What Are Work Values and How to Identify Them

A Guide to Aligning Work Values

Published 24 June, by Chris Schutte

Values are an essential part of engagement and motivation at work. When people are fully engaged businesses see huge improvements in employee motivation, productivity, and retention.

The reality is that for most businesses, employee engagement is exceptionally low.

The State of the Global Workforce 2024 polls by Gallup indicate that  for the majority of businesses only about 23% of their staff are fully engaged.

engaged employees with aligned work values

Engaged employees, driven by shared values, are the key to success; they bring motivation, productivity, and loyalty that drive a business forward.

Aligning people’s core work values with their work environment is key to improving engagement, and many organisations are now integrating them into their recruitment and employee retention strategies.

Below we guide you through the basics of values, measuring values and why they are essential for the long-term success of your people and your business. 

Table of Contents

What are work values?

Values are the core motivators that drive people. They are the things they consider most important in their work to feel meaningful. For example, some people feel that personal development is important in their work. Others might have a strong value for independence in their work environment.

Values provide individuals with a view of where they want to be in the future, and therefore make up the most important determinant of career and life goals. People need to effectively express themselves and their values through their career choices.

The closer aligned your personal work values are to those promoted in the work environment, the more likely your job is to be engaging and meaningful for you.

In the career decision-making process, values are a primary determinant of career choice as long as the individual has a crystallised, prioritised set of Values.

happy and engaged employees, identifying work values

Work Values Examples List

Work values are often expressed differently depending on the organisation.

The 21 values listed and measured by InterACT’s Personal Values Assessment, based on the PhD study by Dr. Beatrice Hofmeyr are listed below.

These fall under 7 main values categories: Business Ethics, Physical Health, Lifestyle Stability, Autonomy, Need for Growth, Interaction, Entrepreneurial.

  • Business Ethics
  • Physical Activity
  • Physical Challenges
  • Artistic Appreciation
  • Close Relationships
  • Cultural Identity
  • Financial Security
  • Predictable Environment
  • Authority
  • Creativity
  • Freedom of Lifestyle
  • Independence
  • Variety
  • Ability Utilisation
  • Achievement
  • Personal Development
  • Concern for Others
  • Social Interaction
  • Prestige
  • Financial Rewards
  • Risk
the 7 clusters of work values

Why work values are important

Gallup polls in 2024 show that the number of people either actively disengaged or not fully engaged in their jobs (quiet quitting) is up to 77%.

A lot of these problems are due to poor alignment and employee/job fit.

For individuals, identifying and prioritising their values at work leads to higher job satisfaction, greater personal growth, and a stronger sense of purpose. 

When your job or work environment aligns with your personal values you are more likely to:

  • Feel motivated and engaged
  • See your job as meaningful
  • Fit in with the workplace culture

For organisations and employers aligning values enables them to get the most out of their people, improve their productivity, increase engagement in the workplace, and increase long-term staff retention. It also improves the efficiency of teams and creates a healthier workplace culture. 

How to identify your work values

There are several methods for identifying your personal work values. The internet offers a wide array of different values and definitions, which are often selected by individuals and organisations to define their core value set.

This isn’t a standardised process, however, which means matching and aligning an individual’s work values with those of the organisation can be inconsistent.

Being able to identify values that are not important to you is also important. Values can be motivating or de-motivating for an individual, and a value actively promoted by the business, which is not important to the individual, or even actively de-motivates them can lead to frequent engagement problems.

This is where psychometric assessments are commonly used by businesses. 

Using Psychometric Tests to Measure Personal Values

Psychometric tests are tools used to evaluate an individual’s personality characteristics, aptitudes and behaviours through structured and objective assessments.

There are a number of psychometric assessments commonly used to identify personal values. InterACT’s Personal Values Assessment is completed in the form of a short questionnaire online. It is a quick and reliable way of identifying your personal values, and ranks them in order of their importance to the individual in the workplace.

personal values assessment and work values test results graph

This then allows you to look at the values that are most important to you (major motivators), those somewhat important to you (minor motivators), and those least important to you (demotivators). 

This information can then be used to motivate, direct, and focus that individual’s efforts in the workplace.

Benefits of identifying workplace values

The results that stem from understanding personal motivation add a greater level of certainty to an organisation’s people decisions.

It also enables clients and current or future employees to determine whether their values are aligned, resulting in a greater chance of job satisfaction, engagement, and overall performance success.

Benefits for Organisations

Identifying work values can help organisations to decrease staff attrition, improve productivity, boost organisational growth, and attract top talent.

It will also:

  • Provide insight into the drivers and motivators underpinning an individual’s goals in the workplace
  • Provide insight into current career compatibility
  • Set appropriate benchmarks for future behaviours that align with the company values
  • Establish the type of work environment that will maximise the employee’s performance
  • Highlight areas where additional support may be necessary

Some organisational challenges where identifying values can assist are:

  • Low employee engagement
  • Low staff morale
  • Non-cohesive teams
  • Career planning
  • Lack of job satisfaction
  • Internal conflict
  • Change and restructures
  • Organisations experiencing rapid growth
  • Personal development plans
  • Undefined Employee Value Propositions

Benefits for Employees

For the individual, identifying their core values gives them a clearer understanding of what is likely to motivate them at work. It gives them a guideline in their job search for finding the best work environments, where they are most likely to be fully engaged and feel their work is meaningful.

1. Enhanced Well-Being

Aligning personal values with company values enhances overall well-being and reduces stress. Employees are more engaged and resilient, better able to handle workplace challenges, and enjoy a more balanced and fulfilling work-life experience.

2. Higher Job Satisfaction

Identifying your values and aligning them with your job leads to higher job satisfaction because it ensures that your work matches what is important to you. When your job aligns with your core values, you feel a stronger sense of purpose and fulfillment. This connection can increase motivation and engagement, making your work more enjoyable.

3. Find the Right Company/Job

Identifying your work values is crucial in finding the right job or company because it helps you determine what is most important to you in a work environment. By understanding your priorities, such as work-life balance, professional growth, or collaboration, you can better evaluate potential employers and roles. This clarity ensures that you choose opportunities that align with your values, leading to a more satisfying and successful career.

How to implement values in the workplace

Values alignment is best done from the initial hiring phase. When people are pressured to change their values to fit in with the organisation’s culture it can consume enormous amounts of energy and is rarely sustainable long term.

If the organisation completes a Company Values Assessment (companion to the Personal Values Assessment), the values profile can be easily matched against the personal values of an employee. This highlights areas of alignment and mis-alignment, and their % match.

Organisations can enhance their culture by regularly engaging in feedback sessions, team-building activities, and workshops that facilitate conversations about values. Providing training to support employees in understanding and applying these values in their daily work can also strengthen alignment and create a more cohesive and purpose-driven workplace.

Start Measuring Your Values

Learn more about measuring values with the Personal Values Assessment, to better engage your people.

Related Posts

chris schutte, managing director at interact global

Author of this Article

Chris Schutte

Chris has 30 years experience as senior manager and entrepreneur in the Human Capital consulting and management industry, using the DISC test in his practices. He has a wealth of experience in business development, Human Resources and Human Capital risk management and turn-around strategies. His leadership experience, runs across various industries including Manufacturing, Retail, HR, etc.