Many companies, large and small, establish core values. Some are truly representative of the company’s culture, while others are set aside and rarely referenced. What are core values and why should an organization establish them? Are they a benefit or is this just a “trend” that has little significance?
Core values are your common beliefs and commitments as an organization – similar to your individual values. They should be the foundation of an organization’s culture and can play a significant role in your success if they truly underlie everything you do.
For values to make a difference, they must be the guiding principles for employees’ behavior from an internal and external perspective. And they should be strictly upheld by all employees – from the new hire to the CEO. If employees truly understand and commit to the core values, these will guide them through everything from major business decisions to daily work activities.
The guidance that values provide employees in determining right from wrong when making choices and decisions at work is invaluable to an organization. Several of Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For were recognized for having core value statements that “set out the passions and commitments that define them.”
Identifying your core values requires an investment of time from leadership and employees. To ascertain your values, you must be realistic in terms of who you are as an organization and challenge your team to discover the ideals that are authentic, through good and bad times.
At Saxum, we recently went through a process of revising our stated core values – simplifying them from ten — which were aligned with our culture but too complex to be an active part of what we do every day – to four. Our revised values are simple and memorable – Brave, Original, Lively and Driven (BOLD).
These set us apart as a business and clearly tell our internal and external audiences how we will interact with them on a daily basis. More importantly, they provide a compass for Saxumites’ daily behaviors.
Most organizations do have common beliefs, but not clearly identifying them can lead to a negative culture and poor decisions which result in quality, operational and even legal issues.
Of course, identifying your core values is just the first step. You must clearly communicate with employees and key stakeholders, establishing the expectation that everyone should apply these values to what they do every day. Some ways to keep core values at the forefront include:
- Post them around the office
- Select a “value of the month” and highlight it during staff meetings
- Recognize employees for actions that align with the values
- Emphasize them during prospect interviews
- Promote them in communications with your partners, contractors and vendors
- Include them in the “About” section of your website
- Use social media to highlight employee stories and how they represent your values
Identifying your core values and ensuring all stakeholders understand and commit to them will make a difference in how your organization interacts internally and externally and play a role in your success.