In search for self-identity, the Graduate School of Management of St. Petersburg University (GSOM SPbU) has formulated its core values. They are aligned with the mission, vision and strategy of the Business School: continuous development, customer focus, openness and multiculturalism, a team of like-minded people, responsible leadership, professionalism. Maria Afonina, Advisor to the Director of GSOM SPbU in HR, spoke about the importance of values for the development of the university, and their implementation in the everyday activities of teachers, staff and students.
Why does the Business School need values, how do they help it to develop?
The topic of values became relevant in the Russian management environment not so long ago, perhaps only about 10 years ago. Then they started talking about the fact that in addition to the mission, vision and strategic plans, something else is needed that would unite people, help them to recognize their people, at the level of a certain code and motivate them to stay within the framework of one organization. It can also happen the other way around; the formulation of values can help one to realize that this company may not suit their needs.
Today, it is obvious that values are important for any community, from the family to large structures like banks. The Business school is no exception: we also need this code, the invisible cement that creates our bond, the moral yardstick that allows us to make choices in any given situation.
At the same time, we understand that the academic university environment has its own characteristics. This is not a business in the truest sense of the word, or just teaching. This, among other things, is the education of a new generation. And for the Business School it is also the education of future managers and leaders of the country. Therefore, our responsibility is especially great.
Are values a more moral and ethical category or a business and rational category?
I would say, values should unite people in an organization, so they should be understandable and shared. Of course, for an organization, this is a more business-like category, but if at the same time they do not also have a moral and ethical coloring, people are less likely to make these values their own.
Is it likely that in this case, private values will conflict with the values of the organization?
It is. That is why we say that values, as a cultural code, attract “friends” and reject “aliens”.
Among the values of GSOM SPbU, for example, there has been a continuous development. It is unlikely that it can cause rejection in anyone. Any living organism develops while it lives. Stagnation means dying. It is clear that there are those who like to sit on the couch, eat chips and watch the "yellow" news, thus emphasizing sensationalism over facts. We do not condemn them, but we are looking for a different type of person: the restless, for whom constant development is their way of life.
For teachers, in my opinion, this is the key value. When you teach the younger generation, you must always be ahead. It's like Alice Through the Looking Glass: you need to run to stay in place, and rush with incredible speed to move forward. Otherwise, it is very difficult to teach a generation, which, in my opinion, is already being born with a built-in processor and knowledge that other generations had to reach with their own sweat and blood, in order to do something.
The same can be said for multiculturalism and acceptance of diversity. We live in an open world in which information and experience is global property, not the know-how of a single country or nation. We have no right to lock ourselves in and close ourselves off, but we must accept everything that develops and enriches us. It is even strange to discuss; the multivariance of the norm already seems so obvious.
We've discussed customer focus a lot as a value. On the one hand, this is a very broad concept. But on the other hand, its main component is the ability to hear another person, to find a common solution, and come to an agreement. As a person who has worked a lot in the commercial sector, I have formulated my own conclusion that this should always be a win-win situation.
Students have their own vision. Speaking about customer focus, they note that they sometimes lack openness and partnership in teachers. It is clear that one should try to maintain subordination, and this is not about familiarity, but about the democratization of the communication style.
To summarize: yes, the values of an organization can conflict with personal values, but this is why we formulate them. This way we can identify ourselves and understand who is close to us and who is not. The Business school is important to people for breadth of perception, acceptance of diversity, restlessness and constant search.
How do values relate to the concepts of corporate culture, mission, goals of the organization?
Values are considered an element of corporate culture; by definition, they cannot be a self-sufficient phenomenon and exist in a vacuum. In any organization, values are needed to support strategy, mission and vision.
Take, for example, the goals inherent in the strategy: if the values contradict them, it would be at least strange. The company simply would not be able to implement the strategy, it could not be true and would lead to the emergence of double standards. For a corporate culture, there is nothing worse than saying one thing and doing the opposite.
What target audiences are GSOM SPbU values targeting, and what do they mean for each of them?
There are quite a few of them: these are the teaching and administrative staff, that is, the employees of the Business School; these are students and listeners; these are trustees, corporate and academic partners, St. Petersburg University. Are potential applicants the target audience of our values? Definitely. Graduates? Also, yes. Employers? Certainly.
Our values are focused on all of these groups. Another thing is that their interpretation can be different. For example, the understanding of the same continuous development among faculty and students will differ. For teachers, this is constant improvement and self-development, and for students, this is, in fact, study. While, for the trustees or the external community, the understanding of this value will be the following: The business school is constantly evolving, creating new products, using new tools in teaching and research.
Is there a plan to promote these values?
Yes, there is such a plan. In the spring, we completed the development and formulation of values. It is now important to ensure that all target audiences are fully informed. It is important that the topic of values is present in all our contexts, advertising and informational materials for applicants, and sounded at the events of the Business School. For example, at university graduation and freshman events.
In addition to information, we plan to introduce values into everyday activities, for example, by defining the boundaries of conduct that correspond to values, by building a competence model that is value-driven, and so on.
Are values a dogma, or do they change as the organization evolves?
When we were discussing our values, I have to admit, there was no case of all the participants in the work meetings agreeing with each other 100%. But at some point, we realized that it was possible to debate, to refine and to invent new forms indefinitely. It’s like renovating; you have to be able to finish on time.
Therefore, we decided that we would give ourselves a year to settle down with values. In a year, we will return to this topic and see if something needs to be changed.
Values are living meanings that can change over time, new experience, and a new understanding of itself as a leading Business School in Russia.