Values are important to us all… we are governed by them in our daily life, whether we recognise them or not, and they guide our decision making in everything that we do… should I go for that job? Is it the right time to look at starting a family? Should I start my own business?
When it comes to company values it's not really any different...
Company values should provide the framework which an organisation engages with employees, customers, stakeholders – all of its audiences - and ultimately influences and shapes the company culture. Some companies choose to have two or three core values, others have more, and some just have one core value that encapsulates them as an organisation.
You may find a number of themes running through various company core values that place importance on things like 'team', 'excellence', ‘integrity’, ‘ethics’ and so on, and more often than not there will be an aspect that addresses corporate social responsibility and recognises issues facing the wider community. This could include anything from ensuring you have green policies for dealing with company waste and recycling, to committing to support local charitable causes.
It is important to recognise that these values, these underlying beliefs, attitudes and behaviours aren't just words written in a company handbook, that gets dusted off when a new employee joins the organisation. They need to be consistently communicated internally to ensure they are lived and breathed by everyone within the organisation. Values are hard to teach, unlike skills and techniques, and if they are not shared by the people within your organisation, there can be conflict and disconnect within your team. It can sometimes be clear, for example when interviewing a potential new employee, if their values and beliefs are not aligned with those of your company culture, and this can be incredibly useful when deciding who to make a job offer to.
By understanding the things that you value as a business, you can determine what direction you should take in everyday situations, but also during times of uncertainty. For example, laying down best practice for things like recognising and rewarding potential for your employees, to deciding whether to work with a client if their business practices seem slightly unethical but they have lots of budget to spend with you…
What should company values be?
- Inspiring, motivational and aspirational
- Intrinsic elements that underpin the behaviour of your organisation
- They should relate to the day to day experience of the people who work within your organisation
What are they not?
- Selling messages
- Business strategies
Why are they important?
I think it is fair to say that when we are around people with whom we share common values and beliefs, we feel safer and more secure, happier if you like. And having a set of shared values that everyone buys into is what helps to shape a strong culture within your organisation. If we are happy we have a more positive outlook on all aspects of our lives - our environment, the people we work with, and the work we produce.
So, get the company culture right first and the rest should follow... and as a great entrepreneur of our time puts it:
Your culture really is one of the most important things of your company, it’s who you are, it’s why customers choose you. Build a great company which you would want to do business with yourself. If you get this right, your culture is right.”
- Richard Branson