5 Simple Tests: How to Know If Your Core Values Need Work
Often, companies work many hours on discovering the right Core Values for their company. Sometimes they even spend top dollar on consultants to help get this right. So, why is it that after such an investment of time and possibly money some companies are content to have their Core Values displayed in the lobby or conference room but never spoken about again?
If your employees don't know your Core Values, you might as well not even have them. One step further, if your entire company isn't living your Core Values, then what's the point? Core Values aren't just some box to check as you work through your company's long term strategy (Got 'em? Yep. Done). They should be foundational to your business and guide everyone's behavior day in and day out.
Here are some Core Values tests to know whether or not your Core Values still need some work:
- Hallway Test: At the very least, everyone in your company should be able to recite them. They can't live them if they don't know what they are! Step out into the hallway and ask around.
- Hiring Test: Evaluating candidates on how well their values align to your company's Core Values should be an explicit step in your hiring process. If you aren't using Core Values in your interviewing process to narrow down candidates, then you're missing a key component of building a high performance team. If your company is using its Core Values correctly, they can even be a tool that brings the right people to you. If your employees spread the word about how much they love the culture at your company, the right candidates will be drawn to you.
- Firing Test: Core Values aren't alive if you keep people around who don't live them. If you have "high performing jerks," or people who deliver great results but don't live your Core Values, then you aren't really committed to those values. You're sending a message to your team that Core Values don't matter, only results do. This can be toxic to your culture. Protect your Core Values by firing people who consistently don't live them. If you aren't willing to do this, you probably haven't identified your true Core Values.
- Performance Test: Your Core Values should be a key part of any performance conversations between managers and employees. We recommend including the company's Core Values on each employee's Job Scorecard to ensure expectations are clear, and having ongoing performance conversations where employees and managers discuss how well both think the individual is living them. This helps identify any "high performing jerks" early and offers an opportunity for growth and development before having to say goodbye to that person.
- Story Test: Your Core Values aren't alive and well if you and everyone else on your team can't point to specific examples of how they are lived on a day to day basis. Your team should be brimming with stories about how each Core Value has shaped interactions with customers, vendors, partners, and each other. Core Values should inform how you do what you do everyday. If you can't point to specific behaviors that illustrate each one, then you may not have identified the right ones for your company.
Hopefully, these tests will help you see where you might still need to tweak or refine your Core Values. It's okay if they still need some work; this is a key component of your company's long term strategy and the foundation of your culture, so if you have to slow down to get them right, it is well worth it!
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