One thing on workers’ wish lists: an employer whose values align with their own.

But how do you know if that’s the case?

Over the pandemic, a curious thing happened as the labor market tightened: Empowered workers sought purpose, flexibility, mission, and, yes, values. In a Qualtrics survey earlier this year, more than half of respondents said they wouldn’t consider a job at an organization that was a values mismatch.

To be sure, the balance of power currently seems to be tipping back to companies. Nearly three-quarters of college graduates say stability is a priority in their job search, according to a recent survey from Handshake, a careers platform for students and recent graduates, while less than half say they want to work for a known brand. Perks like ping-pong and snacks are not as coveted anymore, either. The same survey also saw more job seekers favoring “money over mission” compared to last year, thanks to inflation.

But these two things don’t need to be an “either-or” proposition.

In last week’s column on layoffs, I quoted someone who has lost their job twice and eventually began keeping a “values” list to hone in on her next opportunity. She used this 10-minute Taproot exercise on identifying and living your core values. It asks you to look at a long list of words and pick the ones that resonate (diversity, service, thoughtfulness, humor, security, mindfulness among them) and then to group like-minded values into no more than five categories.

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As it turns out, stability can be a core value. So can money, for that matter.

This is a good time of year to process what you and your employers stand for. Entrepreneur and investor Gina Bianchini, founder and CEO of Mighty, is the author of the just-published Purpose: Design a Community and Change Your Life. She recommends finding purposes (plural intentional) and making them matter by crafting a “future story” that captures the impact you want to have on the people and the world around you.

These are the questions she recommends asking, imagining yourself answering them five or 10 years down the road:

  • What are three things you’re able to do that you weren’t able to do previously?
  • What are three things you’ve accomplished?
  • What are three things you’ve taken a stand for?
  • What has changed in the world for the better in the most unexpected or surprising way?
  • Who are the people you have brought together, and what are they able to do now that they weren’t previously?

Then comes the next step of aligning your answers to where you work. Martin Raxton, a senior executive in fintech and program management, lists some activities and incentives you might look for as an assertion of values: multiple days off to volunteer, matching grant programs, leadership and training development, a diversity officer in the c-suite. Among the questions he says employees should ask themselves of employers:

  • Do I believe in the mission of the company?
  • Does my leadership team value the output I produce?
  • Does senior leadership exhibit the mission of the company in a way that is measurable and visible to employees?
  • Do I dread being engaged in the corporate culture at my organization?
  • Do I see long-term growth and development at my current employer?
  • Do I see a commitment of diversity, equity, and inclusion across all levels of the organization?
  • If I was the CEO, what changes would I make immediately to improve the culture of the organization?

Finally, Raxton says, the people a company hires—from your colleagues to the people you report to—are key to actively helping shape a company’s values. “A manager is someone with a title and role. However, it’s the leaders that move the needles,” he says. “People gravitate towards those they see as leaders that give of themselves first while inspiring others to get the absolute best out of the team.”

That’s a much more powerful position to operate from—regardless of the uncertainty that awaits us in 2023.

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