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Update: We have released a related white paper – Psychometric Assessment: A Valuable Business Tool – Second Annual OPG Survey.

Linking Competencies to Company Values

This paper is based on the principle that today roles, responsibilities and accountabilities must be clearly defined and linked to behaviours if organisations are to succeed.

The OPG’s clients have often invested significant time and resource in defining their corporate values only to find that they have been placed in the draw marked, “job done”. The link between defining values and actual work practices is often missing when it comes to implementation.

The importance of linking values with corporate strategy and work behaviours is critical.  Research shows that there is a strong link between all these variables and culture.  The latter is a critical driver of how an organisation operates.  This has been highlighted by recent corporate scandals and high-profile business failures.


Academics have defined values as beliefs about all conceptualisation of behaviours wanted in the workplace.  Organisational values further link these values to corporate strategy.  At this point the question is how many organisations effectively make this link?

Fit with personal values and fit with organisational values are both important.  Research shows that the latter is strongly linked with organisational performance. So, if the values of an individual and person fit, then performance will be higher.

The role of competencies

Those of you who have studied business psychology will have come across Richard Boyatzis and his work on competencies.  He defined competencies as being, “a mixture of individuals motives, abilities, self-image, social role and knowledge.”

The importance of having validated competencies is sometimes overlooked by organisations which think that the bear minimum values statement is sufficient to outline behavioural expectations.  The reality is that a golden opportunity to link recruitment, development, succession planning and performance management with behaviours, values and corporate strategy is often missed.

Linking organisational values with performance

The OPG’s recent work with clients has focussed on helping link organisational values with candidate fit and performance. Projects have included the design of Situational Judgement Tests for one of the UK’s largest car dealership chains to competency frameworks for pharmaceutical, FMCG and public sector clients. Moreover, helping clients achieve clarity and alignment with corporate strategy has been a key focus on each project.  This is called ‘vertical alignment’.

You might call this, living the brand

Values which work take time to develop.  They are well researched and designed using techniques designed to understand future as well as current needs.

Our approach 

We move discussions on from what is often perceived as abstract and `soft’ values to incorporate business focussed values which link strategy with performance.  You might call this, “living the brand”.  The corporate culture is essentially based on the model as devised by Schein (1992).  This distinguishes layers labelled “values”, “norms” and “artefacts”, supplemented by a fourth layer defined as “behaviours”.

Practical Use

1. Recruitment

Recently, we began working with an aerospace client that had invested a considerable amount of resource in developing their organisational values.  It had also linked these values to behaviours although they did not use the term ‘competencies’ in their literature.  The impressive work needed to be translated in practical application, and this was where The OPG helped to articulate individual fit with organisational values and competencies using psychometric assessment and consultant led depth feedback interviews.  Psychometric feedback was translated into a fit against the values and competencies using feedback and bespoke reports. Candidate fit can then be objectively measured using techniques traditional interviews simply do not address.

Moreover, linking organisational values to recruitment process can be extended to the design of interview templates which utilise competency-based interviewing.  For a major bathroom furniture retailer, The OPG designed role specific competencies linked to values.  We then designed competency-based interview questions to be used in conjunction with psychometric assessment results.   This meant that a consistent, fair and objective interview template was linked to expected behaviours.

Technology can be a wonderful thing

Technology can be a wonderful thing if organisations are able to see the value in extending its application beyond transactional applications.  For example. The OPG designed Situational Judgement Tests linked with values and competencies for a major car retailer.  This has had a significant impact on improving the quality of hires amongst experienced and graduate populations.

2. Performance management

Much has been written around the demise of the appraisal.  They are often cited as being mere tick box exercises or meaningless discussions which end up in the bin.  However, performance management is a not to be confused with appraisals.  The danger for many organisations is that the slow death of the appraisal is replaced with something that is even less effective.  For example, discussions on LinkedIn have focused on having informal chats as a performance tool.  This does not work because clarity around roles, responsibilities and objectives is critical to high performance.  This means that having clearly defined values to linked to strategy, brand and behaviour significantly enhances performance and reduces the cost of failed hires and underperformance.

The danger for many organisations is that the slowly dying appraisal is being replaced with something that is even less effective.

Having a robust set of values linked to the strategy and brand means that performance management can successfully be formalised and used to help inform learning & development decisions as well as succession planning and career discussions.

Informal and ongoing feedback is important but so is having an effective evaluative framework.

3. Succession Planning

Promotion based on ‘craft skills’ or ‘time served’ is still rife in many organisations.  Despite the indisputable fact that fit for leadership positions rely on the right behaviours being demonstrated by managers many employers take shortcuts to hire and therefore, recruit sub-optimally.

The correlation between job satisfaction, employee discretionary behaviours, performance and leadership behaviours is proven.

Nevertheless, many organisations ignore alignment with competencies and values when promoting managers and suffer severe consequences as a result.

4.  Developing a winning company culture

A lot has been made of how linking values to culture helps develop performance.  This is true but only if leaders and employees live the brand.  Mere corporate communication is irrelevant if stakeholders do not ‘buy in’.

When designing values, it is critical to involve the widest group of stakeholders.  Imposed, made up or poorly researched values lack face validity and are unlikely to get traction from others.

Glossy corporate communications do not have much impact unless leaders live and breathe the values and demonstrate the behaviours.

Do’s and Don’ts

  • Do think strategically and link strategy with people, their behaviours and performance
  • Do prioritise behavioural change where performance needs improving. The benefits are proven 
  • Do engage with an expert business psychologist who can gather the data, analyse and articulate it into meaningful results 
  • Don’t treat values as a meaningless document which gets buried in the top draw
  • Don’t see the values statement as the job done.  Proper competencies linked to performance and resourcing really do add value 

5. Conclusion

The nature of work has changed.  More and more employers realise that strategy should be linked to values, employee behaviour and the organisational culture.

Some consultancies and organisations concentrate on brand, some on communication, few on reaching strategic alignment.

If you’d like to learn more about our work please email me medavis@theopg.co.uk

Matthew Davis

About the author & Ramsey Hall


Matthew Davis is a Chartered FCIPD and Chartered Marketer FCIM qualified HR/Human Capital consulting professional. Experienced in most aspects of resourcing, business psychology, performance management and organisational development consulting as well as team leadership and budgetary management.

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