What are Company Core Values?
Company values are a “small set of essential, enduring principles that define your culture.”
That definition comes from Gino Wickman’s Traction, one of the best books on creating strong processes in a business and a valuable guide for creating strong core values.
This definition implies that company values are principles that guide its vision, mission statement, and principles. When company values are understood, all employees and executives work together toward a common goal.
According to Subodh Simon Karmarkar, CEO of RefundWiz, “The core values, when stated as executable action words, form the genesis of a company's culture. The core values are the foundation stones for a company. For RefundWiz, honesty and humility are just two of the cornerstones.”
“The core values, when stated as executable action words, form the genesis of a company's culture. The core values are the foundation stones for a company."
Company values are synonymous with organizational culture and are what identifies a company. When used properly, they can also be the defining guide for all decisions your company makes.
Michael Alexis, CEO of TeamBuilding, adds that "core values are also helpful heuristics for making decisions. For example, a value like 'Operate at Level 10 Integrity' could help you make decisions about employees, intellectual property, your sales process, and other parts of the business."
Importance of Company Core Values
From the definition above, company core values seem like a big deal. Here are seven more reasons why company core values are vital to every organization:
1. It Focuses the Company
Traction defines core company values as a small set of principles. For your company values to be effective, it should reduce the noise and distill what your company is about down to the essentials of what you stand for and how your company will achieve the business vision.
Creating and following core values will force you to decide the most important things and eliminate anything unrequired.
“Having core values lets you build boundaries and helps you decide which things you’ll say yes to and which ones to ignore,” explained Ian Sells, CEO and founder of RebateKey. He added that “your core values determine your actions. They align your processes and future directions, ensuring that they resonate with what the company stands for and believes in.”
As HR Executive Diane Gallo points out, “You can’t rely on people to understand the company’s core values unless you take the time to illustrate what they look like in action. Living up to core values should be an expectation that is clearly defined with performance accountability. One can’t expect all employees to understand values the same way, no matter how self-explanatory leadership believes they are. It is critical to articulate what their expression looks like.”
In talking about the company values of GreatPeopleSearch, Founder and Hiring Manager Leslie Radka says that “My company's core values hold great importance for me because they are the foundation and building blocks of success. The core values of my company guide the team members at every step towards success."
Leslie further adds that “My company's core values complement its vision and help build its culture. They influence my company's approach as well. They assist me in developing a feeling of purpose, improving team cohesiveness, and instilling a sense of dedication in the workplace.”
2. It Promotes Unity
A shared goal can do wonders for the unity of your company. Building a united front is easier when everyone is working under the same values.
Imperative conducted a survey in 2016 that revealed that 58% of organizations with a clearly understood purpose have higher growth than those that don’t prioritize making sure employees understand the company’s purpose.
“A candidate will only thrive in your company if they feel a connection with your culture,” says Fletcher Wimbush, CEO and Lead Recruiter for The Hire Talent. “The mission, vision, and values of a company should not just be displayed on a nice poster in the breakroom. These core principles should be reinforced and celebrated daily, serving as words of reflection and inspiration for your workforce.”
If your organization isn’t currently working together as one, then it might be time to take a closer look at the core values.
“The top cannot stand without the bottom,” said Richard Steinberg, Chairman and Founder of Nationwide Mortgage Bankers. “Many big companies make the same mistake, setting up a culture where upper management doesn’t acknowledge the thoughts and ideas of the employees on the front lines. We think a collaborative culture promotes personal and professional growth.”
3. It’s More Profitable for the Company
Aside from the feel-good atmosphere good core values and culture bring to the company, it’s also more profitable for your company in the long run!
Research from SHRM reveals a strong correlation between good core values, engaged employees, and profits. If you lack core values, then you’ll be in trouble. The same study reports that poor workplace culture cost companies more than $223 billion over the past five years.
With great values, employees are motivated, happy, and feel the company's positive image adds more value to them. “Strong core values build trust, and I predict the most trusted leaders and organizations will have a big competitive advantage in the new normal that evolves in a post-Corona world. Employees will remember who treated them well during the crisis, and they will be rewarded with loyalty from earning that trust during the bad times. Having long-term relationships allows you to make more money over time with less disruption and turnover coupled with gains from institutional knowledge and learning,” says Paige Arnof-Fenn, Founder & CEO of Mavens & Moguls.
4. It Enhances Your Scalability
When employees can apply your core values to new challenges they face, then you’ve perfected one piece of creating a scalable system.
"One of our core principles is 'staying a thoughtful step ahead.' We encourage this as it anticipates others' needs and allows you to zoom out and think about the 'why,'" shares Owen Loft, Co-Founder at Socium Media. "By doing this, you're setting a standard for how your team approaches decision-making, which is scaleable in all areas of business."
With core values, you can remove bottlenecks, improve employee experience and engagement, and boost personal growth—which can take your organization up a notch.
"Core values serve as a compass and a lens for evaluating strategic decisions and propelling growth for businesses," says Ryan Reed, founder and CEO of TruLog Siding. "Business objectives are influenced by a range of factors, including time, short-term financial rewards, and stakeholder demands. However, being deliberate about evaluating values ensures that you're constantly selecting the best course of action for the organization as a whole."
5. It Helps Decision-Making
Your company values will help in decision-making. Once you have defined what you stand for and want your company to be known for, your core values become an excellent filter for your decisions. For example, if “High Quality” is one of your values, all products that fail to reach the quality standard will either be discarded or reworked to meet standards.
According to Corey Tyner, real estate investor and founder of Buy Yo Dirt, "When used to make decisions, core values take a diverse set of circumstances and put them through a basic filter, combining financial and non-financial measures of success. Decision-making in a sophisticated, fast-changing corporate environment must be simplified and progressive, with decision-makers looking ahead rather than relying simply on previous views and practices."
6. Educates Your Market
Having company values is different from branding like logos and taglines used on products. Instead, these values work to make your organization earn the goodwill of the market.
“If an organization’s values are not made apparent in everything the company does, then it is very easy for cynicism to quickly set in among staff and clientele, which only ends up poisoning the business’s reputation from the inside out. However, by making sure that you have established core values that do well to genuinely reflect your team and product, then you will be able to better communicate and resonate with both consumers and staff alike,” says Kathleen Ahmmed, CEO/Co-founder of USCarJunker.
Having a clear set of values tells your clients and customers what your organization does and its identity. In addition, having a unique identity because of your values is invaluable in a market that rewards uniqueness.
“Having core values lets your market know about your USP,” explained Ian Sells, CEO and founder of RebateKey. “Not only do your core values direct your employees’ actions, but it also gives your customers an insight on what you prioritize and what they can expect from you. From the get-go, innovation has been one of our core values. Our customers know that we strive to improve our services and employ newer tactics and technologies to suit their needs better.”
As Sharon Winton, CEO at GoMontana, points out, “A company's core values are important because they help to educate the market about what the company stands for. When consumers know a company's core values, they can make more informed decisions about whether or not to do business with that company.”
7. It Helps You Attract the Right People
Perhaps more than ever before, potential employees are more concerned about the values of any company that wants to hire them. Finding and retaining the right employees requires companies to understand not just what they need but also what they stand for and how that relates to their employees.
A 2021 Deloitte report reveals that, in the past two years, 44% of Millenials and 49% of Gen Zs have made employment choices based on whether their values align with their employers. The Great Resignation is making it even more clear to businesses that employees care about more than a paycheck when it comes to their job.
“An organization is a collective set of people adding value each day to support one mission,” shares Julia Armet, Founder & CEO of Higher Playbook. “A value system is the currency of a company culture, whereby each person has unique talents to share. When people are united in their shared value system, they can validate, recognize, and honor each other’s individual contributions. They value each other more, and in return, feel valued.”
One of the drivers of the Great Resignation is an awareness of and an unwillingness to accept the misalignment between the core values of the organization and the employees' core values. Dr. Dana E. Sims of Fedability remarks, “You have an opportunity to stand out as an organization that represents the values of this generation. People are looking for work-life balance, autonomy, sustainable practices, and a belief that their work matters. Do your core values align with those desires and attract them, or do they repel those kinds of candidates?”
Therefore, having a clear set of values will attract those willing to live by such values when working. Businesses thrive when they can pull from various backgrounds and skillsets and combine them under a core set of values that everyone can work towards together.
According to Kimberly, CEO of FindPeopleFirst, “We believe that our core values are essential in maintaining the integrity of the company and ensuring that our employees are working towards the same goal. Our core values are the standards that govern how our employees behave in the workplace and how they interact with one another. I consider these values very important because I know that if our employees have the same beliefs as I do, then we can work together. If we do not have the same beliefs, then it is harder for us to work together, and it is more difficult to reach the goals that I set out for our company.”
With these advantages in mind, let’s now examine some of the core values of the most prominent organizations worldwide.
3 Company Core Value Examples
No two companies are exactly alike in core values and culture; however, the best companies have overlapping themes that drive them.
Amo’s 2021 Global Corporate Values Survey looked at the values promoted by the most prominent companies worldwide and across markets and industries. Here are some common examples of company values listed:
But besides these common themes, here are three examples of companies with great values.
Google’s Ten Things We Know To be True
Google has a list of core values that all employees must follow. It starts with “Focus on the user, and all else will follow” and finishes with “Great just isn’t good enough.” They use their values to shape how they do business and what they deliver as the largest search engine in the world.
You can find the complete list here.
Adobe’s Our Values
Adobe is a household name that has led technological advancements for years. Its core values can be distilled into four aspects:
Microsoft’s Corporate Values
The tech behemoth Microsoft lists out its corporate values as:
These are just three examples of companies with simple, well-developed corporate values. You might have a brand you love, and this affection you feel is likely tied to their values. Many of these companies advertise their values fairly prominently because they understand the importance. The next time you are on their website, scroll around and see what they say they stand for.
How to Create Company Core Values
If your company already has core values, you do well to consider whether these values align with what your company wants to represent to its market.
You might have spent plenty of effort creating and defining these core values in the past, but what does an honest appraisal reveal? Do these values still hold true?
If you aren’t sure whether they do or plain don’t hold true anymore, you should create new ones!
Here are simple but effective guidelines to help you redefine or create your company values:
1. Brainstorm with Stakeholders
One of the biggest challenges to creating kickass core values is getting buy-in from employees and other stakeholders.
To tackle that challenge, it’s best to involve all crucial parties from the very beginning. Therefore, gather a team of employees and brainstorm core values together.
If you own the company or are a manager tasked with this responsibility, be open-minded and let everyone have their fair say. It may seem overwhelming, especially in a larger company, but it is well worth the results.
2. Keep it Simple
The three examples of companies with great values we discussed above have short and memorable core values, and you can also imitate that. When brainstorming ideas, you are likely to develop an overwhelmingly large list. Combining different ideas can help you find the values you want to hold true to.
Additionally, make sure you write the core values in simple, easy-to-understand language. It doesn’t matter how profound they are if people have difficulty understanding what you mean.
Dmitriy Bobriakov, Co-Founder/Managing Director of Solwiser, says, “Keep your company core values simple. When people can remember and recite your values easily, they’ll be more likely to actually live them out. At the same time, make sure your values are meaningful and significant to your team. They should represent the heart of what you stand for as an organization. And they should be something you’re all proud to uphold.”
3. Relate Company Goals to Core Values
Let’s say you’ve got the right values. But if they are just words on a paper or your website, you’ve wasted your time. If you’re serious about getting them implemented, you must integrate them into all employee-related processes. These processes include, but aren’t limited to:
- Hiring process
- Performance management
- Promotion criteria
From the first time they walk through the door, everyone must be reminded that core values are the foundation on which your company stands. Your company goals and values have to be in alignment, or you will constantly be running into issues where you violate one or the other.
4. Incorporate Customer Opinion
Sometimes, the best way to ensure that core values are valuable is to consider customer feedback. Customers care about more than the quality of your product—they want a unique experience that separates you from the pack. Therefore, look to their reviews and feedback, then incorporate their advice into your corporate values to drive customer success.
As Brian Bram, Founder and CEO of Home Gym Strength, points out, “When you're creating your company's core values, it's important to incorporate the opinion of your customers. After all, they're the ones who are going to be most affected by them. Ask your customers what they think your company's core values should be. Then, make sure that those values are reflected in the way you run your business. That means putting customers first and always acting with integrity. If you can keep your customers happy and make them feel like they're a part of your company, you'll be well on your way to success.”
10 Actionable Ways to Promote Core Values at Work
Whether you’ve had your core values for a while or you’ve just created them, making sure they are promoted to and by your employees can be a bit of a challenge. Here are some of the best ways we have found to promote your core values and get buy-in from employees.
1. Reward and Recognize
How can you reinforce good behavior? By rewards and recognition! Incentives are essential if you are serious about promoting core values at work.
When employees know that following core values will result in rewards for them, they’ll be likelier to do what you want. Rewards can take different forms, ranging from job promotions to giving gift cards and so on.
Recognition is also vital. Employee recognition increases employee productivity and engagement. The 2021 Deloitte report also reveals that performance is 14% higher in organizations with recognition programs than in those without.
One way to recognize employees for displaying core values is by using an employee recognition program.
Nectar is an excellent option as it allows for 360 recognition and feedback, which makes each employee feel valued. Additionally, NectarHR also promotes peer-to-peer recognition, which boosts employee engagement and productivity.
Using such platforms, voted on by peers, makes employees understand that corporate values should drive corporate behavior.
2. Train Employees
Training your employees is another actionable way to promote core values.
Training should involve telling what core values are and how these values translate into expected actions. If you create new values, it’s essential to keep employees abreast of these values. You can include these values in personal development sessions. These sessions should be more than a lecture on the importance of the values; they should embody your values as well!
For instance, if ‘working together’ is a core value, you should plan team-building exercises to promote the value. Furthermore, this exercise can build other values like cooperation, tolerance, and related qualities.
“One company I worked with held a core value of teamwork, but their employees didn’t seem to be buying in. It turned out that it wasn’t that the employees didn’t want to work as a team; they’d never had training on how to work together as a team. The ability to collaborate, communicate effectively, and build trust doesn’t come naturally. It requires intentional development of those competencies. So, make sure to train employees on how to perform in line with your company’s core values rather than leaving it up to chance that they know how to do it,” says Dr. Dana E. Sims.
Training your employees in what your values mean is also an important step in getting everyone on the same page. It can also lead to insights you may not have thought about before that can be valuable to your company.
As Marina Kolpakova, Franchise Co-Founder and CEO of CADMEN and former Finance District HR Executive, points out, “We all talk about training on the organization’s core values, checking in with each team member, and lending them a sympathetic ear to make sure everyone is on the same boat, but in fact, it is more complicated than we might often think. You may have wondered why this employee is so talented or a perfect fit, but they still fail to meet your expectations or grasp the core values of your organization. Most of the time, this is not 100% the employee’s fault.
“There is a thing called “value gaps.” People growing up and working in different settings may have different views on values they hold dear to, and even on the same value. It is common in most organizations, especially Canadian and American organizations that have a diverse team, including people from different backgrounds and countries. Let’s say your organization values “Unity.” Some employees may think unity only means being supportive and respectful at work, and some may think unity also means being loyal to the organization.
4. Align All Communication
Creating core values is cool, but you know what’s even cooler? Telling others about them! As a company leader or HR leader, you need to spread the word about these core values—a lot.
If you tell no one about your core values, no matter how amazing they are, it’d be like hiding a light bulb under a basket—nobody would know about them. So, your company values must be front, back, and center for all to see.
"Everyone needs to be on the same page when it comes to promoting and encouraging company core values. To achieve this, employees need to be empowered through effective communication to freely express dissatisfaction by questioning policies and actions that are not in line with set company values. This creates a credible approach towards course correction while fortifying the purpose of company culture." says Aaron Masterson, CEO of Local Furniture Outlet.
This is why internal communication is vital. Several tools can help you distribute these values to everyone involved. Some popular tools for internal communication include:
- Company website
- Town Halls
- Printed Signs
“Having core values gives you something you can continue to come back to,” says Raghu Gollamudi, CEO & Founder of Included.AI, “ By showing you’re serious about your core values consistently from all touchpoints–the interview, onboarding process, and as they get acquainted in the job, this will demonstrate you are committed to being people-first, and these aren’t just statements, but words you live and work by.”
Thus, tell core value stories, use values in company daily language and communication, and even call out and correct people that fail to follow the core values. Make sure they are clearly defined and displayed on your website and that everyone knows what you believe.
By frequently sharing core value stories and praising those who live by these values, leaders send a clear message that displaying such values is appreciated.
5. Be an Example
Actions speak louder than words, and leaders can influence what employees do by their example. Therefore, it’s up to you and the rest of senior management to set an example for your workers.
If employees observe that you aren’t living by the values you have pasted on every wall and memo, they’ll wonder why they shouldn’t copy your example of ignoring them.
Warner Quiroga of Prestige Homebuyers says, “I believe that as the leader of the organization, it is my task to always lead by example and stay true to our core values. One of our work ethics is integrity since our team works remotely from different parts of the world. Having core values in a company serves as a moral compass and guidelines to employees about what the company stands for. It defines the company's culture towards achieving its vision and mission.”
People generally aren’t open to incorporating company values if they feel they aren’t important, and your disregard will be the perfect excuse for them not to imbibe the culture.
“Your company values do not mean anything if senior leaders do not uphold them in everything they do. The behaviors that are tolerated or celebrated in your company will have more weight than the words you put on your walls,” says Yssine Matola, VP of People at Heydoc. “It is worse for employees to witness an action from a leader that is contrary to the company values than not to know about them at all.”
6. Make Values Actionable
Promoting corporate values will also require that your list of values is short, concise, and actionable so employees can recall these values off-hand and they will know what they are meant to do based on your values.
"Communicating company values is important. However, if employees are unable to implement or integrate them in their daily operations, there tends to be a disconnect that can be detrimental to brand image. Company values need to be in such a way that they are easily applicable by employees, thereby ensuring they walk the talk." says Admir Salcinovic, CEO of PriceListo.
While making them short, you should also ensure that these values are not open to different interpretations.
For example, if one of the company values is open communication, the actions of high-level executives must align with it. This might include criticizing things done wrongly and publicly praising things done correctly.
When presenting the core values, you also make them actionable by providing specific examples of the values in action.
Dr. Dana E. Sims says, “One challenge I find with the organizations I’ve partnered with is that they don’t have a clear idea of what behaviors they are looking for when they state their core values. For instance, many organizations say they want their employees and their work to be innovative. What does that mean in the day-to-day work? What would it look like if Francine from finance was innovative? What is the difference between being innovative and just not following instructions? There is no one-right answer necessarily. But it’s important that companies don’t just select aspirational core values because they sound good, but rather focus on what is actionable and the behaviors they really want in their workforce.”
7. Hire or Fire the Right People
Companies should showcase their values right from the start of the employee lifecycle. This means that you should show your values to candidates interested in working for you. “Employers should be crystal clear about what they expect from potential hires,” says Brad Cummins, Owner and Principal Agent of Insurance Geek. “By offering your expectations ahead of time, you will weed out a lot of people and more easily find your ideal hire.”
Let your values resonate throughout the hiring process, onboarding, and after that. Clear values will help you hire the right people whose values align with yours. Although skills, knowledge, and experience are essential criteria, they are relatively easy to transfer, unlike having the same values.
“Core values are a great way to determine if potential hires would be a good fit for your organization. If some aspect of your core values doesn’t meld with a potential hire, they may not be a good fit for your culture and your company and may cause more friction down the line. “ says Loren Howard, Founder of Prime Plus Mortgages. “How potential employees react to your core values can tell you if they will be a good fit at your company.”
In the same way, you shouldn’t hire anyone whose values don’t align with the organization. If you already have employees who fail to work by the values, it might be best to let them go if they cannot adjust. Keeping such employees can be detrimental to your business and send the wrong message to other employees.
8. Check-in with Your Team for Feedback
Some companies feel core values are set in stone and can’t be changed. However, this mindset is wrong because as the company grows, it may need adjusted core values. If you don’t evaluate them, then your values might become useless.
Frequently look over the values and check whether they still align with goals and mission, especially if there has been a lot of change or growth. What is the best way to do this? Just ask your employees!
Use pulse surveys, questionnaires, and other feedback tools to give employees the ability to make the organization even better. “Don’t just think that, because you are the leader, you are the only one with great ideas. Your employees are working in the front lines and encounter situations every day that you may have never considered. Allow their wisdom and experience to help make your business better,” says Mathias Ahlgren, founder and owner of Website Rating.
Asking employees for feedback will help you see how your workers view your core values and help you identify what should be adjusted. It can also identify areas where you can promote core values more effectively.
9. Make Values Visible
After defining your values, you should make them as visible as possible. Promote the heck out of them on company assets like websites and handbooks. Doing so will make your values visible to present employees, candidates, and customers. “Our company loves emphasizing our company values with our team by reading and discussing them together once per quarter during our team meetings,” says Alex Mastin, CEO and Founder of Home Grounds. “Not only does this keep our values in the back of everyone’s minds, but it also helps everyone remain on the same page in terms of our mission.”
Place these values in prominent points in and around your physical location like break rooms, restrooms, conference rooms, reception, and other high-traffic places. This way, employees will always see them and have them at the forefront of their minds.
Another practical way to make values visible is by imitating Netflix’s culture deck. This deck walks employees and customers through Netflix’s values and importance. Seeing these values daily, and being able to share them, will improve your chances of promoting the company values.
Having company values is excellent, but they are useless if employees don’t live and understand them. Communicating the values daily is the way to go!
“We don’t just hang our values from a shingle to show the outside how great we are,” said Richard Steinberg, Chairman and Founder of Nationwide Mortgage Bankers. “We stand by them, and they inform everything we do.”
10. Measure Values
How do you know whether your values are having an impact? By measuring them, of course! “There’s nothing more important than being able to understand the impact your work is making,” notes Patrick Dever, Owner of Coupon Ninja. “Without measuring your progress, you will never fully understand what efforts are and aren’t working in your business. In the end, you could be wasting a lot of valuable time on things that aren’t even effective.” What gets measured gets managed, which holds for core values.
You can get to know the effectiveness of your efforts to promote company value and culture by using employee surveys. Surveys help identify any lapses between desired behavior and actual behavior, encouraging continuous improvement and making it easier to implement changes.
You Can Promote Core Values at Work with Nectar
The importance of company values can’t be overemphasized. Employees will rise to challenges and work more productively with good values, even in these challenging times.
There’s no shying away from how stressful creating, implementing, and promoting core values can be. However, when you think of the benefits, you’ll put in the hard work. You might not get everything right on the first try, and that’s okay—companies rarely get it right the first time. However, you will only get better by measuring your progress and getting feedback from employees.
Build a strong foundation with core values today, and you increase the odds of success and growth in your favor.
Because we recognize how essential core values are to you and your company, Nectar’s peer-to-peer recognition software allows you to add your core values as hashtags and recognize employees by your values. Let us help you keep your values at the forefront of your company.