Companies spend a lot of time and energy developing statements of purpose and values for their people to live by. Yet often these efforts don't bring about any change in behaviors. It's little wonder: a recent Gallup poll indicates that only 27% of employees believed in their employer's stated values. Even fewer know how to tie those values to how they do their jobs.

I recently talked to some of America's leading experts on organizational culture and values, to hear their take on making stronger connections between personal and organizational values so that employees can align them with daily habits.

Get a Sense of Perspective

Entrepreneur and corporate speaker Michael Crossland has studied the question of values and their effect on businesses. He says, "If we want individuals to align themselves with organization values, first we as leaders need to get our perspective right. Are we being leaders or bosses? A boss says "Go do it"; a leader says "Let's do it."

According to Crossland, when leaders think about how to invest in the success of their team, it changes their perspective about values and purpose and how to reach them. "Leadership is not about what we can get them to do for us," says Crossland. "It's about what we can give back to the team."

Look for the Heroes

Michael Hahn, is the author of "Hero Habits: The Guide to Thriving in Corporate America and in Life." According to Hahn, "People usually don't know how to translate values into something that changes their behavior. Organizations need to look at the beliefs that drive that behavior."

One of the most important habits to get people and organizations aligned, according to Hahn, is to "Choose Happiness."

"We need to recognize and celebrate the people and behaviors that helped get us to where we are," says Hahn. "Start meetings with a simple question: what do we need to celebrate? When you start with what is working, rather than what isn't, you fill up that tank of willpower and reserve that enables people to see themselves as heroic. It's about enabling rather than disabling people."

Assume Positive Intent

It's a challenge to change people's behavior when we don't understand it, says Hahn. "One of the biggest mistakes leaders can make is to assume negative intent. We don't give people opportunities to make a difference because we're afraid they'll mess up."

"We need to assume positive intent," says Hahn. "Leaders need to assume people will do a good job. We can help by providing tools, mentoring, leadership so that they can succeed. If you assume positive intent, people rise to meet that expectation: perception is key."

Change the Game

When more than 70% of workers polled by Gallup admit to being disengaged with their work, it's clear organizations have a challenge when it comes to engaging people.

"As leaders, we need to help people 'design a winnable game,'" says Hahn. "Most people who are struggling have designed a life where they can't win. They don't see an opportunity to advance or make a difference. We need to flip that: how can we help people align their skills, talents and behaviors with what the organization needs so they can be fulfilled at work and feel like they're winning?"

Search for Meaning

Nataly Kogan is the CEO of Happier, Inc, the leading learning platform helping people to optimize their emotional health, who is passionate about helping people design and live a life they genuinely want. She says "One of the interesting things I have found is that there is a disconnect with the values people are writing on a wall and the micro behaviors, or habits and practices, they're living in their daily life."

Kogan says, aligning organizational values with personal values can help people see their work as meaningful. "Meaning is the bridge to resilience," says Kogan, "When we have a sense of meaning and can connect that to what we are doing, it's one of the core practices or skills of emotional well being."

Margaret King, Director of Cultural Studies & Analysis of Cultural Analysis, agrees that employees value meaningful work. "If you provide what people actually need, you create value. The question is, what do they need?"

"It usually isn't money," King says. "That's an outcome. More often, it's about other things the organization gives them: opportunity, feeling like part of something with meaning. People value being valued."

Inspire Emotional Connection

Michael Mankins, Partner at Bain believes inspiration is the key to helping people discover the meaning of their work. "Leaders need to inspire through communicating shared purpose between the organization and the individual," says Mankins. "That means treating people fairly and showing them that their work and the work of the organization matters."

Speaker and author Louis Gravance, believes inspiration matters due to the emotional nature of work. "Emotions drive many of the decisions we make," says Gravance. "If companies want employees to internalize values, they need to connect with the feelings or emotions people have about their work. For most people, it's not what they want to do that matters, it's what they want to be. What are people's goals for themselves and how can that be tied to corporate goals?"

Says Samuel Tepper, Digital Partner at Salesforce and Adjunct Professor at Northwestern University, "If companies first think of what kind of company they'd like to be and then systematically recruit, hire and promote people who align to those values, then everyone wins."

Individuals First, Then Organizations

These experts sounded a consistent theme about how to align personal values and organizational values. Most organizations are thinking about it as needing to align people to what the organization values. But perhaps that equation is wrong. The reason so many people don't change their behavior, is that we're focusing on the wrong values. Workers may show up for a paycheck, but their behavior is transformed when an organization aligns its values with those of their people.

Published on: Jul 20, 2017
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.