It’s a competitive job market out there — and not just for job seekers. If companies want to recruit and hold on to skilled workers, they have to give them more than a paycheck. Being a values-driven company is one of the best ways to do that.
When it comes to those company values, though, executives (who tend to be pretty far removed from the day-to-day operations and personal interaction of employees) often write a few standard bullet points about innovation or integrity, post them on the website, and call it a day. They don’t regularly revisit those values, even after the company evolves. But really, a company’s core values aren’t a set-it-and-forget kind of thing.
Current core values not only help create a positive atmosphere for employees and set you apart from other companies, but also help inspire smart business decisions. Think about it: If an organization has strong values that employees understand, agree to, and live by, then those values infuse every project and every decision.
For example, let’s say your company’s core value is, “Continue to evolve our services to better serve the company and the client,” and an employee is struggling with a client who wants to go completely off process. The employee should be able to stop and ask:
1. “Does doing X affect our current process, my team members, or our bottom line in a negative or positive way?”
2. “Does doing X really solve the current problem while increasing the value to the client and to our organization?”
3. “Should X be limited to this client, or should we consider X as an option for other current or future clients who are struggling with our process?”
With the company’s core values as a guide, this employee can skip the frustration or confusion and jump to the problem-solving stage — and she can do so with confidence because core values empower her decision.
Core values are also important from a company branding perspective. Even if you don't promote your values as a differentiator, your clients will know what your core values are based on how your employees live them out. So having clearly defined core values will help your team illustrate to your clients what kind of company you are and what's important to you.
Companies grow and change just like people, and so do its values and priorities. What works for a company when it first gets its feet on the ground doesn’t always work after it has logged a few miles. Never be afraid to ask yourself, “Do our company’s core values still resonate with our employees and reflect who we are?”
We’ve always valued our company culture at Influence & Co., but recently, I was meeting with some new hires who blatantly said they didn’t know what our company’s core values were. I started to think, “If our employees were no longer talking about our core values, have they lost their meaning?”
It was the first sign that it was time to reconsider whether they were still true to who we are as an organization. It’s important to understand that it’s OK if you wake up one day and realize your core values no longer fit. It might mean you missed the mark the first time, but the more realistic explanation is that you’ve evolved and that the old core values don’t represent who you are now — and that’s a good sign.
Our company’s new core values are:
1. Create an autonomous yet supportive environment.
2. Evolve to deliver more value.
3. Treat others with respect.
4. Build a trusting community where everyone belongs.
Arriving at these four values took time and input from everyone on our team. You might think reaching consensus within a growing company would be challenging, but with the right process (and an amazing team), it’s totally possible.
For us, the goal was to establish genuine values that were easy for employees to live by, day in and day out. So, naturally, when we started to think about what those values should be, we knew we had to involve employees in the process rather than take a top-down approach.
We started by surveying our entire team, asking them what in their jobs is important to them and why, and to suggest one value they think every employee should live by. We compiled their responses into five categories that featured similar ideas. For example, a lot of employees suggested values like “communication” and “trust,” so we created a “teamwork” category.
Then, we met with senior leaders. We gave them blank cards and asked them to fill as many as possible with their answers to these two questions: “What makes working at Influence & Co. unique?” and “What is something our company would never do?”
As a team, we organized the cards into the previously determined categories and decided on a word, concept, or phrase for each based on its set of cards. As a checks-and-balances system, we asked ourselves whether we would fire or hire someone who didn’t exemplify each core value. Once we had a list of values we were proud of, we polled our team of direct supports for feedback and mild revisions and went to work refining our top three.
We proudly introduced our new core values with a custom video and presentation at our overnight company retreat (where we also hosted our second Mini Startup Weekend event and presented an updated mission statement). Making a big deal out of the introduction helped us communicate how meaningful these values are, how integral everyone’s involvement was, and how excited we are about the future of our company.
In the end, this process allowed us to engage employees and establish company principles they feel attached to and excited about. When you treat your core values more like a guiding compass than a formality, you can create a more positive atmosphere for your employees — and a more successful company.