How To Create Your Company’s Core Values

Core values are a crucial part of your company’s brand and identity. They help to define your purpose as an organisation, set you apart from your competition, and assist you in making constructive decisions. This, in turn, allows you to make better use of finite resources like your time, money, and employees.

The question is, how do you actually go about creating your company’s core values? How do you know which values best represent your company? Though it’s not quite as simple as throwing a collection of inspiring words or phrases together, it also isn’t as herculean a task as you might believe.

This post explores how to create core values for your company and how those values will positively impact your company.

How Do You Write a Company’s Core Values?

Let’s start by exploring what values are, what they’re for and how to go about coming up with a set of core values for your company.

What Are Values?

Your company’s values are a set of beliefs that guide its decisions and actions. They’re a small collection of principles that your company is built upon and around; they’re the standards you set for yourself. Just as a person has a set of values by which they live their lives, your company’s values determine how you conduct yourself both externally, within the marketplace, and internally, within the workplace.

Though a company can identify with any number of values, its core values are the three to nine values that most resonate with them and align with its purpose. Once you’ve defined your company’s core values, you should compile them to create your company’s values statement, which sits alongside your mission statement and vision statement.

How Do Values Shape Your Business’ Culture?

Values can mould and influence your business’ culture in several ways. First and foremost, they strengthen your brand, giving your business a more developed sense of identity. This is because you’ll gain a clearer sense of what you stand for: what you’re willing to tolerate, which opportunities to pursue or pass on, the kind of customers or clients you’re willing to work with, the kind of businesses you’ll seek out to partner with, etc.

In that way, your values are like your business’ conscience: they’re a benchmark to weigh your decisions against. Let’s say, for instance, that environmental sustainability is one of your core values: doing business with a company with a poor track record for polluting the local environment would go against that value. To seize that opportunity, no matter how lucrative, would be hypocritical.

A second important way in which values shape your business’ culture is the influence they have on your most important asset: your employees. First, there’s the effect they have on your existing employees. In the same way that they provide your company as a whole with a greater sense of identity, it does the same for those within it.

Each employee will have a clearer idea of what it means to be part of your organisation and what that entails. Values give them a better idea of how they conduct themselves and unite them in a common purpose.

Your values also help to attract the right people to your company and identify those who are the best fit. Because you’ll have a clearer idea of what you’re looking for in new recruits, you’ll better articulate the kind of person you’re looking for in job postings. You’ll also know the kind of things to look and listen out for during the recruitment process.

How Can Your Values Be Applied to Your Business?

For values to be impactful, they need to drive meaningful action. Ideally, they should provide a filter that all your decisions go through. Your company’s core values should be incorporated into all your business processes and day-to-day decisions, imbuing everything you do. Examples of this include:

  • Business Opportunities: Choosing business opportunities based on your values. Is an opportunity in line with your values, or will taking that opportunity, no matter how lucrative, compromise your values?
  • Hiring New Employees: Establishing a values-based recruitment process. This could include writing job postings that specify ideal candidates based on your values, asking questions focused on value alignment when interviewing candidates, and perhaps having a scorecard to measure their answers against.
  • Onboarding: Educating new employees about what your values are and how they influence your daily operations from day one.
  • Training and Development: Ensuring that both your in-house training and the external courses you enrol employees on support your values.
  • Feedback: Management provides feedback to employees on how they’re upholding the company’s values and how they can potentially improve at doing so. More importantly, employees should be able to offer feedback on how their managers uphold the company’s core values as well. This holds managers accountable for their conduct, ensure they’re not being hypocrites and injects a healthy dose of authenticity into your company culture.

What Are Examples of Core Values?

Values are like a company’s personality traits, so as with an individual’s, your business’ values can be many and varied. On one hand, they can be broad descriptions, such as:

    • Integrity/Honesty
    • Boldness/ Courage
    • Hard work
    • Fairness
    • Accountability
    • Growth
    • Authenticity
    • Customer Experience
    • Employee Development
    • Discipline
    • Humility
    • Ownership
    • Constant Improvement
    • Leadership
    • Diversity
    • Innovation
    • Quality
    • Teamwork/Collaboration
    • Simplicity
    • Respect
    • Passion
    • Balance
    • Fun

Alternatively, they can be specific to your company. Here are some examples from well-known companies that illustrate this.

Airbnb

    • Champion the mission (by living the mission)
    • Be a host
    • Simplify
    • Every frame matters
    • Be a “cereal” entrepreneur
    • Embrace the adventure

Rackspace

    • Fanatical Support in all we do
    • Results first, substance over flash
    • Committed to Greatness
    • Full Disclosure and Transparency
    • Passion for our Work
    • Treat fellow Rackers like Friends and Family

Google

    • Focus on the user and all else will follow.
    • It’s best to do one thing really, really well.
    • Fast is better than slow.
    • Democracy on the web works.
    • You don’t need to be at your desk to need an answer.
    • You can make money without doing evil.
    • There’s always more information out there.
    • The need for information crosses all borders.
    • You can be serious without a suit.
    • Great just isn’t good enough.

Build-A-Bear

    • Reach
    • Learn
    • Di-bear-sity
    • Colla-bear-ate
    • Give
    • Cele-bear-ate

How Do You Define Your Company’s Values?

Now that you have a better idea of what values are and how they influence your business, how do you go about defining them? Here’s an outline of a process for how to develop your company’s values.

    • Collaborate: First – make sure everyone in your company is involved. This ensures that you get everyone’s input and don’t miss out on any great ideas. However, more importantly, your employees will be asked to work by these values so it’s only fair that they have a hand in defining what they are.
    • Define Values: After involving your staff, the second most important aspect of defining your core company values is to spend sufficient thinking about what they actually are. Some companies make the mistake of setting aside a mere meeting or two to brainstorm collectively, but that’s not how to get the best ideas out of your people.

Instead, design this part of the process so your employees have the time and space to think. This could, for example, be in the form of a questionnaire that requires the employee to explain their reason for choosing each value. The more thought you put into this stage of the process in particular, the more you’ll get out of it as a whole.

Additionally, if possible, you could ask your more significant clients and any companies you partner with to fill out a questionnaire too. It would prove to be a useful exercise in seeing how people outside your company perceive you.

    • Compile: Once you’ve collected all the responses from your employees, extract and compile the most frequently stated values, as well as any other great responses that aren’t as common. At this point, gather everyone together to sift through the values to expand on them further.
    • Create Draft – Gather Feedback: Once you have your three to nine core values that everyone is satisfied with, you have the first draft of your value statement. Now it’s a matter of distributing the draft amongst your employees, seeing how it sits with them, collecting their feedback, and revising it accordingly until the majority of your staff is happy with it.

However, the process outlined above isn’t the only way to create your company values. While there are a few guidelines that will yield the best results, it’s up to each company to decide how they’ll go about defining their core values.

Why Do Companies Need Values?

Now we’ve explored how to come up with your company’s core values, let’s take a look at why you should.

What Are the Reasons for Your Company Having Core Values?

    • A Greater Sense of Purpose

Most importantly of all, values give your company a greater sense of identity and purpose. They drive and direct your actions, so when you’ve developed a set of core values, you’ll act with more purpose.

Subsequently, this will help you better carry out your business’ mission and realise your vision – creating the change you want to see in the world based on your most important values. Better still, your values can help you define, or even identify, your mission and vision, as well as what differentiates you from your competition.

    • Improved Employee Performance

When your employees have the values to aspire to and attempt to live by them, their performance will improve as a result. This is because they’ll:

        • Have a clearer understanding of their role within the company and why it’s important
        • Know the mindset they need to adopt to perform at their best
        • Be able to use the company’s core values as a guide in unfamiliar or difficult situations – values will make them more robust and better able to weather adversity
    • Increased Employee Engagement

When employees have a better feel for what the company is trying to achieve, and how they contribute to that, they’ll be likely to become more engaged with their work. Because your company has a greater sense of purpose, they will too; there’s less chance of them periodically thinking ‘what am I doing and why am I doing it?’. They’ll be more motivated and have a higher degree of job satisfaction.

Consequently, they’re more likely to have things they want to achieve within the company – projects they’d like to implement, initiatives they’d like to run point on, and ideas they’d like to bring to life. This is excellent for your company’s overall morale and positively influences your culture.

    • To Attract the Best People

As well as positively influencing those who already work for you, your company’s core values will help you attract the best talent. Your core values differentiate you from other companies, so more people will feel compelled to apply to work for you. This gives you a wider pool of candidates to choose from, giving you a higher chance of finding talented people who share your values and want to contribute to your vision.

What Happens If a Company Doesn’t Have Core Values?

When a company doesn’t define their core values, it results in the opposite of what happens when you have them – namely a lack of identity and purpose. Here are some of the consequences in more detail.

    • If you don’t have values, you have less of an idea of what you value. Consequently, your actions lack purpose and it’s harder to prioritise your time and resources.
    • Your company culture will suffer. It’ll be harder to attract the right people (and you’ll have less of an idea of who the right people are) and they’re likely to be less cooperative and motivated.
    • With no values uniting them, there’ll be different agendas at play as employees are left to define their own professional values. Also, with no shared values, there’s less accountability.

Now, it’s not impossible to succeed without values, many companies get along just fine. However, if you aspire to do better than ‘fine’ and want your business to fulfil its true potential, then you’ll need core values. Your values can be seen as your company’s North Star, so without them, it’s easier to end up directionless and lost.

Do Successful Companies Follow Their Core Values?

The most successful companies don’t just possess a solid set of core values – they live them.

Consider your favourite brands for a moment: chances are, they attracted your attention and earned your favour by staying true to their values. They made sure to display their values in their brand identity, how they communicate with their target market, how they treat their customers, and, most importantly of all, their products or services.

How Do You Promote Values in The Workplace?

Your core values will only be effective within the workplace if you take the time to consistently promote them. The more you promote them, the more your employees will feel compelled to live up to them. With that in mind, here are a few ways to emphasise your core values in the workplace.

    • Make Your Values Visible
      Quite simply, put them everywhere that makes sense: your website, employee handbooks, office décor, and so on. You could also increase the visibility of your values through a culture deck: a slideshow that breaks down each core value and how it influences your business, as well as your company’s mission and vision.
    • Hire Based on Your Values
      Make use of your values throughout the recruitment process, from how you write your job openings through to application forms and interview questions.
    • Train Employees to Follow Your Values
      Once you’ve hired someone who shares some of your company’s values, train them in how those values are applied to your business in particular. This starts with their onboarding, or induction training, and should continue with their professional development as they progress within the company.
    • Consistently Communicate Values
      Communicate your core values at every opportunity – both externally and internally. Not just through your words but your deeds as well. This could include partnering up with other organisations that share your values or supporting causes that are in line with your core values and vision.
    • Work According to Your Values
      Acting in accordance with your core values – striving to consistently walk your talk. This needs to start at the top: with you and your management team leading by example. And, as suggested earlier, you need to engender a culture where your employees can offer feedback on how their team leaders are exhibiting the company’s core values.
    • Recognise And Reward Employees That Uphold Values
      Publicly reward employees who consistently demonstrate your core values. The appreciation and recognition will act as an example to other members of staff and encourage them to conduct themselves in a similar way.

Better still, it doesn’t have to be management that recognises someone’s constructive, authentic behaviour team but their peers as well. By encouraging peer recognition, you’ll ensure positive behaviour doesn’t go unnoticed, and it’ll have the desirable side effect of encouraging staff to live by the values they’re looking out for in others.

Conclusion

If you take one thing from this post, we hope it’s the idea that your core values aren’t just a collection of impressive-sounding words. In fact, as they influence everything from attracting, and subsequently motivating, the right people to how you approach the creation and delivery og your products or services – they’re one of your company’s most important assets.

Your core values help form your company’s DNA, so the more meaningful and well-defined they are, the stronger your business as a whole.

How To Create Your Company’s Core Values | Marketing

Steve Jaenke

Steve Jaenke is the founder & CEO of Digimark Australia. He specialises in SEO and data analytics, bringing in a background in sales and social psychology.

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