Why corporate values should help avoid scandals.
We talk a whole heck of a lot about corporate values here at Oliver Russell. All our employees are expected to know our values—and be able to recite them at any given moment (which was a little nerve-wracking as a new hire). Now that I have more insight into our business and understand the integral part these values play in every aspect of our decision-making process, I see why it’s important to have them at the tip of each employee’s tongue. We (employees) are constantly making decisions that impact the company directly and need to understand the basis on which our employer believes those decisions should be considered. That’s where your company values should come into play.
Last month Volkswagen got into a whole steaming heap of trouble when the "Dieselgate" story broke. By now we are all familiar with the embarrassing tale of senior-level employees insisting (for more than a year) that discrepancies in emissions reports were the result of technical issues rather than admitting the heart of the problem was intentional deceit. Stocks tanked, customers were betrayed, and the media had a heyday covering it all.
How could something like this happen at the company whose name literally translates to the "people’s car?" The company whose Values page on their website (still) reads, “Sustainable, collaborative, and responsible thinking underlies everything that we do.”
In light of the recent headlines, it’s hard not to LOL all over that statement.
Volkswagen’s stated core brand messages are innovative, offering enduring value, and responsible. With responsibility at your businesses core, how could something like this happen? Why did any employee (or presumably a group of employees at many different levels within the company) believe that incorporating faulty programming to strengthen environmental claims was the right decision in the first place? Why the drawn-out lie during the investigation? Why isn’t VW actively communicating to their customers now to own up to their mistake? And most importantly, how will we (the consumer) ever believe they are "responsible" again?
With nearly 600,000 employees, there must have been knowledge of the “defeat device” beyond those directly involved. Why no whistle-blowers at a company who says they value "sustainability" and "collaboration?" What was it about VW's culture that kept employees silenced—was it because no one would listen, or because no one had the courage to speak?
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Values are put in place to provide guidance for actions and decisions made on behalf of the company. They can’t just be trite words on your website—they need to be integrated into your company’s culture at a fundamental level. How do you do that? I thought you would never ask:
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