VALUES BASED BUSINESS – Values in the Boardroom

Over the last 20-30 years there has been a marked shift in the values and principles which guide the world of business. Many of the fine values and standards which were evident in business previously such as Integrity, Cooperation, Respect have been increasingly compromised by an obsession with making short term financial goals, often those which are the greatest benefit to ME.

What has been one of the most dramatic changes, one which exemplifies the state of business today, is the behaviour of many business leaders, the CEOs of major companies in the world. These people are now getting paid 150-200 times the average salary in their company, up from about 30:1 twenty years ago. Their average compensation package is £3-4,000,000 per year. Guess how long they stay in the job, their time in office? Three years! Their main value seems to be WEALTH and take the money and run seems to be their modus operandi. The priority being short term financial gain-for ME.

Values are often spoken about in Company Mission and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)Statements. Many of those values are business values like Efficiency, Product Quality, Good Communications. The appearance of moral values like Truth, Courage, Justice are now not often to be found in these statements. Even if they are there, when it comes to the crunch all too often the real focus is on making the financial targets; be they the sales quota for the month, the quarterly financial performance or the yearly profit. This focus is not wrong in itself, but often the decisions made are regardless of any moral or ethical consideration. More and more examples of greed and corruption are being exposed and the result is that trust in business is at a VERY low state.

Given the great benefits that accrue to a society when the business community is operation efficiently and effectively for the sake of the all their stakeholders, it seems that there needs to be some new impulses to shift the current pattern of greed and corruption. It is for this reason that it was thought useful to offer a reminder to people engaged in business about universal values, highlighting the fact that when business decisions are based on principles and fine values, then quite naturally trust and confidence will be established on the part of employees, clients and the community. This strong foundation can then form the basis for a long term sustainable business.

VALUES BASED EDUCATION – Values in the Classroom

In our current society the stability of the family has been eroded to a high degree. Divorce and single-parent families are much more common and a recent study in the UK revealed that only 60-70 % of children attending school came from families where their two parents were living together; down from over 90 % in the 1970s. Some young people coming from broken families have not benefited from the stability, guidance, good example and protection available within a strong family, thus adding to the uncertainties of life.

A recent poll carried out by the Times also showed a generational shift away from religion with 42% of an increasingly diverse UK population claiming to have no religion, including a much higher percentage of under-24s. As such many children have not had the benefit of any spiritual guidance which might have awakened in them a desire to know more about the virtues and values. The result is that a values vacuum has been created.

For many idealistic young people there is a real awareness that these materialistic values of society are not the right way. If the imbalance is not corrected, there is a danger that their frustration with the greed and excess of a few in society can all too easily turn to anger, violence, crime or bored resignation. For others, they simply get on the treadmill of putting out effort to get good grades so they can go to university and then be able to get a good job and make lots of money etc. They are too easily come under the sway of the media and Wealth, Power, Fame and Pleasure become the ruling values. This approach causes a great deal of stress which the children begin experiencing from a young age.

What was discovered in discussing the value of values with many people was that there was a growing recognition of the importance of introducing values to children as part of the educational offering of the nation’s schools. In fact, since 1944 in the UK it is the law that all schools need to include Spiritual, Moral, Social, and Cultural (SMSC) instruction as an integral part of the school’s curricula and activities.

A recent RSA Report entitled, Schools with Soul, found however that most schools have moved values to the periphery. The main concentration is on short term results i.e. examination results which is the way that the school is rated.

The danger, as has been expressed by some, is that our schools are becoming certification or validation centres instead of schools aiming to educate the whole child: the physical, mental, emotional and the spiritual elements of their being. It is a big task which means it needs clear direction, solid and stable leadership, excellent and well-motivated teachers and a curriculum that serves these various dimensions.

It is the latter need that we hope to make some contribution through a new development of the If I Can… Schools’ version.

The Schools’ version can simply be downloaded from the Resources page. Schools can also download supporting materials such as stories to illustrate the values, recordings and written statements from pupils about what a certain value means to them. As with the online version, there will be no charge for Schools’ Version.