Yet in many cases core values seem to be just words on a page, written up by an expensive consultant and then forgotten. That’s a real missed opportunity — because when they’re defined and used properly, a company’s core values can deliver business value.
The core company values you define can influence your entire organisational culture. Which means they can impact everything from employee attitudes, to the quality of your services.
What are core company values?
Let’s start with a quick recap. Core company values are qualities or traits that represent:
- What your organisation believes in
- Your biggest priorities
- The principles that guide your activities
Values are often expressed as single nouns or adjectives, such as ‘innovative’, ‘reliable’, ‘fun’, ‘humility’, ‘profitability’, or ‘customer focused’. Organisations will typically define 5-10 core values, and you can be as creative as you want with them.
Once defined, the importance of your core values must be communicated to all employees, so staff embrace and ‘live’ your values in all they do at work.
The value of company values to employees
Core company values have a role to play in every aspect of employee relationships. HR can use them to:
- Recruit people with the right stuff — By including them in recruitment materials, you can attract applicants who share your core values and are inspired by them.
- Manage performance — When your performance management system (e.g. appraisals and reviews) is aligned with your core values, employees are motivated to understand and live them.
- Encourage excellent performance — You can promote employee behaviour that reflects your core values, by rewarding it with staff awards (e.g. Employee of the Month) and line manager praise.
With these methods you can lift performance in key areas related to your core company values.
The value of company values to… customers
You can also communicate your core company values to people outside your organisation, both indirectly and directly.
Indirectly, customers feel the benefits when your employees ‘live’ your core values and provide better service as a result. For example, if one of your core values is ‘caring’ and your customers are incentivised to show their caring side at work, this could lead to improved customer experiences.
Your core values can also inform how your organisation presents itself to the outside world, for example in your marketing and products. When potential customers and partners know and understand your core values, you can increase your brand’s appeal to people who share them.
The potential downside of core company values
Core company values aren’t just for employees. If your staff perceive that management don’t act in accordance with the values expected from them, or values are plain ignored, the effect on morale and engagement can be negative.
So if you’re going to define core company values, everyone in your company needs to embrace them.
In other words, you can’t take a half-hearted approach to core values. If you and your team don’t live them, they could do more harm than good.