Tips to defining and practicing your company’s core values

“Company values (also called corporate values or core values) are the set of guiding principles and fundamental beliefs that help a group of people function together as a team and work toward a common business goal. These values are often related to business relationships, customer relationships, and company growth” (Hotjar).

Most of us have defined our values, and many of us have them written in a place of prominence — whether that’s a company handbook or stenciled on the walls. But practicing them, that’s a whole ‘nother story. Here are a few tactics on how to live and practice your company values.

Tips to Practicing Your Company’s Core Values

Many companies get fired up about creating core values, only to never look at them again, or pull them out only at staff meetings. Here are some ways you can integrate your core values into your workplace.

  • When hiring new employees, ask them questions that will help you see if they align with your core values
    • For example, if one of your core values is collaboration, you might ask a question like “Describe a time your team failed to complete a project on time. What would you do differently, if you had the chance?”
  • Review values on a regular basis
    • Tie meetings to a particular value, or revisit all values each meeting.
    • This can be as simple as a page of your slideshow presentation listing all your values, or putting one value front and centre at the beginning of a meeting.
  • Put values in the physical workspace
    • Posters get a bad rap, but they are only ineffective when used alone.
    • Hang posters of your values in a prominent place in the office, or even paint your values on a wall. This serves as a constant physical reminder of all that you stand for.
  • Ask employees
    • Interaction helps with memory.
    • A friendly pop quiz on company values, reminders on Slack, and asking employees to share what values mean to them are ways to engage your workforce.
  • Share your values publicly
    • Sharing your values has a way of solidifying them and holding your feet to the fire.
    • Put your values on your website and share them on social media.
  • Let team members have a say in creating the values
    • Depending on how long you’ve been operating and how well-defined your values are, incorporating your employees into the decision making process can create buy-in.
    • If you already have your values defined, ask your team if they resonate. Go through each one and have lots of discussion. If you don’t have them defined, facilitate a workshop with as many employees as possible to define them.
  • Have values influence events
    • When you’re putting on a company event, let your values dictate the kind of events you create.
    • If one of your company values is sharing, then creating a work function where employees can share their work, a talent, or a new resource fits perfectly.
  • Make sure compensation matches
    • Values and culture can’t replace money.
    • If one of your core values is experience, work ethic, skill, etc, make sure you’re ready to put your wallet where your core values are.
  • Create reflective processes
    • Ensure that your processes reflect your values.
    • For example, if your values are transparency and communication, you might consider adopting an agile methodology and working in sprints.

Core values are at the service of your organizational purpose. They define the desired behaviour to accomplish your “why.”’ When done properly, they should affect every aspect of your business, internal and external. That means compensation, workplace dialogue, email writing, processes, strategic decisions, even technology choices.

Stating your company values is important, and living up to them is even more important. Always rescheduling meetings with your direct reports? They’ll get the message that their time isn’t valuable to you, even if you have “respect” in the company handbook. If one of your values is to take risks, but employees get a slap on the wrist when they try something new, that value isn’t going to stick. You’ll seem ambiguous at best, hypocritical at worst.