New research by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) has suggested that workers whose behaviour consistently goes against the values of the organisations they work for are often left unpunished or are even rewarded or promoted.

The institute’s latest Employee Outlook survey found that this was the opinion of 40% of respondents, while 33% of those asked said that individuals were reprimanded for persistent rule breaking.

Of the 2,000 employees surveyed, 52% agreed that their organisations values positively influence behaviour at work.

However, of those that disagreed, the main reason cited among private sector workers was the emphasis of profit over organisational values. For public sector workers, one rule for senior managers and one rule for everyone else was their explanation.

According to the report, communication of values is also a problem with only 29% of employees stating that they are aware of the organisations values. It also suggested that the values of businesses do not match those of their workforce with only 58% of respondents admitting that their personal values match those of the companies they work for.

Even though these findings reveal a level of disconnection between the two parties, 73% of employees said that it is important to have defined values which govern employee behaviour.

Commenting on the report, Peter Cheese, CEO at the CIPD, said:

“In the wake of the banking crisis and other corporate scandals, now more than ever, organisational values should be at the forefront of business leaders’ minds. At the heart of an organisation’s culture has to be a set of agreed values that resonate with employees at all levels from the board to the front line in order to provide a template for the behaviours and standards expected.

“Employers must also demonstrate that failure to act in accordance with the organisation’s defined values has real consequences. Unless business leaders and HR are prepared to take a stand and ensure that their organisational values are seen to make a difference and are worth more than a passing reference in the company report or on the intranet, then they will lose the trust and confidence of staff.”

Claire McCartney, Research Adviser at the CIPD, added:

“The big challenge facing employers is how to embed values so they are meaningful. HR professionals have a key role to play in ensuring that values personally resonate with employees. Involving employees in the values creation process will certainly help to make them more meaningful and integrating values into people management processes and the way people do their jobs will also help to ensure values matter.

“Our evidence shows that there is currently a disconnect between business values and the personal values of employees. In view of this it is unsurprising that only half believe that organisations’ values positively influence people’s behaviour. This imbalance needs to be urgently addressed if we are to really see a new era of improved business culture.”

Other key findings from the Autumn Employee Outlook survey include:

  • Employee engagement levels have stayed stable at nearly two fifths (38%) but the substantial number of employees who are neutral – neither engaged nor unengaged has increased slightly to nearly three fifths (59%).
  • Overall, job satisfaction remains strongly positive at +47.
  • Employees continue to be generally positive in their attitudes towards their immediate line managers, 71% feel that their managers always/usually treat them fairly and 72% feel that they are committed to their organisations.
  • Perceptions of leaders have improved this quarter on indicators such as treating employees with respect (+16 from +12), trust in leaders (+7 from +1) and clarity of vision (+26 from +23). There has also been improvement around perceptions of consultation on important decisions, but this continues to remain negative (-20 from -26).