Company values can be a powerful tool to ignite culture and shape your clients’ experience. Learn the best practices for writing and sharing winning values.
Too many businesses have company values like wallpaper: they just sit there hoping somebody will notice them! Values are one of the most untapped resources to shape a great company culture. With well-articulated values, your leaders have a North Star to guide key behaviors: reinforcing the right culture and inspiring employees to do the right thing.
Recently, I shared my company’s new values. I liked our first set of values, written when the only employees were one other person and me! But my business has changed since founding Inspiring HR. It was time to re-examine our values to ensure they are aligned with the company, client needs, and culture we have today.
Having consulted with many small businesses on their core values throughout my career, I wanted to share best practices—and, hopefully, inspire you to see if your values need a “facelift” to match your current company and culture.
Rule #1: Keep the Company Values Short and Memorable
Winston Churchill once said, “Short words are best, and the old words, when short, are the best of all.”
Inspiring HR’s values make the acronym CURES, which stands for:
When possible, keep your core values to a few words—or one word, if possible! That way, they are simple and easy to remember. Think of your values as a “mental mantra” for your employees. The simpler they are, the easier they are to remember.
And while we’re on the topic of keeping your values short, don’t create so many that it’s hard to remember them all!
Just because you use as few words as possible to communicate your company values doesn’t mean the values are “simplistic.” As a leader, I can talk for hours about the importance of our company values. There’s so much meaning and applicability to each of our values. I encourage small business leaders to discuss company values with employees regularly. But summarize the values so they are memorable, and keep them simple.
Rule #2: Make the Company Values Serve a Dual-Purpose
Think of your company values as a two-way street. You have your employees on one side of the street: your values should guide proper behavior and decision-making. On the other side of the street, your core values should guide how you want clients to feel working with your company.
Take, for example, one of our core values, Understand. At Inspiring HR, we commit to being great listeners and affirm what we heard before we propose solutions. In this way, our employees know what I and the other leaders value: seek to understand before you seek to be understood by clients. At the same time, we encourage our employees to follow this value when they work with their colleagues. That way, our employees foster collaboration and appreciation for their colleagues.
Your company values should encourage both outer behaviors (to the clients) and inner behaviors (to colleagues, business partners, and the like). When employees have a simple framework for how to connect with everyone, everyone can win.
Rule #3: Make the Company Values Timeless and Timely
Your company values should feel eternal: that’s why they are values. Values don’t change based on how the wind is blowing or what new corporate “buzzwords” are in vogue.
Your company values should also be timely and relevant to the work challenges your employees are experiencing and the desired outcomes your clients expect. Company values alone won’t solve the challenges of the day, but great values will point in the right direction for success.
Rule #4: Keep the Company Values Top-of-Mind
Another way to keep your values relevant is to spotlight employees living the company values. Rewarding employees for doing the right thing, and celebrating them, keeps your values top-of-mind. Encourage your employees to high-five their colleagues when they live and embody the company values. When employees know what leaders like and are rewarded for it, they tend to keep doing the right things.
One of the biggest missed opportunities we find when consulting with small businesses is that they keep their company values virtually under lock and key! The values are buried in handbooks and only see the light of day during annual performance reviews. What a waste of values–not to mention doing a disservice to your employees!
When we re-launched our company values, I met with leaders to brainstorm every possible touchpoint our employees could encounter the new company values daily. That way, the values are top-of-mind. And when values are top-of-mind, they’re great reminders of what to do.
Rule #5: Company Values Reinforce the Kind of Incredible People You Want In Your Company
One of the biggest challenges that leaders face is hiring and retaining “top talent”. Your values are a powerful tool for reinforcing the kind of incredible people you want in your company.
If you look around the office and wonder why your employees are failing, it could be that your values need a facelift–or you need to blow the dust off the company values and begin training and coaching around them.
Bonus Rule: If You Rewrite Your Values, Schedule a Share Date
It’s good for leaders to gather together and rewrite their company values. But don’t let “analysis paralysis” stop you from publishing and sharing the values! The values do no good if locked away in a room with the steering committee for months (if not years!)
When you commit to revising or rewriting your values, schedule a “Share Date”: when you plan to unveil the company values to your employees, business partners, and clients. Deadlines work to help you reach your goals. As Duke Ellington, the famed jazz composer, once said, “I don’t need inspiration. I need a deadline.” Commit to a deadline, and share!
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