Strategic Values, Goals and Governance

As our friend and partner, Donna Hicks, recognized in Leading With Dignity, “the stated focus of many organizations is accomplishing their strategic goals, and if honoring dignity is not woven into these goals, dignity of employees may be seen as distracting from the organization’s interests.” Centering dignity in core values enriches a brand and deepens organizational impact. But values need to be more than abstract vessels—they only matter to the extent they actually guide employee behavior and affect day-to-day decisions. (MIT Sloan)

In a different but resonant context, Robert F. Kennedy explained that measurements like corporate profit and shareholder returns only go so far: “The gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials.…It measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.” (Remarks at University of Kansas, March 18, 1968.) Focusing on what makes an employment experience matter, makes an employee feel successful, and advances the dignity of those whose contributions allow an organization to be an ongoing concern, likewise matter. They are key stakeholders in organizational values.

Here, too, is an opportunity to extend values-based commitments to matters of racial justice and other inequities, and in ways that are ongoing and active, not performative or reduced to social media sound bites. For example, cycles of violence against the Black community have led to generations of well-intentioned pledges that have resulted in only marginal advancement. Immediately following the murder of George Floyd, for example, 75 percent of large U.S. companies responded to calls for racial justice, but only 10 percent established new goals related to Black representation in leadership or internal accountability. (Russell Reynolds) Now, more than ever, there are calls for businesses to align their political and monetary influence with their values.

Organizations must act on values, center dignity in their goals (including as part of board of directors governance), and be engaged community members.

  • Human resources teams

  • Executive leadership teams

  • Operations and strategy teams

  • Inclusion and diversity teams

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