Why do we need values?

In business, values are important. They demonstrate the organisation’s wider thinking, consideration of global issues, and that they are in touch with their customers and clients. However, traditionally this may not have always been the case. Numerous organisations have, over the years, named their values but failed to live them. Stories like Enron, a once lauded energy company, which was found to have covered up years of deception regarding profits and finances; or BCCI, the bank that wound up owing more than £10bn to their creditors, after “widespread fraud and manipulation”, despite it supposedly being a safe haven for those creditors – an issue which has plagued several banks since.

This way of working was always a broken method, but now it is even more so as consumers and customers are more discerning with their business choices. An organisation has to embody their values. Genuinely connecting with these show that the organisation is considering the wider picture.
 
There are cases where organisations have had values which have been lacking, but a more value-aware public has held them to account, providing them with an emphasis to look at these wider considerations. If we look at the healthcare sector as an example, there are two cases where this is particularly evident.
 
The infamous cases of Castlebeck – a private hospital for the severely disabled; and Stafford Hospital – a small general hospital in the West Midlands; were both scandals which rocked the British public, and highlighted the negligence of values at both institutions.

In the case of Castlebeck, a 2011 Panorama episode exposed a series of systemic failings which had resulted in the neglect and ill-treatment of patients at Winterbourne View hospital in South Gloucestershire. 11 members of staff were arrested, convicted of almost 40 charges against them, and the hospital shut down.
 
At Stafford Hospital, an estimated 400-1,200 patients died as the result of poor care between January 2005 and March 2009, with many staff afraid to speak out due to the inherent bullying and resulting fear within the hospital environment. The scandal arose due to the concerns raised both by the various investigations from the Healthcare Commission and Julie Bailey, who spearheaded the public role in exposing the situation. Her mother had died at the hospital in 2007 and she formed the campaign group “Cure The NHS”, demanding a public inquiry, of which five were eventually conducted in pursuit of the reason behind this failure to public healthcare.
 
While both of these examples show clear incompetence in the provision of care to those who required it, they also demonstrate that the values are of key importance too. The NHS speak of working together for patients, respect and dignity, commitment to quality of care, as well as compassion and improving lives. These need to resonate with the public, and living the values will go a long way to achieving this.

Cases such as these have served as a catalyst, and for the Royal Free London, the development of a “Living our values” framework, with contributions from 1,000 members of staff and volunteers has seen them jump from the bottom 10% to the top 10% of trusts over the last five years, in an NHS survey gauging the overall care, values, and quality of the workplace environment from their trusts.
 
This result is just one example of how a benefit to all can result from values that we are all proud to stand behind.
 

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