other.  Stay engaged in the organization, its mission and its people.  Communicate accurate information to all stakeholders.  Be respectful in all your communications.  Provide the opportunity to make a difference in a significant way.

4.     Integrity:  Be honest, reliable and thoughtful in your dealings.  Be above reproach, setting the bar high on ethics.  Do the right thing, the right way, for the right reasons.  Make the effort to avoid even the appearance of impropriety.  Be a good steward of the public trust and the public treasure.

5.     Risk-Taking:  Set a standard of taking strategic, smart and calculated risks.  Embrace change and be a change agent.  Emphasize and reward imagination and innovation.  Value creative problem solving taking pride in both the process and in what it creates.

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BONUS Value:

Love:  While this word is not likely to be included in an organization’s core values (for HR reasons), I still think it’s one of the most important core values a leader needs.  That level of personal investment helps set the table for break-through performance.  While respect, integrity and engagement are critical aspects of the way you treat employees, without a genuine personal connection, a certain level of commitment and transformative professional engagement is lost.  These connections take work experience to another level—a level necessary to produce truly exceptional work.  You will not be able to ask employees to sacrifice and go the extra mile for the organization if they don’t feel the organization (and you!) would go the extra mile for them when they need you most.  That means visiting employees in the hospital and attending funerals; that means showing employees that you value them as a person, not just as a resource.  Today’s employees expect that level of personal connection.

With these core values, we hope to bridge the gap between the new generation, diverse and nimble in every way—with our deliberate and more stable beginnings.  If we can do that, maybe we can keep from going “mad” in the modern workplace.

Do your values reflect next gen thinking?

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Rich Negrin is the City of Philadelphia’s Managing Director and Deputy Mayor for Administration and Coordination. Service Centered Leadership is the Managing Director’s blog series appearing on PhillyInnovates. Follow Rich on Twitter @RichNegrin.





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