What are Company Core Values?
Core values are principles that guide every step of an organization’s operations. They guide all actions and are cornerstones.
Company core values differ from aspirational values. As the name suggests, Aspirational values are values the company currently lacks but aspires to have.
Today, many organizations spout core company values, but their actions are opposite of these values. Companies that just haphazardly throw together a list of core values waste a great opportunity to set themselves apart from the competition and truly drive phenomenal culture.
When a company has excellent values and lives by these, it clarifies its identity and serves as a lodestone for employees.
Let’s see some of the best reasons core values matter so much for any company looking to make a difference.
Why Should Companies Have Core Company Values?
As discussed above, core company values offer companies a fantastic opportunity to be different from the competition — something the market tends to reward. In addition, here are some ways company values drive success in business.
1. Guides Employee Decision-making
Having a clear set of values helps employees know what you stand for and what you don’t tolerate.
With this guide in mind, employees will have an easier time making decisions when they get to crossroads. By making business decisions that align with your values, they’ll work towards the goals and vision of the organization.
In these times of significant and sudden change, core values can serve as an anchor that keeps employees grounded and prevent them from being tossed around due to indecisiveness.
2. Core Values Improve Communication
As an executive or HR leader, you certainly recognize the importance of excellent communication in the workplace. Good communication can improve the employee experience, satisfaction, employee engagement and lead to a better workplace environment.
When you have excellent values, staff find communication with executives or employers consistent and clear. Thus, there’s less confusion in the workplace. Furthermore, excellent internal communication makes up to 87% of workers believe their employers care about their well-being and safety.
3. It Improves Employee Engagement
When your employees embed your company’s core values, they’ll better understand what you expect of them.
Think about it, where would you rather work? A company where you know what you’re needed for or somewhere you’re merely going through the motions?
If you’re looking to improve employee engagement, you need to properly define and communicate your core company values.
4. Core Values Help Attract the Right Clients
Customers are attracted to brands that share their values. So, if you aren’t attracting the type of client you want, take a good hard look at your core values.
Company values clarify the brand identity and tell the public what your company is all about. It’ll be easier to set yourself apart from the competition with such values, which definitely offers a competitive edge over your rivals.
Customers today are highly selective about the brands they patronize, with up to 63% of them saying they want to buy only from businesses that resonate with their values.
5. Company Values Help With Talent Hiring and Retention
Are you losing the war for the best talent? Then you might need to adjust your company values as potential hires often look beyond tangibles like salary to consider intangibles like company values.
Values affect your current employees as well. For example, the 2021 Edelman report indicates that up to 59% of respondents cite “better fit with my values” as a reason why they leave or are looking to leave.
Therefore, whether you’re looking to improve the retention rate or the quality of hires, you need to create and live by core values that matter to employees.
How To Create Good Core Company Values
As we’ve shown, good core company values are so important. So many HR leaders realize this importance, but the challenge is creating genuine core company values that resonate company-wide.
How can you create kickass core company values that’ll take your company to the next level? This section provides some valuable tips.
1. Create Values with Employees in the Picture
Your employees make up your business and embody your core values. Even the best-crafted values will fly out the window if employees don’t display these values at the workplace.
So what does this mean for you? It simply means that you should collaborate with team members to generate ideas.
However, does this mean you should carry out company-wide surveys and town meetings to get core values? Definitely not!
While some might recommend getting input from as many people as possible, good leaders realize the danger of having too many opinions. Such an approach will integrate suggestions from employees that shouldn’t be at the company and others that don’t really care about what happens to the business. Additionally, this approach makes it look like all input is equally valuable ( which simply isn’t true).
A small team of trusted/key employees, founders, and executives creates the best core values. For example, Daniel, Director of HR at Mullen and Mullen, recommends conversing with the founding team to clarify the company’s core values.
2. Take Your Time
The euphoria of putting a super-team together to create core values feels great. However, it’s important not to get carried away.
Therefore, reflect on team members’ opinions before establishing any values. By reflecting on the different inputs, the team can arrive at statements that work company-wide instead of triumphing over quickly putting empty words together.
Creating great values takes time and patience, but the results are well worth it. So take as much time as you need and don’t rush the process.
3. Ask the Right Questions
After putting together a team, identify the behaviors you would love to see your employees show daily.
Consider your company’s strengths and even your mission statement. What are you great at? Hard work? Collaboration? Creativity? The options are near endless. However, asking the right questions can help narrow the options.
So, get the team together and have each member highlight employees they manage or colleagues they work with and how these display values they’ll love to see more around the company.
During this discussion, avoid using buzzwords. Instead, aim for specificity. So they should say what exactly they love about these employees. Some questions that can help make the process easier include:
- Who is your teams’ best performer?
- Why do you love working at this company?
- What specific behavior displayed daily do you like or find inspiring?
- How are we different from the competition?
4. Use Customer Feedback
Your customers are vital to the success of your business. Therefore, it makes sense to consider their thoughts before creating core values. Of course, these thoughts will not completely guide your core value creation process, but they can help you craft better values.
Jamie Opalchuk, Founder and CEO of HostPapa, says, “Most clients value characteristics other than quality work and great products—they seek a wow factor that distinguishes your business from the competition. Perhaps they desire continuous development in customer service, a people-first attitude, or overall dependability and friendliness. Consider your customers' reviews and feedback, and make an effort to incorporate their suggestions into your business's basic values.”
5. Condense the Inputs
Your values team will likely come up with plenty of information, and the first sessions might yield several propositions. Thus, the next step is to condense and filter the truckload of information.
To get the cream of the crop, look at the complete information and identify emerging patterns. After the first few sessions, you ought to see specific values emerge. But your job isn’t done because these values might still be too numerous to implement them all efficiently.
Therefore, it’s best to trim down this list of values to four or five options. These should be enough to create a good roadmap.
After you’ve gotten this rough sketch, gather the team again and discuss the values. You shouldn’t expect a consensus, but at least you should have most of the team agreeing with certain values and rejecting others.
Note: Once your core values are created, don't forget the importance of promoting your core values internally. Embedding values in the company will become an integral part in the creation of a positive culture.
6 Examples of Effective Core Company Values
Since no two companies are the same, you’ll find different core company values depending on the organization. However, there are some common values found in almost all organizations. They might not live them, but at least they’ll have it posted on their website or office walls.
Here are some examples of core values with a brief explanation of what each means:
Integrity refers to acting with strong ethics. And it is probably one of the most common core company values.
It’s a value that should run company-wide.
According to Daivat Dholakia, VP of Operations, Essenvia, honesty is one of the most important values an organization should have. “Businesses that act in a transparent and trustworthy manner often have more success than those that don’t.” She continues, “They earn the trust and respect of colleagues, customers, and the public-- providing them with a positive reputation and higher sales.”
Fairness means treating people without partiality and with decency.
This value means accepting responsibility for actions or inactions, and it’s an underrated value in many organizations.
Anthony Mixides, MD at Bond Media, believes accountability, or ownership, as he describes it, is essential to the success of a business. “Employees who understand and appreciate a company’s values recognize that they’re working for more than just a wage,” he says. He continues, “they believe they are a part of something bigger. Those that believe in the idea and identify with the organization are zealous about the brand's reputation. This is a priceless asset to have as an advocate for staff, and it may safeguard the company from future recruitment and customer service concerns.”
Innovation encourages your employees to take risks, according to Corrigan Duffy, owner of Corrie Cooks. Not only that, but it also encourages them to be curious and come up with new ideas.
Transparency or openness is a significant core value, especially for employees. Employees in a transparent workplace don’t feel like the organization is hiding any vital thing from them. As Michael Hess, Lead at Code Signing Store, says, “when a company is transparent, it informs employees that you appreciate their input and aren’t hiding anything important.”
This list of core values is by no means exhaustive, and you can find more in this excellent Hubspot article.
3 Businesses With Great Core Company Values
Having good core values helps focus your company from top to bottom and ensures everyone is working toward the same goals.
Core values are a common denominator of the biggest companies around the world. Here are some of the top organizations with great core values. Perhaps you can find some inspiration from their values.
Google really needs no introduction. But what are the core values that serve as the foundations on which this giant stands?
Here are Google’s core values:
- Focus on the user, and all else will follow
- It’s best to do one thing really, really well
- Fast is better than slow
- Democracy on the web works
- You don’t need to be at your desk to need an answer
- You can make money without doing evil
- There’s always more information out there
- The need for information crosses all borders
- You can be serious without a suit
- Great just isn’t good enough
These values, listed on Google’s philosophy page, are some of the best you’ll ever find, with each one easy to remember and understand.
For example, the value “You can be serious without a suit.” At a glance, it’s clear Google prides itself on being a free, casual workplace. As Google says, “Our atmosphere may be casual, but as new ideas emerge in a café line, at a team meeting, or at the gym, they are traded, tested, and put into practice with dizzying speed – and they may be the launchpad, for a new project destined for worldwide use.”
Zappos also has ten great values that have defined its operations and success. This online shoe and clothing retailer has faced stiff competition but has improved its services and customer base.
These values are:
- Deliver WOW through service
- Embrace and drive change
- Create fun and a little weirdness
- Be adventurous, creative, and open-minded
- Pursue growth and learning
- Build open and honest relationships with communication
- Build a positive team and family spirit
- Do more with less
- Be passionate and determined
- Be humble
As with Google, Zappos' values indicate its a company that focuses on an ability to improve and iterate to keep up with an ever-changing e-commerce landscape. By using these values, Zappos has survived and thrived in a cut-throat industry.
American Express’s core values show a company committed to satisfying customer needs. They are:
- We win as a team by working together
- We embrace diversity by acknowledging that different perspectives are needed to fuel creativity and innovation
- We make it great by delivering an unparalleled standard of excellence in everything we do
- We support our communities by backing and promoting small businesses
- We do what’s right by delivering customer-first service that’s reliable, consistent, and with the highest level of integrity
- We respect people by letting others be and feel heard
- We stand for inclusion by fostering a welcoming and inclusive culture
These values are reflected in their employees and their level of service.
Google, Zappos, and American Express are companies with excellent core values. However, as we’ve considered with Enron’s example, what makes these core values stand out is that these companies live by them and not because of how nicely they’re crafted.
How to Embed Core Values in Employees
Creating nice-sounding values is cool, but what matters is that there’s a company-wide acceptance of these values. If leaders and employees don’t live by them, the values are useless.
As an HR leader, how can you embed these core values in all aspects of your organizations’ operation? Here are tips to help:
1. Weave Core Values Into All Operations
If there’s one thing you’ll take away from this section, it should be this tip — integrate core values into everything.
This means that all employee and customer-related processes should display your core values. From hiring to promotions and rewards to firing, employees should be reminded of the organization’s core values.
You should weigh your employees against how much they display your core values by taking these values into account when considering promotions, bonuses, and similar things.
2. Live the Core Values and Make Them Visible
Another way to ensure buy-in is by living these corporate values as a leader. When your employees see how much stock you put into core values, they’ll be motivated to follow your example.
Also, ensure visibility of these core values so that employees can see and review them every day. Therefore, it’s not enough to bury values in a handbook nobody reads.
3. Hire the Right People
Ensuring buy-in will include hiring the right people that’ll fight right with the corporate culture. The results are often unpleasant if you hire based on just performance but not alignment with company culture.
So, save time, resources, and emotions by hiring people willing to live by these core values.
4. Recognize Employees that Display Core Values
Establishing an employee reward and recognition system can improve employee buy-in. The likelihood of living by core principles is increased when employees know they’ll be rewarded for doing so.
Ian Sells, CEO, and Founder of RebateKey, says, “Another good way to embed core values in team members is by using it to evaluate team and individual performances. Using it as a gauge to measure performance and role expectations is a good way to encourage your employees to be more mindful of them and how these values translate into practice.”
Likewise, you can reinforce good behavior by identifying and discouraging behaviors contrary to company culture.
5. Make Core Values Simple and Easy to Remember
When you look back and consider the core values from organizations mentioned earlier, one thing that stands out is how simple and easy to remember these values are.
So, if you want buy-in, make your values significant and easy to remember.
Tommy Mello, CEO of A1 Garage Door Service, remarks, “These three attributes (simple, easy to remember, and significant) help solidify the principles into the daily practice of our employees.”
Vicky Noufal, the owner of Platinum Group Real Estate, also agrees. She says, “The best idea is to capture the mission, vision, and values in a single sentence. If an organization comes up with complex and verbose statements that the employees can’t even understand, then what’s the point of creating them in the first place?.... If they are simplified, this helps employees stay true to their values.”
6. Observe and Evolve
Although you might have already created your core values, no rule says you can’t update the list.
Organizational culture evolves, and core values might too. As such, update your values to accurately reflect your organization and its purpose.
Ready to Create Effective Core Company Values?
Creating core values and embedding them in your organization is hard work. Given the time and effort that goes into crafting and implementing them, it’s not surprising that many organizations would instead do without them. And you can’t blame them — poorly crafted and implemented core values can kill a company.
However, if you’re ready to invest time and energy in creating genuine values and implementing them, you’re likely to receive results that’ll place your company in a good place now and in the future.