Company value statements, mission statements, and goals can all be useful tools in defining how you do business. They can direct decision-making, client interactions, and recruitment efforts. However, if the purpose and function of these tools are misunderstood, they are likely to be implemented poorly and may undermine the very processes they were designed to support.
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Defining Core Values
Before outlining your organization’s core values, it is important to understand what core values are and what they are not. As the name implies, core values lie at the heart of everything in your business. They should influence every facet of business operations, interpersonal interactions, and recruitment. They are beliefs inherent in the organization that give it its unique identity when compared to competitors.
When these values are written down and communicated to employees, stakeholders, and the public, they have the power to create a deeper connection between your company and each individual. Employees that identify with these values are more likely to be engaged and motivated in their work. Likewise, customers who find your values inspiring may be more loyal to your brand. These values are what make your brand authentic and make you genuinely proud of everything it accomplishes.
Core values are not a list of qualities you aspire to have or hope to develop. They describe the company as it exists and operates at this point in time. They are not negotiable. One cannot bypass them to close a deal or make the process simpler. Thus, determining these rules by which you do business regardless of circumstances requires time, honesty, and perspective.
Companies with well-defined core values know who they are and what they stand for. This knowledge assists with recruiting the right people for open positions within the company. Individuals who are not motivated by the company’s core values are likely to be a poor fit in the company culture. Despite other qualifications they may have, they will not embody the branding and image you are building for your organization.
When problems arise, the solutions you choose will inevitably be influenced by what you value most. Your core values guide your problem-solving and decision-making processes as you pursue goals and navigate bumps in the economy.
Companies often reach customers through creating branding and image with their target audience identifies. Core values unite employees, executives, and managers in presenting a unified vision and mission to their customers.
When you weave core values into everything your company does, employees at every level understand the expectations placed upon them. They understand that deviating from well-established and communicated standards engendered by the company will undoubtedly have repercussions.
What are your core values?
If you do not have clearly stated core values, taking the time now to define them is a worthwhile pursuit. However, to arrive at the desired outcome, it is vital to begin with the right people and the right expectations for what you are attempting to accomplish. Your values will not change the future or even the present. In fact, the conclusions you arrive at should not surprise anyone involved because they should be an accurate reflection of the present.
1. Ask Questions
Begin by gathering information. Talking to people is one of the best ways to gain different perspectives of the company. Ask others how they see the company with questions such as:
- What are the strengths/weaknesses of the company?
- What company decision or action did you agree strongly with?
- What do you believe the company will be remembered for?
- What makes the company unique?
The answers to these questions will shed light on company motivations – why you do what you do. While some small companies may choose to interview many employees, it may be wiser to include only executives and key managers in this step. Top executives are most familiar with company goals and vision and may most closely engender the company’s core values.
For many, these initial conversations will yield a long list of adjectives that may or may not describe the company. Sorting through these answers can be enlightening as trends begin to emerge. Look for recurring themes and ideas. They may be expressed in different terms while attempting to describe the same value. Look for concrete examples that justify these conclusions. If a company is truly innovative, it should be easy to brainstorm examples that illustrate that quality.
Narrowing down your list to the top values that describe your company should leave you with less than ten total. A list of values longer than that is cumbersome and difficult to remember. You may find that you only need two or three to define the heart of what you do. Try to be specific in your word choice and avoid cliché words and phrases.
3. Be Unique
Choose values that fit your company like a glove. Nearly half of all companies choose words values like honesty and commitment as core values. They are great values to have in the workplace, but they do not set you apart from other companies.
Among the Container Store’s core values is “1 great person=3 good people.” This unique statement engenders the qualities of hard work, honesty, and integrity in a phrase that employees will not easily forget. Likewise, Commune Hotels and Resorts chose “Follow Your Angel, Ignore Your Devil (Most of the Time)” as one of their core values to guide their business practices.
The words that you choose and how you express your core values can say a lot about the brand and the company culture as it does about the value itself. If the words you glean from your first round of interviews don’t fit the company, allow time to mull them over and tweak the phrasing until your values reflect the company precisely.
When you have a defined set of core values to do business by, include them in every aspect of your business. If you are working with an executive search firm, make sure they know the core values you need in your new executive. Hiring someone who not only aligns with these values but will promote them at all levels of the organization is essential.
Ensure that you make employees aware of company goals when they are hired and every day after that. Core values should be so pervasive as to influence everyday tasks and interactions supporting your unique company branding. Customers should be able to tell that your company is different because of your core values.