Great company culture starts with solid company values. People often use those two phrases interchangeably, but it's vital to know the distinction between culture and values.
Company culture is a mix of business practices and interactions that create the work environment. It's the energy and rapport you experience from day to day. Company values set the tone for a company's culture and vision.
The current workforce is driving more companies to adopt stronger values as top talent seeks out employers who have values that align with their own. It makes sense, then, that focusing on core values from the start will encourage a stronger, more diverse workforce and culture.
Defining those core values for your company can be tackled in many ways, from revisiting the past to surveying employees. We've detailed six approaches below.
Look to the Leader
The leader of a company is typically the driving force of the organization, its values, and its culture. Whether it’s purposeful or not, company values are largely shaped by how leaders carry out their goals and initiatives, so it’s crucial that they represent the core values in the actions that they take.
Consider well-known leaders and how their companies reflect the leaders’ own values. Elon Musk’s drive and innovation, for example, are apparent in the ways Tesla operates and the projects they focus on. Every leader instills in their company the values they feel are most important to the success of their business. These values are then adopted by others in the company, a process that contributes to the development of the company culture. The impact of a company’s core values shows why it’s important that leadership embodies them and supports the type of company you strive to create.
Focus on the 'Why'
Much like putting leaders under the lens, it can be helpful to re-examine the reasons why your company is doing the work that it does. What purpose is your company serving? What are the motivations behind the company’s actions? What values are coming through in those actions, and how are they shaping the company’s culture?
Answering those questions and focusing on your company’s mission can help remind you of the core values that were behind your company when it was started. With that information, it’ll be much easier to develop an actionable corporate value statement that will resonate with current and potential employees.
Survey Your Team
Employees themselves are excellent resources that are often overlooked. The amount of time they spend driving the company’s mission and living the company culture means they’re likely the best representation of how the company’s values translate.
Surveying employees is an easy way to confirm how well the core values are translating, and if they’re meaningful to the people serving the company’s mission. You might look closely at employees who exemplify the core values, but those who don’t embody them can provide even more insight into where things can be improved.
Ask yourself questions that highlight what’s at the heart of your company.
Again, it’s important to ask yourself questions that highlight what’s at the heart of your company. Which values matter most to the company? What do the employees value? What defines the company culture? How could it be improved? These types of questions will help reveal what’s at the core of your company.
Show Your Appreciation
If your company’s values are at the forefront and you’ve hired employees that align with those values, you’re likely to see those values come through daily in the work that’s done and the culture that develops. Employees value a positive company culture, and today it seems like they’re more in tune with why the core values are important to that culture. They’re the best cultural ambassadors your company has and, if they share your company’s values, they’ll help to solidify and enrich the culture even more.
With how much they do for your company’s culture, it’s important to show those employees that you’re grateful. Not only are they contributing to the company’s culture, but they’re also supporting the values that were instilled from the beginning. They’ll go on to communicate those values and the positive culture to others, opening up more possibilities for the company. Maintain that positivity by throwing a party, catering in lunch, or using any of the other ideas we’ve compiled for ways to appreciate your employees.
Spread the Word
Given that core values are the pillars on which a company is built, it’s key that your values are front and center. Use them in your hiring process. Make them a focus during onboarding and new hire orientation. Consider posting them throughout the office or using them in external signage and advertisements. Find ways to challenge your employees to embody those values in different avenues like volunteering and mentorship.
While the core values are the foundation of your company and its culture, make sure they don’t become buried under everything else. Raise those values up and celebrate them as key parts of the company culture.
Want pro tips on how to hire for company values?
Walk the Walk
Many companies tout impressive values without truly reinforcing them. If you’re going to talk the talk, as they say, you need to also walk the walk.
From internships to leadership, all employees should display the core values of your company in every action they take. Because the company culture is created through those values, the culture should reinforce them. If a company truly values innovation, they may regularly solicit new product ideas from their entire employee base. On the other hand, if trust is considered a value, having teams full of micromanagers doesn’t do much to support it.
Values on paper don’t do much to drive anything. Keep an active eye on how everyone, yourself included, maintains and perceives the culture and how the business side can support it.
Core values, when utilized the right way, have the power to transform your company. With solid values, your company will more easily hire top talent, develop a positive culture, and achieve its mission. Start developing your company’s values using one of the approaches above and you’ll be well on your way to walking the walk.
This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, legal or tax advice. If you have any legal or tax questions regarding this content or related issues, then you should consult with your professional legal or tax advisor.