When corporate values are meaningless for the employee...

I recently was speaking with a doctor who was somewhat bemused by his latest PDR paperwork. He explained how he was being ranked on his ability to meet his employer’s specific ‘vision and values’ in the way he went about his working life. Nothing unusual there, it’s pretty much a given that once an employer has developed their ‘vision and values’, some clearly defined ways to achieve, exceed and develop them for the greater good of the company, its bottom line and ability to grow are put in place.

But when the much vaunted vision and values of a healthcare provider include (broadly) 1. delivering great care whilst 2. working as a team and 3. “caring about people”, it’s impossible to see how these are used to differentiate a ‘great’ doctor from a merely ‘so-so’ one. Surely these values, for this employer, and this role, are superfluous and largely presumed? This doctor certainly seemed to think so, and anyway, HR had advised him that he needn’t worry, they knew he could do all of these things anyway’. Well, at least that was three boxes on the form that could be left blank.

What a shame. If, as an employer, you put a great deal of effort, thought and collaboration on defining the very essence of what you do, but end up with something so generic and meaningless that it adds nothing to the evaluation or the development of your people, you are clearly missing  a trick. They are not wrong, indeed, anyone would be suspicious of a similar social enterprise that didn’t claim to care about people, but they are not being used to engage and motivate their people.

It’s the difference between ‘delivering great care’ and ‘consciously striving to deliver great care that’s cost-efficient, effective and progressive’ – now, those are measurable and meaningful values. 

I asked him what did get him up in the morning. And his passion, it turns out, is for channelling his years of study and experience into a very specific niche area which had always fascinated and challenged him. Actually, his real passion is snowboarding - he dreams of one day recreating Halldor Helgason’s ‘Lobster Flip’ (me neither), but that doesn’t exactly fit my narrative here…. 

Patients with the condition are quite rare, but he understands perfectly that in order to continue his research work and therapeutic discovery he has to carry out a heck of a lot of work with patients with far less interesting (to him) conditions. He doesn’t begrudge the humdrum, and happily recognises success there as enabling him to progress in his specialty. As such, he has helped corporate leanness by introducing beneficial purchasing relationships, and streamlined the process for moving patients between consultants where necessary.

Surely there’s so much more in that attitude to celebrate, recognise and evaluate than merely ‘caring for people’?