Human Values – and how they affect business processes


What are values ?

Values are ever encompassing concepts. Values are those things that really matter to each of us, the ideas and beliefs we hold as special.

Milton Rokeach, a noted psychologist, has defined values as global beliefs that guide actions and judgments across a variety of situations. He further said “Values represent basic convictions that a specific mode of conduct (or end-state of existence)  is personally or socially preferable to an opposite mode of conduct (or end-state of existence)”

Rokeach, in his book titled The Nature of Human Values, says there are two kinds of values that people have: “instrumental values” and “terminal values”. Instrumental values consist, primarily, of personal characteristic and character traits. Terminal values are those things that we can work toward or we think are most important and that we feel are most desirable.

The Allport-Vernon Study

The Allport-Vernon Study of Values (1931) categorizes values into six major types as follows:

1.       Theoretical: Interest in the discovery of truth through reasoning and systematic thinking.

2.       Economic: Interest in usefulness and practicality, including the accumulation of wealth.

3.       Aesthetic: Interest in beauty, form and artistic harmony.

4.       Social: Interest in people and human relationships.

5.       Political: Interest in gaining power and influencing other people.

6.       Religious: Interest in unity and understanding the cosmos as a whole.

People place different importance to the above value types. This is important from the point of view of understanding the behavior of people. People in different occupations have different value systems which has led organizations to improve the values-job fit in order to increase employee performance and satisfaction. The Allport-Vernon Study of Values, however, has one possible weakness. They measure the relative importance of these values to the individual, rather than the “absolute” importance of each value. A high preference for certain values must always be at the expense of the other values.  By 1980, the values scale had fallen into disuse due to its archaic content, lack of religious inclusiveness, and dated language.

How values affect business process

Organizations are nothing but human beings working together to achieve a common  goal. Because values play such an important role in our lives, being able to recognize, understand and articulate one’s own values set becomes critical in sound decision making which becomes basis for business process.

To achieve these organisation goal every organisation establishes its own set of “organizational values” .  Without such values, individuals will pursue behaviours that are in line with their own individual value systems, which may lead to behaviours that the organization doesn’t wish to encourage. Organizational values define the acceptable standards which govern the behaviour of individuals within the organization. Clearly, the organization’s values must be in line with its purpose or mission, and the vision that it is trying to achieve.

Corporate values articulate what guides an organization’s behavior and decision making. They can boost innovation, productivity, and credibility, and help deliver thereby sustainable competitive advantage.

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