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Developing and Integrating Core Values in Your Organization

As part of the overall process of continually developing its organizational culture, the City of Dublin, OH (pop. 39,000) developed a leadership philosophy and set of core values to use as guiding principals for day-to-day decision-making, behavior and service delivery. While this is a somewhat common practice in many organizations, how Dublin chose to go about it is not so common.

As with many endeavors of this type, mission statements, core values and philosophies can often become words on a plaque or fliers on a bulletin board. However, the City of Dublin committed to a development and implementation process that enabled the new set of core values to become a driving force of organizational norms and priorities. "Our goal was to establish a set of core values that would be owned and lived by our employees, ultimately becoming the organization’s foundational tenets of daily behavior and decision-making," said Michelle Crandall, Director of Administrative Services. "To achieve this goal, we knew we would need to involve a large number of employees in the process."

Embarking on this process was a cross-divisional effort led by a trained group of internal employee facilitators who were tasked with 1) facilitating numerous employee focus groups to gather input and 2) taking the input from these group sessions to develop the city’s core values.

Ultimately, through this use of focus groups, more than 150 employees were able to have input into what they believed the city’s core values should be. This same team of facilitators also developed a communication plan and a strategic guide to integrate the core values into the city’s policies and processes, benefits, coaching/mentoring, discipline, hiring and promotions, with the goal of weaving accountability for the core values throughout the organization.

Most recently, a separate cross-divisional team incorporated the core values as a major component of the city’s newly designed performance evaluation tool. 

The core values development and implementation process was strategically defined and thought out in a way that would best leverage the buy-in and engagement of employees. An outside facilitator was hired to train the facilitation team and an internal "facilitator’s guide" was also developed to ensure consistent message delivery during the focus groups.

In 2006, the City completed an organizational climate survey which included a set of questions related to the City’s core values. The results of this survey clearly showed that the employees believe in the established set of core values, feel a sense of ownership of the values, and want to see them "lived out" on a daily basis. The results also showed there is continued work to be done to integrate the core values even further into the foundational elements of the organization and to improve individual accountability to behave in accordance with the values.

Aside from the ultimate development of the core values, many other opportunities emerged from the process, including 1) Offering valuable facilitator development for several employees; 2) Identifying employees whose skills and traits were best suited for further facilitation of other city processes; 3) Offering employee interaction among those who do not routinely work together; 4) Implementing a major organizational strategy that was employee-defined, deployed and owned.

Finally, continuous improvement elements were incorporated into the implementation, with a team that meets on an on-going basis to discuss progress and a survey component that is used to gauge employee involvement and buy-in.

Crandall went on to say, "Employee needs and expectations were met by not only committing to the development of a set of core values, but by implementing them across the board. The result has created a clear line-of-sight for how the city conducts business, delivers services and treats individuals, both inside and outside the organization."

For more information on Dublin’s Core Values Development Process, contact Michelle Crandall, Director of Administrative Services at 614.410.4403 or e-mail mcrandall@dublin.oh.us. For a listing of the City’s core values and associated value statements visit www.dublin.oh.us/gov and click on the "Leadership" link near the bottom of the page.

The City of Dublin’s leadership philosophy is the following: "We are members of an organization that succeeds because of teamwork, dedication and the innovative spirit of all of our members. Together, we build a culture of trust, mutual respect, creativity, diversity and open communication. We hold ourselves mutually accountable to promote and sustain continuous learning and to develop the learning potential that exists in every member of our team. We are the City of Dublin."

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