Company values can form the foundations of a strong corporate culture, drive employee engagement and act as a sense check for business decisions and brand building. But it’s not just about having the values in place.
How you talk about company values and how you use them in process and strategic decision making, are equally fundamental to the impact your core values might have.
The first step in using core values to achieve your goals is to make sure you have the right company values in place. The second step is harder and even more important to get right – communicating those values in a way that brings them to life for your teams, feels like a natural fit, and empowers them to build the values into all that they do, from processes to decision making.
How you talk about your company values will impact the adoption of them throughout your business. How you demonstrate that they aren’t just writing on a wall or a funky logo, through the actions you take and the behaviours you display, is key to ensuring that everyone in the entire workforce is bought into the values and their importance.
What are your core company values?
Defining your core values is no easy task. There are plenty to choose from and it can be tempting to pick the first few that you stumble across, or use some you know your competitors have found successful. The hard thing about values is that they all sound good, they all sound like desirable attributes to live by, so whittling the list of possibilities down can feel almost impossible.
What if you already have a set of core values? Should you skip this part?
Well no… and here’s why.
It’s a great idea to reflect on your values every so often. Are they actually working for you? Are they driving the company culture? Do they help you build the brand in the way you want to be seen by your target market? And do they actually seem like values your employees feel are a natural fit?
There’s no sense pushing a set of values that sound great, but are actually miles away from how the business currently operates. That only leads to a lack of buy in and people using their own personal values set to deliver against.
So whether you’ve got a new business without established values, you’ve yet to formalise your core values or you have a set of values already in place, it’s worth taking the following steps:
Work out how you want to be known
When it comes to values creation it’s worth considering what you’d like your brand reputation to be, and working backwards from there to consider the company culture needed to get to that reputation. Think of other brands from outside your industry that you identify with and which words you’d associate with them.
Work out how you are currently known
You might have values in place already. They might work, or they might feel at odds with the direction you want to take your business in now. Either way, it’s important to understand where you are currently so that if there’s a gap between the current values, or current identity of the brand and the desired values you want to adopt, you spot it. That way you can identify what’s required to move from your current position to your aspirational one.
Work out what you definitely don’t want to be
Sometimes it’s just as important to know how you don’t want to be known, as how you do. Working backward from they can help you identify important core values.
For example, if you think about the businesses you least like working with, which words come to mind? Untrustworthy, mercenary, uncaring, disorganised. Get a full list down and work out the qualities needed to be the opposite. Do they apply to your business? Could they with some work?
Interested in working on a strategy for your company brand and values?
Get a cross-functional team from multiple seniority levels involved
Creating a list of values behind closed doors, then just rolling them out and expecting your entire organisation to adopt those values without question won’t usually work. The more involved your entire workforce are in the process of understanding the business goals, mission statement and the brand you want to build, the more engaged they will be.
It’s the same for values creation. If your team, or at least representatives from across the business, from different job roles, departments and seniority, can be involved in defining the values that you want to try to adopt, the more likely you are to find the right values in the first place.
You are also more likely to see them adopted if most of your teams feel like they are values that compliment your current business, the way it works and the way they already want to work.
That doesn’t mean you can’t bring in new values if they’re needed, but by involving your employees in the process, hopefully if a new value is needed that isn’t how things currently work, the project team who helped define the values will already by bought into why this new one is needed. That way they can help drive adoption at every level of the business.
Aim for consistency of tone
Once you’ve identified your list, whittle it down to no more than four or five values at most. You want to have an easily memorable set of values that your team can learn and adopt, and giving them a long list of values is setting them up to fail.
Then make sure they are written in a consistent format. We often see sets of values that don’t feel like a set, but more a random mix of thoughts. A consistent format helps them feel like a well thought out set that rolls of the tongue easily.
What do I mean?
Consider the two lists below, which feels better on an intuitive level?
- To act with honesty
- Always learning
- Human centred
- Human centred
Why is it important to have company values?
Values can form part of your company’s DNA
Core company values shape the way your organisation works if they’re rolled out and properly embedded in recruitment, onboarding, training and processes. If you use them as a lense for any change then the entire organisation will get used to the way it feels to work to the set of values and instead of an abstract list that management rolled out, they’ll start to feel more like an identity. Something they can be proud of.
Your values should be the backbone of your company’s culture, and can even influence your mission statement.
Company values can empower employees to make sound business decisions
If your employees understand the core values, the reasoning behind them and how to deploy those values in decision making, then you will have a more consistent employee and customer experience.
Your teams will feel more confident to make decisions without always having to run them past a manager, and the corporate values will become a sense check for any major initiatives.
It’s a great idea to bring your company’s values into all training to ensure that instead of teaching you team how to handle a very specific situation, you empower them to think on their feet and handle any situation in a way that reflects your company’s core values.
They help attract the best fit for your organisational culture
Core values can help you develop your employer brand. Having a great reputation for employee retention and employee experience, can help you attract top talent from within your ideal target applicant pool. If your current employees strongly agree that it’s a great place to work, they’re more likely to shout about it to friends, review you on sites like Glass-door or even talk to potential future hires on networking sites like LinkedIn.
How your values flow through your interview process to help assess cultural fit can also then in turn impact the creation of a positive work culture.
Core values help engage actively disengaged employees
Disengaged employees can lead to lost productivity, high employee churn and even impact your customer retention. Having a strong culture with your company values woven into all processes, decisions and behaviours can have a direct impact on the work environment your teams experience.
Knowing what you’re part of, what the expectations are of you in both how you represent the company and how you approach challenges within the business are all important factors when it comes to job satisfaction and engagement.
Share your company goals, let your teams join you in creating the mission, the values and how you’ll reach your objectives and you’ll stand a great chance of increasing employee engagement.
Leading companies have their core values flow through employee recognition programs too as they recognise that corporate culture influences productivity (alongside other factors like how valued employees feel and how they are treated.)
How can you promote your company values?
Making sure your company values are more than words on a wall or piece of paper is often about how you promote them to the wider business. Simply rolling them out might not be as impactful as involving the wider team in creating them.
Then build them into everything you do, make sure they are present in process design, your sales proposals, your company communications. Don’t let them fade into the background once the initial work is done to define the company core values.
Eventually the values will become second nature to the entire organisation, and that’s when your customers will start to feel them in all you do.
Company values can provide a backbone for your strategic efforts if they’re thought about in the right way, designed to make sense to the rest of the business, and can be utilised consistently.
They’re an important part of any brand building, helping to form your brand identity and giving everyone in your organisation clear guidance on the values that matter most in decision making and behaviours.
If your business hasn’t got clear values, or you think they need a little update, then why not schedule a team session today and start engaging the rest of the business with your core company values.
Related reading: Is brand alone enough to attract customers?