Three Steps to Craft Modern Company Values to Live By

Creating values isn’t a simple process. It starts at the leadership level and takes some work, but it is essential for companies that want direction and a vision to guide their work.

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Many companies have a page on their website dedicated to their values. They might also include this as a hook in job descriptions to attract talent for recruitment.

A litmus test I like to use to see whether or not companies actually uphold these principles is to ask during job interviews what their values are and how they’re used. Companies shouldn’t just pay lip service to them. Values need to be part of a company’s culture and should be ingrained in all aspects of the organization, including the interview process, management frameworks, and employee recognition programs, for example.

When companies only develop their values to display on a coffee table or leave as a poster on a wall to be forgotten, they are essentially dead. Values have to feed into everything a company does, and they’re only meaningful if they are used. 

The process of creating values isn’t a simple administrative process that can be tossed to the HR department, either. It starts at the leadership level and takes some work, but it is essential for companies that want direction and a vision to guide their work. Here are four steps you can take to ensure your company is getting the outcome it deserves from the work it puts into creating values.

1. Starting at the leadership level

Leadership must align on their personal values. It’s essential for leadership to establish values because this helps set the tone for the whole organization and can impact how each team functions. It’s important for all executives to be on the same page so they can establish cohesiveness in what they implement for the company.

Values build the foundation for a broader organizational effort to implement a world-class employee culture. Leadership should start off by creating an outline of values on which they are at least 80% in agreement. These can include respect, integrity, truth, service, empathy, and so on.

2. Integrate within the whole company

After these values are outlined, the next step is to engage with all employees to integrate them. This step shouldn’t be rushed and should take place over several working sessions spanning roughly six to eight weeks or longer, as is sometimes necessary.

A company can first use half-day workshops for their tenured employees (this might be those at the management level) before bringing everyone on board. At these workshops, employees will get an opportunity to learn more about your company’s values and what they mean for everyone. This is also a great opportunity for people to ask if these values resonate with them. 

Once executives and senior employees have been brought up to speed, employees should be brought on board in similar workshops. As is the case with upper management, this can be a lengthy process and companies should take all the time necessary to complete it. It’s vital that all employees not only understand the importance and definition of each value, but also why every single one was selected.

After your values are workshopped, they can be brought to life. Managers can use them as a starting point for organizational processes. Different systems can be revised so that your values offer direction. They can — and should  — be incorporated into everything a company does, from onboarding to measuring performance, rewarding employees, and developing management policies.

3. Don’t rush it

This isn’t a process that should be rushed into one big reveal. Your whole team should be included in the journey and have a say in what your values look like and what they mean. That’s why employee workshops are so important. Core values have the power to influence decisions, improve employee retention, and contribute to an organization’s success.

Sometimes values change when there is a shift in culture or a change in leadership. When values are reviewed and changed, employees need to be informed as to why they are changing. If no context is provided, employees won’t know why they’re important or why they should even care.

The bottom line

Values help guide and navigate a company toward its vision and aren’t just for show. They should be operationalized into all processes. For example, using values during an interview process might look like hiring based on whether or not a candidate can add to the culture, rather than looking solely at fit based on work experience.

Our values show up every day in what we do and how we behave. By clearly articulating your company’s values and showing your team why they’re important, your employees can better understand and incorporate them into all parts of their work.

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