Can your customers answer this question? If you asked ten different employees, would they all give the same reply?
Answers provided by staff and customers – even notional ones – will give you an indication of what your company’s core values are. Strong core values will strengthen the ties that bind your company to its employees, customers and business partners. Strong core values should resonate with all stakeholders and inform all decisions made and action taken by your organisation.
Core values attract the right customers and employees
When a business is set up it has a particular goal it wants to achieve and a way of working that will help achieve that goal. The core values of the business influence the way it goes about achieving those goals. The more forceful the core values, the more the company will be able to distinguish its brand from its competitors.
Similarly, prospective employees will be more likely to choose to work for your organisation if they identify with your company’s core values. Certain businesses will focus on providing value for money, others might focus on providing environmentally friendly goods or services. Whatever the case, the company’s core values will influence the customers and employees it attracts.
Identify your company values
An outside opinion is often useful to help nail down your company values. External professional help with market research, employee surveys and brand development will help identify your company ethos.
Throughout these brand identification processes, certain values such as ‘loyalty’, ‘respect’ or ‘innovation’ will reveal themselves. The values which appear by intuition or instinct are typically the company’s strongest core values.
Some values are not company core values
Core values are fundamental to your company’s business. Core values are not beliefs that need to be cultivated or instilled. Best practice goals and values which form part of a mission statement should be distinguished from core values. Core values influence operations regardless of:
- timespan – would the core value still be relevant in 100 years?
- the external environment affecting your company – do the values apply equally whether the economy is in recession or booming?
The importance of core values
Once your company’s core values are correctly identified it is time to put them to use as a guide to inform employee behaviour in your organisation. All employees should be aware of and understand what each core value stands for and how each core value influences the daily activities required in their jobs.
For instance, if one of your company core values is ‘enterprising’, employees may be encouraged to experiment with brave new techniques. If ‘minimalist’ is a core company value, employees will be commended for finding simplified processes or means of communication.
Create a core value list and brand it
Once the preparatory work of identifying and communicating core values to employees is complete, there is a risk that core values are obscured by the activities of daily work. To ensure core values remain central to your organisation’s activity and the activities of employees, aim to:
- create a brand listing your company’s core values, and make it a prominent part of internal displays, company meetings and visual branding
- reward employees for acting and behaving in ways that demonstrate your core values. Employee reward schemes can include points systems, awarding gifts, additional holidays or any other appropriate incentive
- incentivise management, ensure line managers are on the look-out for employee behaviour that demonstrates core values and that such behaviour is acknowledged positively.
Monitor your company core values
It is also useful to seek periodic feedback. This ensures that all core values are being acted upon, that employees continue to keep them in mind and that any reward schemes remain relevant for employees.