The 2013/02/27 at 08:11
Marie Luginsland, in Germany
On the podium of values supported by businesses, innovation is the outright winner of the Index International des Valeurs Corporate 2013® (International Index of Corporate Values). But things get more complicated when it comes to second and third spots. While overseas companies mainlygrant these ranks to quality and client satisfaction, French companies firmly turn their backs on these values, relegating them to fifth and sixth positions.
“France is, with Norway, Spain and the United States, amongst the countries that stray the most from international averages,” observes Thierry Wellhoff, CEO of the agency Wellcom. For the third time in ten years, this agency specialised in corporate and marketing communication strategy consultancy has established an international index for the values supported by 4,378 companies from thirteen countries*.
“These values deliver sociological and social information but above all, they give clues as to corporate strategy orientations,” analyses Thierry Wellhoff.
In this way, while the values most shared internationally remain innovation, quality and client strategy, values appealing to economic basics, the 750 French companies surveyed place the relational values of respect and integrity in second and third positions. This approach is unique, for other countries such as Germany, Spain and Norway cite integrity in 13th, 18th or even 20th position.
An original and revealing indicator in the same vein points to French companies electing team spirit in fourth position, followed by sharing, staff involvement and even proximity. “France overvalues behavioural values, making the strongest concentration of this type of value for a single country on an international scale. For example, respect, ranked ninth internationally, does not come up in the top five values of any other country,” declare the report’s authors.
On the other hand, France undervalues values relating to skills and society. “This ranking gives the impression that French enterprises insist more on behavioural than social values,” concludes the report. In this way, the environment, which has, since 2009, remained at 5th rank internationally, only comes up 25th in France, in other words, the poorest ranking followed by the United States which places it 15th on their scale of values. In the same way, social responsibility and endurance arrive at 52nd and 53rd positions for the values cited by French companies. As for the so-called values related to skills (savoir-faire, growth) or conquest (success, ambition) advocated in many countries, these are practically ignored in France – with the exception of French SMEs, 32 % of which focus on quality, savoir-faire, rigour and prevention.
So is France ultimately a lone swordsman? In any case, French companies specify fewer values than their international counterparts: an average of 4.7 compared with an international average of 5.29, and they stand out for their difference in tone. “It is difficult to know whether certain values such as quality are not claimed because they belong to the company’s fundamentals in any case. Such values are thus replaced in the ranking of values by innovation, more in sync with the creativity that is honoured in our country,” suggests Thierry Wellhoff.
Similarly, as the CEO of Wellcom points out, “France remains very sensitive to certain attitudes such as respect and relationships with others, which are less privileged in other countries.” Whatever the case, many lessons stand to be learned from these observations – in terms of implantation strategy as well as development strategy and marketing – for all companies wishing to develop on international markets.
Within a company’s walls, these values are also of import. According to the Wellcom agency, 83 % of employees consider the definition of a company’s own values as a useful approach. The survey also points out “the attachment of employees to the existence of values clearly stated in a company”.
One sour note remainshowever. Opinions on how values are adhered to diverge depending on a person’s function in a company. The higher a position occupied by an employee in the company hierarchy, the less coherence he or she perceives between the values stated by the company and his or her acts. Thierry reminds of the importance of these choices for the company. “Two things are often ignored: the mission a company defines for itself and the structural elements leading to its realisation. In this case, the inclusion of a statement of values as a structural element can provide the start of an answer.”
*Australia, Austria, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Spain, Switzerland, USA, United Kingdom.