How We Defined Our Company Values
Last updated on September 8, 2021 at 01:08 pm
We are experiencing a defining moment in the workplace. From the Great Resignation to continued debates about where employees should be allowed to work, COVID-19 vaccine mandates, and more employees demanding a focus on workplace wellness, employers have a lot to consider. Every year, Edelman’s trust barometer gives us a glimpse into these dynamics. And all eyes are on companies and their CEOs. Organizations can either rise to the challenges and demands of their employees or they can waste the opportunity to truly secure the trust and loyalty of their employees. And there are many ways to do this. But one critical step is defining—or redefining—your company values and sharing why they matter.
Defining Company Values
Teams need common goals to rally around—that’s your mission or purpose. But how you achieve those objectives is equally as important. And that’s where organizational values come in. How do you treat your employees and clients? What do you care about outside of making a profit? As a company that stands for mobile employee communication and employee engagement, we know that having well-defined core values is critical.
I have been a leader in a number of growth organizations with success both financially and through people (where we’ve received best place to work awards). All these successful companies have defined their values. I brought both the positives and negatives of this experience and learning to our work at theEMPLOYEEapp. Here’s how we approached it and what we did.
What Values Should Be
There are several best practices to consider when coming up with your values. In my experience, these six elements are characteristic of the best values. Values should be:
- How leaders intend to lead. If values are not embodied top-down, they will just be words with no meaning. Values must define how work gets done and how decisions are made. And they must be driven and lived by leadership.
- Integrated into how you define success. Early in my career, I learned about critical success factors—the few things that if done correctly lead to success. And if not, set a company up for failure. I think of values similarly. They should collectively describe what enables success.
- Core and aspirational. Lencioni’s definitions of “core” and “aspirational” values resonate with me. “Core” describes attributes that the company is known for or that someone would notice without being told. And “aspirational” values are the things that you need to do better, but aren’t so out of reach to be at least mostly true. Values have to be believable, but there can be room for improvement.
- Provide current and prospective employees with guideposts. If your company values aren’t attributes that people can reference to guide behavior and decisions; or behaviors prospective employees can use to understand what type of company you are, then what’s the point?
- Have a defined meaning. Beyond the words and phrases that are used for shorthand, values must have an actual definition. What they don’t mean is just as important as what they do mean. Anything that means all things in all situations ends up meaning very little.
- Part of the company’s fabric. If values sit in a presentation or on a wall but never make it into the daily operating rhythms of the company, they are likely to be forgotten.
What Values Don’t Need To Be
There are also some misconceptions about what your company values need to be. Some of these ideas, like making values completely democratic, can distract from the ultimate goal of the value-setting exercise. Your values don’t need to be:
- Democratic. As someone who biases toward openness, feedback, and input, this is a challenge for me. However, I have seen efforts get diluted by too many voices. By all means input is important. See what others value. See what resonates. Make tweaks. Enroll people in activating them. Just don’t expect to get anything meaningful through surveying people and trying to make word soup.
- Very unique, or particularly cute. Wait, what? I know. I get it. Values are supposed to be uniquely identifiable to a company or they don’t mean anything. Right? I love as much as anyone else looking through culture and values decks from companies like Zappos and Asana. I appreciate a unique and memorable set of values. It’s just more important to address what values need to be than to be witty. And as long as values are distinguished enough to separate you from your competition, they will be meaningful. And that’s most important.
- Prescriptive as to how one plays off against another. By nature, multiple objectives of any kind leave room for uncertain tradeoffs. Do I value the customer or the employee? Do I value the deadline or the quality of the deliverable? Yes, values should help discern some such tradeoffs by stating what’s important. Just don’t expect every single decision to be prescribed. Business, like life, is complex. And that’s okay.
Here is how all of the above played out at our company. Our values describe how we behave. They describe what success looks like for us. And even though we’re not always awesome at each one, we will weave them into the fabric of what we do every day. They support our mission and give us purpose to strive for.
People Matter. This value is about making decisions and acting with people in mind, whether it’s employees, clients, or external partners.
Client-Driven. Our people are passionate about helping our clients achieve their comms objectives, and we show it in our understanding and responsiveness.
Focus. Focus is the only way a small company can cut through the clutter and deliver on short-term objectives while staying mindful of its longer-term vision.
Take Ownership. This value reminds each of us to follow through on our commitments and embrace taking on others.
Enjoy. This is our daily reminder that we’re loving the journey, whether we’re celebrating a success or dealing with inevitable challenges!
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