Core values define what is truly important to an organization. They are non-negotiable when making business decisions. Core values are consistent and typically do not change much over time, or for different situations or people. They do not sway with the trends and fads of the day – and they do not shift for the sake of expediency or in response to changing market conditions.
A company’s vision and strategy are set based on the environment in which a company exists. When there is a change in the environment, a company may change strategy or adapt its vision. A company’s core values, however, are like the roots of the tree acting as an anchor for the business
If Core Values are the roots, then culture is what can be seen atop the tree. Culture is the set of behaviors and practices that evolve from the values and mission of the company. It reflects the way the leaders and employees act even when no one is watching. When leaders and employees act in alignment with core values, it is a reliable indicator of a good culture.
Should we write them down?
In some cases, core values simply exist as a company’s working philosophy and have yet to be written down.
As a company grows, articulating core values helps to preserve and promote company culture.
For a company expanding its geographic footprint, it is beneficial to communicate and share the core values so team members can make decisions consistently at all locations.
For a company that is expanding in one location, it is beneficial to display core values so that new employees understand ‘why’ and ‘how’ decisions will be made.
A company can come up with a near endless list of good core values. Therefore, the most important criteria for setting a core value is whether it is RIGHT for your company: Do the core values reflect the kind of decisions we want our people to make and how we want them to treat each other and our customers?
Developing a Culture
Effectively developing and nurturing a strong culture that is in alignment with your company core values requires the following steps:
- Identify – Engage in a process to identify the company’s Core Values – what is important to the leader(s) and key people in the organization.
- Communicate – Tell employees what the values are… often. An organization cannot over-communicate their values.
- Demonstrate – Act in ways that support and demonstrate the stated core values. Actions are more powerful than words, so back up the verbal communication with behavior that supports the values.
- Reinforce – Positively reinforce employees for acting in line with company values. Many companies include core values as part of a performance evaluation.
- Recruit & Retain – Attract & hire people who resemble the culture; this is a signal to all members of the team and will allow you to retain employees who support your company’s culture and values.
Learn more about developing your company culture and core values on page 7 of the Business Owner Guidebook to Building a Better Company.