If you’ve gone through the exercise of determining your company’s core values, you’ve spent a lot of time (and a lot of meetings) thinking and talking about who your company is and what you stand for. These fundamental beliefs and mission statements are things that should drive every decision in your business, be reflected in the people you hire and through your employees’ actions, and identify for your employees and your customers what you consider to be right and wrong. Successful leaders know it is one of the most important aspects of creating a culture of high performance to increase profit.
Beyond just identifying your company’s core values is identifying the behaviors that support them and what they look like when put into action. Airbnb Founder and CEO Brian Chesky said during a speech at Stanford in 2014 about values, “Integrity, honesty — those aren’t core values. Those are the values everyone should have. But there have to be like, three, five, six things that are unique to you.” These values allow you to continuously improve your performance, employee engagement and challenge the status quo.
How do you know if your company’s core values need to be better defined?
- Perform a hallway test. Everyone in your company should be able to recite your company’s core values. Employees can’t act on and live those values if they can’t remember what they are. It isn’t enough to just launch them, or have a list of core values on a poster in the lunch room. Great leaders make sure that every team member knows, and lives, the company’s values. They celebrate and acknowledge team members when they display one of the core values.
- Hiring alignment. Are your company’s core values integrated into your hiring process? Using your company’s core values as you narrow down potential candidates for a position can help you build a quality team. Finding employees who align with your company’s core values help not only attract but retain those quality hires to keep them learning and growing with the company through their career.
- Telling the story. Everyone should have a few examples of how they have put the company’s core values into action or witnessed how another employee has lived those values in interactions with other employees or customers. If not, you need to examine them and how they align with not only your core purpose (the problem that your business can uniquely solve) but also your core customer (who benefits from your product).
- Fully integrated. The most successful companies with strong core values are ones that have fully integrated the values into their entire process — from attracting and retaining talent to new hire orientation and training, to how you evaluate staff and recognition programs, to the business decisions that are made on products and services. The team must hold themselves accountable for each and every one of the core values. These business core values information crosses all borders between departments.
Done right, a well-formed set of core values provide stability and trust for not just employees but also for your customers over the long term. They need to be designed for the long haul, and shouldn’t be updated often. The point is not to have to recalibrate your core values year after year. If your core values work for your company, it’s not something that you have to revisit as often as your BHAG (big hairy audacious goal) or your 3-5 year strategic plans. Your core values are just that — they’re at the core of who your company is and what your company stands for.
Through these core values, customers can rely on your service promises, customer service, and product quality standards. If you research what companies have listed as one of their core values, there’s some variation of being the best at what they do (making ice cream, tennis shoes, search engines, etc.).
How many core values should a company have?
That really depends on what you’re trying to say through those values. As Chesky said, honesty and integrity aren’t core values. That’s something everyone should have. Core values for a company need to reflect the product and industry that you’re in (Starbucks is a great example here - their values are driven by the business of human connection, humanity and creating communities, one cup of coffee at a time). Core values in leadership ensure that the entire team will demonstrate the proper actions no matter the leadership style.
At the end of the day, the company’s core values need to be 100% authentic. If employees can’t recite them or if it sounds weird when you’re trying to describe your company’s core values to someone else, it’s a sign that you need to re-examine those values and make sure they are the right ones for your company, your purpose, your customer and your employees. You might find that three core values are all your company needs to make a clear, authentic statement about who you are, who you serve, and what you stand for. Other companies will have seven or eight core values. The important thing is that these values resonate with everyone from executive leadership to the front line and support staff.
If your company has rolled out a core values program, it’s worth examining to see that it influences every segment of the company — from recruiting to hiring to training to how you conduct business and serve your customers. The language should be woven into all of your materials and it should be something that your teams know off the tops of their heads.
Core values are a critical part of a company’s culture and should be something that gets everyone inspired. Take some time to make sure that your company’s values are calibrated to your purpose and your customers.
If you are looking for some help in formulating your foundational strategy, revenue growth strategy and 3-5 year strategic plans, please feel free to meet with us. We are the middle market experts that have facilitated thousands of these meetings and kept the team aligned and on track with our strategy execution software. If you are ready to take the core values in business to the next level and drive profits, feel free to drop us a line - we’d love to see if it is a mutually beneficial fit.
For more on Core Values and Core Purpose, check out these additional resources:
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