Values are the Heart of the Workplace: Helping employees stay in love with the company

By the time the average person retires at age 65 they will have spent over 90,000 hours on the job. 90,000 hours! That’s one-third of your adult life. You better love what you do, and the company you work for if you’re going to dedicate a third of your adult life to your profession.

Being in HR, we have the privilege of working with people across every stage of their career. We want employees to love what they do and where they work.

To understand what it means to fall, and more importantly stay, in love with your company, let’s break it down by the four stages of relationships.

Falling in Love
Like dating, when job hunting, candidates look at all the qualities of a future employer. They become excited and motivated to apply for positions at companies they find highly desirable based on several factors. One such factor, that should not be overlooked, is company values. Just like finding a partner for life, employees genuinely want to align with a company that mirrors their own attitudes, beliefs and behaviors. Having values alignment from the onset makes the candidate feel safe, establishes trust, and reinforces the job as an opportunity they want to pursue further. As featured in an article on love and the brain, “When we are falling in love, chemicals [such as dopamine] associated with the reward circuit flood our brain, producing a variety of physical and emotional responses.” The interview stage often seals the deal and helps in discovering if there’s a real connection, shared purpose and mutual expectations. However, we also must be mindful, “in the early part of a relationship—the falling in love stage—the other person is the center of your life. You forgive everything in these early stages. The other person has faults and you see them but it doesn’t matter…Good things outweigh the negative here,” says, Lucy Brown, PhD, Clinical Professor in Neurology at Einstein College of Medicine in New York. The same theory of love applies in new employer-employee situations. We tend to gloss over small, but perhaps important things because we’ve justified it. As the relationship and the euphoric stage of falling in love evolves, your values will bring you back to reality and those little things you downplayed may come forward.

The Honeymoon Stage of Early Attachment
The first 90-days is a bliss state for new hires, but it is also the most critical. Dr. Michael D. Watkins in his book, The First 90 Days: Proven Strategies for Getting Up to Speed Faster and Smarter, emphasizes this point saying, “recruiting is like romance, employment is like marriage.” The ventral pallidum, the region of the brain linked with feelings of attachment, and the attachment hormones, vasopressin and oxytocin, goes into action. Behaviorally, this can be seen when employees are fully engaged at the workplace. For example, they express pride in the company by sharing posts on social media, participate in activities, intentionally contribute to culture and make meaningful connections with their peers. Performance also accelerates during the early attachment stage as new employees are highly motivated to secure early wins to reinforce their value. This is when employees often go above and beyond, putting in extra hours, without being asked. It’s easy to see the parallels with romantic relationships; people tend to dedicate more time, thoughtfulness and energy into something new…until it gets comfortable. Then we settle into a normal routine. As in life, when we love someone, we care about them enough to keep them a top priority.

The Crisis Stage
Which brings us to the third stage of love, which is being able to overcome a crisis together. True love works through challenges. It’s often during times of adversity we get to display our authenticity. We know in life, and in business, change is the only constant. Reminding leaders to be transparent with employees and maintain open lines of communication is essential to preserving the trust. There will be times where people, leaders or the organization will need to course correct and reground in their values. That’s normal and okay. The important thing is that there is a conscience decision to access and create a strategy when needed. Values stay meaningful when everyone makes a personal commitment to alignment and to find opportunities to keep them alive.

Deep Attachment Stage
It’s typically after overcoming the odds or celebrating incredible achievement that deep attachment and loyalty settle in. This is when HR can make a difference in helping employees stay in love with their company and not jump ship. Developing rewards and recognition programs as well as promoting a culture of gratitude are a few ways companies can consistently show employees how much they are valued and create a sense of belonging with the team. When employees feel appreciated it can lead to higher productivity and better performance.

When we think about what it is to truly love your company and the work you do, go back to the basics. Love requires mutual commitment between you (all employees) and the company around behavior and expectations. It also requires effort and intention. Most important, love asks us to never give up. So, when we think about our employees, lets give them our best self because it can make the difference between loving a job and just making it to retirement.