The values of any organisation lay the foundations for what you care about most. We consider why they’re so important for your employees, your customers, and your business.
Most successful organisations these days have a set of core values. They’re sometimes referred to as the company ‘why’, or company ‘glue’: the fundamental beliefs and guiding principles that help everyone stick together and work towards common goals.
Why are they important? Because core values can help to set the standards, behaviour and influence the entire culture within your organisation.
Significantly, studies also show that companies with strong and shared values that are lived by the majority of your team, can lead to better financial performance, growth, improved staff morale, and customer satisfaction.1
But before we get too carried away with what to the casual observer may often just seem like four or five words on a page, let’s take a look at the best way to approach them.
Choosing the right core values for your business can fuel much consideration, debate, and revision. But for your values to mean anything, they should be a true reflection of who you are, not just who you want to be as a company.
Patrick Lencioni in The Harvard Business Review takes these four values as a pertinent example: Communication, Respect, Integrity, Excellence. They sound pretty strong and positive, until he goes on to explain that these were the values of a company called Enron. Yes, that one.
In addition, these days employees (especially Millennials) want to work for companies they feel aligned with, and who share similar values to their own. They’re also very adroit at discerning when a company isn’t being true to their word.
Guiding the ship
Put simply, your values are your guiding light, helping you steer your organisation through prosperous times and periods of uncertainty alike. And the truer they are to the people and everyday culture within your business, the greater the likelihood of success.
So whatever the size of your organisation, here’s a quick summary of why the way you work – and choosing the right core values for your business - matters:
1) They tell people who you are
Your core values put a flag in the sand. They show your team that you all have a common purpose to work by. The clearer you make your intentions – and behave accordingly yourself – the more they will come to understand the behaviours expected of them in contributing towards everyone’s success.
2) They differentiate you from competitors
Your values set you apart from other organisations, so make them interesting rather than vanilla. This is particularly important in a competitive environment, where values that get noticed for the right reasons and truly resonate with your customers could give you a real edge.
3) They set a code of conduct
Good values can help to define how your employees operate, behave and interact on a day-to- day basis, guiding every decision made. In other words, if someone asks “Are we doing the right thing here?”, your values are the yardstick by which to judge. And if something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.
4) They help you hire the right people
Clear company values play a vital role in attracting and recruiting the right kind of people to the roles you have available. Would-be employees have a much wider choice in the job market these days, and if your brand doesn’t talk to them, the top talent out there might not feel the need to talk to you either.
5) They help you keep the right people
What’s more, when you live by your values, you won’t just attract the right kind of people to your company, you’ll have a much better chance of retaining them too. Why? Because people who feel motivated by their job are less likely to defect. Lower staff turnover also means you save on repeat training every time you fill a vacancy.
6) They talk to your customers
How you behave as an organisation matters to customers too. In fact, in a recent survey 63% of consumers say they want to buy products and services from companies who have a purpose that resonates with their own values and beliefs.2 Interestingly, they will also go out of their way to avoid those companies who don’t. Food for thought indeed.
A word of warning to end with. Just as living your core values can prove successful, applying values that are not grounded in your company’s reality can do the exact opposite. So make sure you’re honest about things, and live up to your promises. Otherwise, you might just end up like Enron.