For every company, there comes a time to firmly set in place some core values. When core values are created, it need not be a special symbolic day. The process of creating core values is often a process for every office environment and workplaces; there is no need to rush it for when you listen to your gut feeling, you will know when the time is right.
Why Are Core Values Important?
When you decide on the key values for your organization, these will determine the working philosophies and the most important characteristics of the people in your company.
Deciding on the key values for your organization helps to determine the working philosophies and the characteristics of the people in your company. It is important because the core values of your company will affect the behavior and beliefs of the co-workers and employees that you have hired and promoted.
If you’re a start-up or a small business, then you will probably be personally involved in the process of hiring and firing each employee. You will aim to hire people that do the job you want, and fire people who do not; it’s as simple as that. At this stage, especially if you are the founder or one of the founders of your company, your hiring process and actions will likely be based on your own personal core values. If your core values were not clearly defined at this stage, you would be merely hiring and acting on your gut instincts.
There is no problem with going with your gut feelings per say, but the problem arises when you need to explain the basis of your decision-making to your co-workers. Justifying important decisions on something you “felt” is not a sign of an effective leader. As a leader, you need to justify your words with real actions to be understood. For that to occur, you need to know and inform your employees on your company’s core values. When you create a set of core values for your organization, you are putting clearly and plainly what you expect from your employees. In turn, they will know how to treat each other, how to treat customers, and what constitutes appropriate behavior in any and every situation.
Your employees are the “face” of your company, and the way they present themselves will determine your company’s image.
When To Solidify Your Core Values?
Solidify your core values when your company is large enough such that you no longer have to do much interviewing, hiring and firing. But when it happens, it suggests that your co-workers and employees are already accountable for the core values you have established in the company. You have to put words and phrases together to indicate what is expected from your employees, but without reinforcement behind them, they are merely meaningless platitudes.
To reinforce them, you need to put action behind those words and this translates into
1) Refusing to hire people, whose personalities don’t match with your core values,
2) Firing people who don’t live up to your values, and
3) Refusing to promote leaders who don’t live up to your values.
In short: If you solidify clear values at the start, most of the key processes in your company would be easier as you would have already established a standard by which to judge the quality of your employees’ performance.
Combining Core Values With Your Company Culture
It is not a coincidence that the best workplaces and work environment in the world has built their entire company culture around their core values. Here are some things to keep in mind if you are in the process of creating or transforming your company culture:
1. Core values should not exist simply for their own sake.
Creating core values is not just a checklist on “How to Manage Your Company”. Rather, they represent the way in which every member of your organization should act and present themselves at all times. Your employees are the lifeblood of your company and their behavior, dictated by your core values, will ultimately determine the success or failure of your company.
2. Core values should be embodied in your employees’ behavior such that they geninuely believe in them and desire to become ambassador of your company.
A practical tip to inspire them: Use phrases to motivate them and do not just use single words like ‘accountability’ or ‘integrity’.
These words and values are phrased in such a generic and abstract way that people often tend to gloss over them. Instead, you want them to identify and relate to it. For example, phrases such as “Commit to Greatness” (Rackspace) or “Deliver WOW Through Service” (Zappos) enable your employee to relate to it and to act on them.
3. Core values should be placed in different locations around the workplaces of your company.
If the only place that employees encounter these values is in the handbook that they would most probably never read, then you are doing it wrong. Core values should be highly visible; on the wall, in the interview process, in the performance evaluations processes, and in team emails. You know you’re doing it right when your core values are so well known that even people outside the company start to become curious and intrigued.
If you only take away one thing from this article, let it be this:
ONCE VALUES ARE SOLIDIFIED, THEY ARE TO BE USED AS A BENCHMARK FOR HOW YOUR COMPANY BEHAVES TOWARDS ITS CLIENTS, VENDORS, AND HOW EMPLOYEES BEHAVE TOWARDS ONE ANOTHER.
Core values are meant to serve as the “backbone” of your company, and as a fall back for employees when the times get tough. Therefore, you should put in much thought into deciding on your company’s core values when you are in the process of creating them. If you are attempting to revitalize existing values, then this may be even more important. You don’t want to be constantly readjusting the core values of your company, as it will give off the impression that the company is unsure of itself, and it will further confuse your employees. So whether you are creating your values for the first time or readjusting the ones you already have: take your time, be thoughtful, reflective, and then ultimately decide on them.