By: Mary Beth McEuen
We are undergoing a shift in values. This is not just a U.S.-based phenomena. It is a global phenomena. And, one with significant implications for business. The key premise of this post is that the majority of businesses will need to shift from a “self-enhancement” value orientation to a “self-expression” value orientation. Self-enhancement values orient around competition, winning, materialism, ambition, dominate. Whereas self-expression valuesare geared towardcollaboration, community, novelty, authenticity, meaning, freedom, passion, experimentation. Shiftingupstream is no easy task but likely well worth it in terms of both business and individual potential being realized.
Consider this ….
- The Maritz Institute, in collaboration with Maritz Motivation and the Marketing Sciences Group of Maritz Research, has conducted a number of studies to understand the role that values play in the relationship between business and key stakeholders groups including employees and consumers. In a recent U.S.-based employee study, we found that the most engaged employees work for companies theyperceive to value “self-expression” in the form of self-direction, stimulation, and universalism.Yet, this constituted only 21% of the organizations.
- The least engaged employeeswork for companies they perceive to value “self-enhancement” in the form of achievement, power, and conformity. This constituted 60% of the organizations. The remaining 20% of organizations were perceived to value conservation with greater focus on security and tradition.
Why is this? Could it be there is an increasing gap between what society values and the values that underpin most businesses? To delve into this question, let’s consider the findings from the World Values Survey. The World Values Survey (WVS) is a worldwide network of social scientists studying changing values and their impact on social and political life. The WVS in collaboration with EVS (European Values Study) carried out representative national surveys in 97 societies containing almost 90 percent of the world’s population. These surveys show pervasive changes in what people want out of life and what they believe.
Consider this ….
- Key findings of WVS indicate that on average the five cultural zones surveyed as part of the World Values Survey are moving toward stronger self-expression values. This is due to greater material means, higher intellectual skills, and wider social connectivity which leads to people being able to act independently and able to have greater choice. Greater independence and choice then enables people to have more room to actualize their inner potentials. Thus, the rise in self-expression values.
- Arise in self-expression values is a good thing! People in countries with higher mean levels of self-expression valuesexhibit more generalized trust irrespective of how much they themselves emphasize self-expression values. Additionally, self-expression values show a significant association withcollective action tendencies where people act on behalf of the greater good.
- In theories of social capital, trust in people is considered a facilitator of peaceful and voluntary collective action. And, when it comes to action that bridges group boundaries, trust in people in general, as opposed to trust in particular people, is considered of key importance. Additionally, frequent and widespread collective action is considered as a sign of thriving civic communities.
If we think of businesses as social systems with the ability tounleash human potential, then we must consider how to embed self-expression values in how we design business practices. Companies who figure this out are likely the ones to thrive in a society increasingly oriented toward self-expression values. Bottom-line, values determine what people view as value.