“A Priceless Treasure”

Companies need to measure themselves by standards above and beyond performance indicators, now perhaps more than ever. They need to facilitate this by employees, applicants, business partners, and society as a whole. By establishing values, and above all by adopting them as a way of life, companies can promote their own positive cultures.


What does a company stand for? What are its ideals? Many people want to know this — well before their initial personal contact with the company.Porsche Consulting/Clara Nabi

Employ­er attrac­tive­ness is a key fac­tor when­ev­er busi­ness lead­ers seek to recruit and retain the best per­son­nel. Peo­ple are more moti­vat­ed when they can iden­ti­fy with their jobs and above all with their com­pa­nies. But how can they rec­og­nize the right employ­er at a glance? One help­ful sign is the val­ues a com­pa­ny com­mits to upholding.

“It’s not enough just to write val­ues down. They need to be fol­lowed as a way of life, and also devel­oped fur­ther in judi­cious ways. Then they become a price­less trea­sure,” says Dr. Wolf­gang Freibich­ler, Part­ner at Porsche Con­sult­ing. As a man­age­ment con­sul­tant who has spent years study­ing people’s roles and needs in pro­fes­sion­al life, he puts the ball in the court of top man­agers and other lead­er­ship per­son­nel. “By the exam­ples they set, they take respon­si­bil­i­ty for the cli­mate, atmos­phere, and cor­po­rate image. This cul­ture should be the object of con­sid­er­ably greater aware­ness and focus.”

“Val­ues as a way of life” are often espe­cial­ly evi­dent at fam­i­ly-run busi­ness­es with long-stand­ing tra­di­tions. Medi­um-sized enter­pris­es that have pro­gressed over gen­er­a­tions from mod­est begin­nings to high achieve­ments usu­al­ly pre­serve the ideas and aspi­ra­tions of their founders, devel­op them fur­ther, and ide­al­ly adapt them to present needs. The “core” or “essence” of a com­pa­ny pro­vides sup­port, secu­ri­ty, and bear­ings to every­one involved.

“Leadership personnel have to take active responsibility for the climate, atmosphere, and image. Embracing these values is the best road to take,” says Dr. Wolfgang Freibichler, Partner at the Porsche Consulting management consultancy.Porsche Consulting/Jörg Eberl

The Ger­man com­pa­ny Trumpf — an inter­na­tion­al leader in machine tools and lasers for indus­tri­al man­u­fac­tur­ing — for­mu­lates its guid­ing val­ues in a com­pre­hen­sive, soci­ety-based man­ner. As a fam­i­ly busi­ness, it places a pre­mi­um on envi­ron­men­tal as well as eco­nom­ic sus­tain­abil­i­ty as the foun­da­tion to enable future gen­er­a­tions to thrive. In Freibichler’s expert opin­ion, tak­ing respon­si­bil­i­ty for the future sends an impor­tant sig­nal. “Val­ues will assume ever greater impor­tance as guide­lines in the years to come,” he pre­dicts. “Crit­i­cal atten­tion will be paid to the con­tent of com­pa­ny web­sites. Their cred­i­bil­i­ty will be scru­ti­nized. In recruit­ment process­es, for exam­ple, appli­cants look very close­ly to see whether a poten­tial employer’s self-image is a good fit for their own approach to life. That is a high­ly sen­si­tive mat­ter. By the same token, busi­ness part­ners and cus­tomers will also opt for com­pa­nies that take the ini­tia­tive and serve as mod­els for sus­tain­abil­i­ty, ethics, com­pli­ance, and social respon­si­bil­i­ty. Hon­esty and reli­a­bil­i­ty play major roles here.”

Cor­po­rate respon­si­bil­i­ty is also of para­mount impor­tance to Olymp, a man­u­fac­tur­er of men’s shirts found­ed in 1951. Mark Bezn­er, the sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion leader of this fam­i­ly com­pa­ny, describes what that means in con­crete terms: “Peo­ple can only man­u­fac­ture supe­ri­or-grade prod­ucts if they feel com­fort­able. As Olymp has grown to become glob­al­ly active, we have also expand­ed our busi­ness val­ues to take respon­si­bil­i­ty for the envi­ron­ment, the cli­mate, and soci­ety at large.”

A solid frame­work of val­ues exerts a sta­bi­liz­ing force espe­cial­ly dur­ing peri­ods of trans­for­ma­tion. “Many com­pa­nies are going through rad­i­cal change right now,” observes Freibich­ler. “Porsche Con­sult­ing sur­veyed lead­ers at the 100 largest com­pa­nies through­out Ger­many, and 66 per­cent of them want to com­plete­ly repo­si­tion them­selves over the next two years.” As he con­cludes, “Our analy­ses show that val­ues are a key ele­ment here. If applied in a respon­si­ble man­ner, they can help ensure that peo­ple are nei­ther sur­prised nor over­whelmed by a trans­for­ma­tion.” Accord­ing to the expert, “Val­ues serve as a com­pass for employ­ees. But val­ues such as sus­tain­abil­i­ty, respon­si­bil­i­ty, qual­i­ty, and cus­tomer ori­en­ta­tion are also impor­tant stan­dards for a transformation.”

Every­one is talk­ing about sus­tain­abil­i­ty as a pow­er­ful value right now. But what exact­ly does sus­tain­abil­i­ty con­sist of? A pre­cise def­i­n­i­tion hard­ly seems pos­si­ble. “What’s more impor­tant is how the con­cept is inter­pret­ed,” says Freibich­ler, “and how each com­pa­ny care­ful­ly for­mu­lates its indi­vid­ual inter­pre­ta­tion.” In his view, over­ar­ch­ing exam­ples include how com­pa­nies treat their older employ­ees, how they value their employ­ees in gen­er­al, and how they value their prod­ucts, cus­tomers, sup­pli­ers, and the world. “We need to exer­cise more care with each other, with our pro­fes­sion­al lives, and with our envi­ron­ment over­all,” he says, adding that most top man­agers are already aware of this. “Eighty-three per­cent of the man­agers in our sur­vey indi­cate that their com­pa­nies will be repo­si­tion­ing them­selves in com­pre­hen­sive terms with respect to sus­tain­abil­i­ty. This fig­ure was only topped by the mega-topic of digitalization.”

A company’s val­ues need to be evi­dent at key moments, urges Freibich­ler. “By that I mean delib­er­ate­ly shap­ing sig­nif­i­cant sit­u­a­tions in nor­mal work rou­tines, such as reg­u­lar employ­ee reviews with super­vi­sors. Peo­ple need a com­pass they can use for guid­ance. And this com­pass needs to be uni­form through­out the com­pa­ny. Val­ues should have a long-term char­ac­ter, and should not be changed every few years with­out seri­ous thought. How­ev­er, it is impor­tant to devel­op them fur­ther on a judi­cious basis. Account should also be taken of the pri­or­i­ties held by new­com­ers to a com­pa­ny.” And those pri­or­i­ties, as Freibich­ler notes from his con­sult­ing expe­ri­ence, “can dif­fer sub­stan­tial­ly from mon­e­tary con­cerns and a sin­gle-mind­ed focus on profit.”

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