Core values are the essential beliefs that shape a company's culture, define its vision and serve as a compass that guides its decision-making. And in today's business climate, customers are won and lost over these ideals. Establishing a set of core values can help attract customers who share the same beliefs and motivate employees to reach goals.
More and more job seekers and consumers are making employment and buying decisions based on company's core values. For example, a person might choose to buy from a business because of its sustainability practices, or because of its efforts to promote gender equality.
Companies are finding that not only can they differentiate themselves by following a set of guiding principles, they may also attain greater success and build a strong culture within their organization. That's why it's important for companies to define a set of core values to clearly state what they stand for.
How many core values should a company have?
Although a company may identify with a lengthy list of values, best practices dictate that three to five is the optimal number of core values on which a company should focus. Narrowing down your company's beliefs requires some soul searching to figure out what matters the most to your organization. Three is also an easy number of values to remember and manage.
It's essential to scrutinize each value carefully to determine whether this belief will truly make your company stand out, and whether the people in your organization will actually live out these tenets from day to day.
Defining company core values
The ideal time to start choosing core values is often at a company's inception, when leaders are developing the overall mission and vision for the organization. But creating core values is also something that businesses can explore at any stage, especially as they scale—and it's never too late to start. Even long-time, established companies may still need to adopt a set of core values so they can keep pace with modern demands and business practices.
To begin the process, a company may want to task a small group of key employees with defining the core values of a company, but they can still solicit input from everyone else in the organization. Leaders can act as liaisons to other employees and initiate brainstorming for ideas, then request feedback when a draft of the company's values is complete.
Here are the steps you might take to define the core values of a company:
- Assemble a team of core employees, such as company leaders, to oversee the selection process.
- Have the team put out a call for employee suggestions for core values.
- Meet as a group to discuss the recommended values and to brainstorm others.
- Write down the best ideas and read them aloud.
- Pare down the list to create a first draft.
- Present the first draft to the rest of the company for their input.
- Regroup to discuss employees' input, then edit the values down to a final list.
During the brainstorming and discussion process, consider:
- Which ideals unify us?
- What is important to our organization?
- What are the strongest qualities of our company?
- Which core values will we still hold a decade or more from now?
- Which beliefs should influence our decision-making?
- Which values should define the employees we hire, the products we create and the way we interact with customers?
You can repeat this process of brainstorming, discussing and refining until you settle on a list of core values that has broad support.
How to put core values into practice
Defining your values can be difficult, but the real challenge often lies in implementing those values and maintaining them in the long term.
Here are four ways how to put core values into practice:
- Teach and communicate your values. Offer formal training on core values in the workplace. Explain how the company mission, vision and core values intertwine. Show employees how these values guide the company and how they can incorporate the core values into everything they do.
- Let your values guide your employment decisions. The members of your team should live out your values, so it's essential to hire employees who share those values.
- Lead by example. Behavior is contagious. When managers model certain behaviors, employees will follow suit. When a company's leaders fail to follow core values in the workplace, chances are employees will do the same. And when leaders live by those values, the company's culture will reflect it.
- Reinforce and reward. Praising employees who follow the core values of an organization reinforces those behaviors. Public recognition and rewards, such as bonuses and perks, could incentivize employees to apply core values in the workplace. Consider utilizing your American Express Membership Rewards®1 to gift your valued employees with gift cards, tickets to special entertainment events and more.
Company core values: Scaffolding for success
Having a strong set of company core values could have a positive impact on your culture and help with the growth of your business. Developing and maintaining these values—and honing talent accordingly—should hold a great deal of importance.
Defining your values creates the scaffolding to help support your company's growth. Modeling these values to your employees, and then rewarding those who do the same, helps strengthen your core values and promotes their acceptance.
Taking deliberate steps to craft and implement your own set of core values is one of the ways to help boost your company's success.
1 ®: Used by Amex Bank of Canada under license from American Express
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or an opinion on any issue. It should not be regarded as comprehensive or a substitute for professional advice.