Company values drive behaviours. The way you interact with each other as a team, the way you do business with your suppliers, even the interaction with your customers, should be and are driven by the core values of your business.
Having solid and celebrated values can galvanise your company culture, give your people a sense of belonging and motivate teams to work hard for a shared vision.
Getting your values right can transform your employee satisfaction, your productivity, your talent acquisition, your branding and therefore, potentially even your customer acquisition. So it's worth taking seriously and spending time getting it right.
Even if you already have a set of values for your company, it’s good practise to review them every few years to make sure they’re still the right values for you and are successfully embedded in your culture. So whether this is your first foray into value creation or you're looking to revisit existing ones, here's a tried and tested process you can go through with your team.
But before we kick off, remember, your values should be unique to you, and therefore the process of defining them should be equally tailored to what works for your team, your culture and your way of working. For some businesses, values will emanate from the prominent, charismatic, inspiring leader of the business, other times they’re organically formed from the bottom up by a passionate workforce who feel invested. So, please consider the process mapped out in this guide as a rough plan to base your approach on, and don't be afraid of adapting it to suit your style and culture.
1. Collect Examples
There's no such thing as a new idea right? So kick-start your thinking, get your head in the game and tune-in to the concept of values but looking at your market, and indeed other markets, for examples of company values.
Values are personal and unique, so it may feel strange to begin this guide by asking you to look at other companies, but it’s important to understand how values are articulated across different cultures.
Don't just look for values, or ways of articulating values, that appeal to you - also pull out values that don't resonate with you. It's often equally as insightful to know what you don't like, as well as what you do.
Now, we've done the leg-work for you here. Take a look at our article showing over 200 examples of company values – that should be more than enough! If you’re working in a team (and we recommend that you do), bring some of these values along and show them to the group, or, even better, send them around before you meet so everyone can read them, digest them and reflect.
2. Form a Team
Founders and leaders of businesses need to live and breathe their company values and instrinically embody those values - after all, you want most major decisions for the business to be influenced by and in-line with the company values - but values equally need to be shared and believed in by the wider business. These are the behaviours everyone will stand by after all, so getting people's input in their formation is crucial. It is important your people feel they are represented in the process of creating them.
So consider involving as many people from as many different areas of the business as possible. In fact, widely advertising your values creation project throughout the business will help ensure you end-up with well-known and well supported values.
Remember this isn't a one-session process and you’re likely to need multiple rounds of workshops as you refine and finalise your values, so that opens up the opportunity to invite more participants and really consider when it is most beneficial to include which people.
3. Generate Ideas
Now it’s time to generate the ideas for your values. As we've said, take this to your people and help win their buy-in. This should be a group activity, ideally conducted away from the office. Perhaps book a conference room in a hotel, or take a long walk together, or even hit the pub! However you do it, it’s a time to come together as a group and talk culture and values, away from the day-to-day distractions and to-do lists.
After sharing your examples from other businesses to help set the scene, open it up to the floor and jot down everyone's thoughts and ideas. They don’t need to be polished or finalised, you’re just looking to get together a list of words or phrases that feel meaningful. Here are some questions to help spark your thinking:
- How do you feel about working with your team?
- What are you proud about as a group?
- How do customers perceive you?
- What will you be like in 12, 24, 36 months?
- What is important to you?
- What will success look like?
- How do you describe your culture?
4. Refine Your Values
You'll have a lot of ideas and concepts by this stage, so refinement is an important step. This could be a good moment to bring other areas of the business into the discussion, as you’ve got a place to start and guide discussion.
Start by grouping your ideas into clusters. You’ll likely find there are some common themes such as:
If you've already run multiple sessions by this stage then look across all the ideas from each workshop and find the overlap and common themes.
In a similar vein, we looked at hundreds of companies and came up with the ten most common company values, so take a read through if you’d like to see the most frequently used ones.
You’re looking to ensure your values are:
Unique is important. You don’t want to end up with a list which echoes all the most common values - you risk losing all meaning if they are too generic. Try to make the values unique to you as a company, and if possible keep the list to around five. It’s then easier for all team members to remember them and live by them.
5. Bring Your Values to Life
Once you’ve got your list it’s time to start living them.
First up, make them visual! As we all know, some people are more visual than others and flat words on a page will not stimulate their interest or stick in their memory. Ensure everyone engages with your values and bring them to life with some sort of graphic device - one for each value - even if it’s just selecting the right emoji 🏟️ 🌺 🔥
If your values are single words, rather than longer statements, it's a good idea to give each value a small sentence to explain what it means to you as a business. You need to bring them to life and ensure there’s clarity of meaning so everyone is on the same page. These sentences can be an opportunity to use emotive language, inject passion and motivate people.
6. Live Your Values
Now you’ve got a set of visual, engaging and unique values, so the final part is to embed them in the day-to-day of your organisation. There’s a few easy ways to do this...
Splash them about your environment
Paint them on your office walls, name your meeting rooms after them, stick them on everyone’s monitors. If your people spend less time in a physical space these days then splash them on your intranet, pin them in your messaging app, include them in all your company comms. The secret here is to keep them front-of-mind to help influence everyone’s behaviour and drive the actions that reflect those values.
Make them the basis of your reward and recognition programme
Celebrate and reward people who demonstrate the values in their work. Set up a scheme that allows team members to recognise colleagues who live the values – thus encouraging people to live the values and also look out for them in others.
Use them in your recruitment process
We’ve already talked about how strong company values can have a significant impact on employee satisfaction, but they are also important for talent acquisition. Studies have shown that increasingly people consider a company’s culture and values when looking for jobs and want to work for a company that’s values align with their own. So, shout about your values in your employer branding – it’ll help attract the right people and ensure you hire people with better retention potential.
Reflect them in your branding
If your values are supposed to represent your ethos and philosophy as a company then you need to be consistent. That same message needs to be communicated externally as well as internally. Since your values will drive how you interact with your customers, tell them that - attract new customers and encourage trust by shouting about the ways in which you are authentic and principled in all that you do. People want to do business with businesses that align to their values just as much as people want to work for companies who align with their values. So be consistent and share the same message about your values inside and out.
So, take the time to do this properly. Company values are important and can really help you drive success. Collaborate, be open and receptive to input from across the business. Make sure your values are true to you and unique to your people.
Then once you have your values, shout about them. Paint them on your walls, recognise them in each company meeting, celebrate people who demonstrate them in their work. They should be part of your hiring process, your appraisal process, your product development, your customer service and even your sales and marketing. Now you have you values, make sure you live them.