Organizational Priorities: strategic and universal values to focus on and pay attention to

Organizational Priorities are the third component of Core Culture. They are located one layer outside of Purpose and Philosophy. (See the image below.)

Priorities of an organization
Core Culture = Purpose + Philosophy + Priorities

Priorities are an added layer of core values to guide the organization. To clarify:

  • Purpose is the guiding principle expressing why the organization exists.
  • Philosophy is the distinctive and relatively enduring set of core values guiding how employees do their work.
  • Therefore, Purpose and Philosophy together are the distinctive identity of the organization. They are the core principles and values that are relatively stable over time. They serve as the basis for the business and how it is uniquely delivered.

In contrast, Priorities are additional values the organization must focus on and pay attention to now. The current business environment and the anticipated near future influence these values.



The Purpose and the Philosophy may not address all of the current requirements to be a thriving organization. Therefore, Priorities ensure the organization has the focus that will drive success. That is to say, Priorities enable the organization to achieve its goals and build an engaged workforce.

Priorities integrate change into the Core Culture

Priorities are not typically as stable as the Purpose or the Philosophy. To clarify, Priorities can change as the environment—within or outside the organization–changes.

Priorities allow the organization to have an adaptive, resilient culture. To survive, organizations must change. Change is a constant. The need for change may vary in its speed depending on the industry. But, most industries today don’t have the luxury to relax. They must seek to predict the future and even invent it. It is the Priorities that keep an organization agile and alert. To sum up, Priorities provide the momentum to change behaviors that will enable the organization to thrive–while sustaining its distinction.

Example: Priority of Health & Safety

For example, think about the issues in the news today. Now, most organizations must adapt to a new disease that has created a global health and economic crisis. Companies have changed their Priorities to have this new focus.

For most, a new Priority is a heightened focus on health and safety. Consequently, for example, there is a need for implementing virtual work practices for employees. Instituting a virtual workplace may not have been a focus in the past. But now, where possible, organizations are implementing virtual work practices to reduce the impact of an infectious disease.

Additionally, companies that are in the business to provide virtual services are adapting to the increased demand for their services with a Priority for expanding capability to service the demand.

Similarly, companies may be limiting travel. Again, a new Practice to support employee health and safety.

These are examples of a new Priority that leaders integrate in the core to meet the requirements of current conditions. And with new Priorities are new Practices aligned with the Priorities. As conditions change, Priorities can be replaced with a different focus.

An organization has stability–through its Purpose and Philosophy. In contrast, it supports needed change through its Priorities.

Two type of organizational Priorities

There are two types of organizational Priorities. To clarify, there are strategic Priorities and universal Priorities.

Strategic and Universal Priorities


1. Organizational Priorities: Strategic Priorities


Strategic Priorities are a part of the Core Culture. They are the strategic values because they align with the organization’s Vision and Goals. Therefore, incorporating these strategic Priorities into the core of the culture ensures that the culture will support organizational success.

Strategic Priorities are values specifically related to an external, customer, and market focus. But they can also impact internal Practices. You can uncover them by understanding what the organization needs to focus on in order to achieve its business goals. If the economy is undergoing a recession, then cost control might be a strategic Priority. Or if competition is moving quickly to take over future markets, then speed might be a strategic Priority. Therefore, strategic Priorities change over time as the organization’s strategy changes.

There is no generic list of strategic Priorities. These Priorities are specific to the organization and its strategy. Although organizations in a similar industry may have similar strategic Priorities. For example, in industries like banking, cyber security has become a strategic Priority.

Additionally, many companies in a variety of industries have adopted the value of sustainability as a Priority. A number of companies have identified sourcing outside of China as a strategic Priority. With the presence of trade tariffs, companies are re-evaluating their sourcing practices. And with safety and health as a Priority, a number of companies are implementing new Practices to ensure the safety and health of customers and employees.

2. Organizational Priorities: Universal Priorities


Universal Priorities are also part of the Core Culture. They are the additional core  values that have an internal, employee focus. To clarify, these universal Priorities are the areas the company needs to focus on to have a more engaged workforce. The values that support engagement are universal to all organizations. To explain, universal Priorities nurture an enriching and motivating workplace. This type of workplace stimulates exceptional efforts and heightened loyalty.

To clarify, in an ideal world, these values would not be differentiators. But organizations do not uniformly live these values. Therefore, the presence of these values enhances the competitiveness of the organization. However, the absence of these values deters an organization from achieving its potential.



The universal Priorities consist of the following values: fit, trust, caring, communication, achievement, and ownership. All universal Priorities are important to all organizations.

For example, some companies are effective in hiring for fit. But do they also provide workplaces that are trusting and caring? Is communication open and effective? Do employees have opportunities for achievement? Do they support a sense of ownership? Through an employee engagement survey, a company can identify the values that are the company’s key drivers of engagement to focus on. For example, if the survey indicates low levels of trust and trust is a key driver of engagement, then trust would be one of the company’s universal Priorities.

Six Universal Priorities with values related to each

The six universal Priorities are: fit, trust, caring, communication, achievement, and ownership.

six universal priorities drive engagement

Listed below are the universal Priorities and the related values that contribute to each Priority. For more details, select the links below.

FIT: Do I fit?
  • Meaningfulness
  • Harmony
TRUST: Do I trust them?
CARING: Do they care about me?
  • Relationships
  • Belonging
  • Camaraderie
  • Teamwork
  • Friendship
  • Support
COMMUNICATION: Do they inform me? Do they listen to me?
ACHIEVEMENT: Am I growing, developing, achieving?
  • Feedback/Progress
  • Recognition
  • Learning/Development
OWNERSHIP: Do I feel like an owner?
  • Autonomy
  • Involvement
  • Flexibility

Work is more than an economic transaction. Therefore, addressing the social and human side of the worker is key to achieving optimal performance.

Contact Sheila to define your organizational Priorities

Workplace Culture InstituteHave any questions? Certainly, contact Sheila to help you identify your Priorities, increase employee engagement, and build a culture of distinction. Her management consulting firm Workplace Culture Institute is based in Atlanta, serving clients globally. Above all, use the Contact Form to email Sheila.


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