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How work values affect workplace performance

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A hand placing a wooden block representing the eleven essential values in the workplace

Measuring what’s most important to your team

Do you know what motivates your employees?

The SACS Work Values Scale uncovers eleven core work values, including autonomy, variety, enjoyment, ambition, authority, safety, traditional values, rule respecting, helping and supporting, social justice, and environmental sustainability.

By measuring these workplace values, you gain valuable insights into the needs, motivations and expectations of your employees, allowing you to improve job satisfaction and enhance relationships with colleagues.

The SACS Work Values Scale is designed to allow for a broad range of value intensities, acknowledging that some individuals may hold their values more dominantly than others.

When interpreting work values, it’s beneficial to consider them alongside personality assessments and cognitive ability, as this can influence the importance of a given result.

Key workplace values and how they impact job satisfaction

Watch the video to understand what the SACS Work Values Scale measures and how you can use this information to better understand your employees and increase job satisfaction and performance.

If you know of anyone who would benefit from this video, please share it with them.

Eleven essential values in the workplace

Hi, Andrew from SACS.

Talking about measurement of values today, and in particular, we’re talking about an instrument called the SACS Work Values Scale.

The SACS Work Value Scale measures values in a work setting, and work values are a little different from more general values.

General values were developed and assessed most effectively by Shalom Schwartz, who built on the work of a gentleman by the name of Milton Rokeach, to measure values at a social level and also at an individual level.

And his values assessment looks like this.

There are 10 values that he identified, and they are in four general areas, conservation, self enhancement, openness to a change, and self transcendence.

And so this measures values in a general life sense.

Your core workplace values

Work values are a little bit different from general life values.

When we come to work, we want certain things, and if the job provides those certain things, then we’re likely to be happier.

But as well as that, we’re likely to be more accepted by the colleagues who like the values of the group that they’re working in.

As well as that, we will tend to like our colleagues more if there’s a values coherence.

We discovered 11 core values at work.

And so they are things like autonomy, variety, enjoyment, ambition, authority, safety, traditional values, rule respecting, helping and supporting, social justice, and environmental sustainability.

Now, if a person scores high on enjoyment, that means that they care about enjoyment at their work.

If they score low, it doesn’t mean that they’re not enjoying their work, it’s just not a priority for them.

That’s what values measure.

It measures how important this thing is to this person.

The SACS model of work values

Now, if you look at the Schwartz Model of Values (refer to the video), the way that the Schwartz Model of Values is scored is that it’s kind of centrally balanced.

So you can’t end up with all high scores or all low scores.

But when we built the SACS Model of Values, we considered a range of different theoretical perspectives.

And we felt actually that there could be a situation where a person’s values overall were more dominant than another person’s set of values.

And I’m sure we’ve met people like that, haven’t we?

We seem to have met people who are extremely caring about a range of different things, a range of different things are really important to them, and others might be a little bit more relaxed about things and more easy-going when it comes to values, or less passionate, might be another way of describing it.

So we decided to make the SACS Work Value Scale respond to the variety of values.

So you can have a lot of values or you can have few.

And we feel that that’s an important interpretive message, and it’s true to life we felt in respect of work life.

Examples of values at work

So let’s look at some scores.

Here is a person with very high values.

And so you’ll see that all of these scores, variety, autonomy, ambition and so forth, all high, right the way around.

So autonomy’s the lowest of these very high values.

But that suggests that this person wants an extremely wide range of things from their work life.

I would suggest it’s a really good idea to interpret this values assessment with the person’s personality assessment and their cognitive ability assessment, because if they’re really smart and really hardworking, it may well be that they’ll be able to achieve all of these different values.

The one thing that you might find is, let’s say if they’re quite an emotional person and maybe not so strong in cognitive ability and maybe a little bit lower in conscientiousness, then they may struggle with the conflicts between these values.

Because you see these values are showing things that are close together, like variety and enjoyment, but you’re also seeing things that are opposite each other, like for instance, enjoyment and traditional values.

And what that means is where a person’s strong on values which are opposite each other in a psychometric sense, in a measurement sense, that means that there can be conflicts.

You know, one part of me wants to have fun, another part of me wants to adhere to traditional views of life.

And here we have a person who has some high scores and some low scores.

You see enjoyment, helping and supporting, variety and social justice are all high.

And you’ll see that the things on the right hand side of the scale, ambition, authority, traditional values, rule respecting and environmental sustainability are considerably lower.

So that paints a picture of a person who has some very strongly held values, but maybe some other things that they don’t care so deeply about.

And that’s a really important finding of itself.

So let’s look at a score that has one very high result and some quite low scores.

And you’ll see this person caress enormously deeply about environmental sustainability.

That score is at the 99th percentile and you literally can’t get a higher score than that.

But you know what, if you look at the profile, they don’t really care that much about anything else.

And so the thing that you must watch there is whether this person is kind of a zealot on that point, so strongly committed to that that they really don’t care much about anything else.

Once more, if you look at this in the context of the person’s cognitive ability scores and their personality scores, that will help you to interpret how this is likely to play out in the work world.

Cognitive ability and personality

In general, when cognitive ability is higher, people have a greater capacity to manage these things and make sure that they fit in to a more general environment and don’t come across as a zealot.

If you’ve got relatively lower cognitive ability scores, maybe this person will come across a little bit hot and strong on this environmental sustainability point.

Same applies to anything else of course.

If for instance, authority had been very high, then that would equally apply.

Also, personality.

And the one thing I always tell people about values and personality is that your values sometimes coincide with your personality.

And you’ll see that this person’s not very high on variety, 28th percentile.

So you will get a situation where a person’s value scores either record or conflict with their personality scores.

And in the case of variety, that’s a value, which means that’s a goal I want to pursue, and this person doesn’t want to pursue this goal.

But personality tells you much more about how the person is hardwired, genetic tendencies.

And there’s a thing called openness to experience in personality.

And when a person’s high in that, they have an openness to new things, they’re welcoming of new things.

So if they have a high score on openness to experience, even though the value of variety is not that high, it may well mean that at least then unlikely to refuse to contemplate new things.

So, personality, values, cognitive ability, interact.

But the key message of this video is that, yes, it’s perfectly acceptable to have a lot of values or less values, that I think is a message which is very important about the person that you are considering.

And we can then look at the balance of values to understand whether a person’s likely to like the job that you’re offering them or not.

So to find out more about this kind of stuff, if there’s anything that you’re interested in, just let us know and we’ll do what we can to answer those questions.

Ready to assess your team’s values?

Learn more about our SACS Work Values assessment or contact us today.

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Originally posted: July 3, 2024

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SACS offers organisational psychology products and services to help businesses achieve their goals. We use evidence-based approaches to human resource management to optimise your organisation’s strengths.

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