Secrets of a Brighter Workplace


Tips on how to understand, recruit and keep the best people for your business


How to recruit people with the right values for your business

What’s your red line?

Employing people who share the same values as your organisation is clearly beneficial.

For the employee, that’s because:

“Staff whose values are more clearly aligned with that of their employer, and whose roles allow them to live out these values, have higher levels of engagement, job satisfaction and performance.” (MacLeod report 2009)

For the employer, having staff who believe in the same values – and act accordingly – means everyone’s working towards the same goals and customers are more likely to have a consistent experience when dealing with your organisation.

But how do you go about recruiting people with the right values for your business?

What do we mean by ‘values’?

A value is defined as an ‘enduring belief or principle held by an individual’.

Values are, in effect, the guiding principles by which we live our lives. They’re not formed in our genes or our personality but tend to derive from our upbringing, the social context in which we find ourselves.

For instance, respect for the older generation is often said to be a feature of many Asian cultures. Here in the UK, it is often said that there is a British sense of fair play.

Often, we don’t know what our values are, until someone or something crosses our invisible red line. You might not realise, for instance, that one of your core values is fairness, until your child gets overlooked for a position on the hockey team. And you’re surprised by how angry that makes you.

It’s as if our values are bedded so deep within us, we don’t always notice they’re there. But they steer our behaviour and our response to other people’s behaviour in a very fundamental way.

Assessing people’s values

Which, when it comes to recruitment, can make it difficult to measure and assess the values that people hold.

Some tools in the market involve the candidate simply self-reporting what their values are. But clearly if we don’t always know what our values are until we’re crossed, how can we talk about them with any confidence?

Equally, we may have an understanding of our values, but that doesn’t always mean we’ll act on them.

Other tools focus on what you can measure – behaviour. They look at what behaviour is likely to emerge as a consequence of someone having a particular value.

The problem with that approach is that there may be a range of different values influencing the same behaviour. For instance, if someone drops £10 and you pick it up and return it to them, what value is in operation? It could be honesty, compassion, a desire to be helpful, to do the right thing, it could be social justice (perhaps you’d be less inclined to return the money if the recipient looked like they had plenty already!).

On the other hand, does it matter what value led to the behaviour, if the behaviour is one you want to see? After all, it’s what people actually do that’s important.

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t, or can’t, design a values-based recruitment approach.

What you can’t do, though, is treat values as an add-on to your usual competency-based or strengths-based recruitment activity. I’ve seen that tried – and trust me, it didn’t work!

Values are more like the foundations of your house, rather than the nice-to-have addition of a conservatory!

If you’re going to do it, it needs to be done well. Here’s how:

Designing a values-based recruitment approach

As with designing any recruitment approach, you need to begin with the end point. What does good look like in the role? What behaviours are you looking for?

You do this through job analysis.

How you go about it will depend on whether your organisation already has a set of values you want to recruit against. Or whether you’re looking for the values specific to a particular role.

1. If you’re looking to measure behaviour against already established organisational values, then you need to understand what those values look like in the specific role you’re recruiting to.

For instance, what does ‘looking after our customers’ mean in a careworker role? How do your high performing careworkers behave that demonstrates that particular value?

Work through each of the organisation’s values in turn to make sure you’ve identified behaviours for each one.

Once you have a set of clearly defined behaviours, you can then design your recruitment process to measure and assess candidates for those behaviours.

2. Perhaps there isn’t a formal values framework for the organisation as a whole, but you feel it would be beneficial to have an idea of shared values for a specific role.

And there are some roles that benefit from having a set of values associated with them. Such as caring occupations, for people working on behalf of the public etc.

Again, job analysis is the key to uncovering the relevant values in a role. What are the values your high performers display? What are their guiding principles and how do they put them into action?

It’s about exploring the emotions behind the behaviour as much as the behaviour itself. Not just ‘what did you do’ but ‘why did you do that?’ ‘What principles were behind the decisions you made?’ For instance, you might ask a careworker why they felt it was important to help a client shave every morning. They might feel it’s about dignity, respect, a sense of duty.

In this way you can start to identify the underlying values beneath the worker’s behaviour.

Other aspects to consider when designing your values-based recruitment approach

  • How will your values framework be used alongside the competencies and knowledge/skills/abilities required?
  • Will you need to sift applications on values or will values just be measured once face-to-face with candidates?
  • How will you manage candidate’s expectations about being assessed on values?
  • How will you know the assessment approach is successful and candidates are performing in accordance with the right values in the role?

Aligning values and behaviours

The best examples of value-based recruitment are where there are a very clear set of values and a very clear set of corresponding behaviours. And they’re very clearly aligned.

The Civil Service Code for instance is a good one to look at for inspiration.

The framework they have created sets out very clearly and simply how the values are displayed by civil servants. What the values look like when put into action.


Having a values framework will help you to recruit people who ‘fit’ your organisation. Who share the same principles, believe in the same goals, treat customers in a consistent way. And who wouldn’t want that?

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