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How Great Places to Work Create Core Values

There’s a point for every company where it makes sense to solidify some core values. There isn’t a magic head-count number or anniversary date that should spark this process. However, there’s a gut-check way to understand if it’s time for your company to get a move on it.

Why Core Values Are Important

The values you pick for your company dictate the characteristics, values, and philosophies of the people you hire, fire, and promote. When you’re a small company, you’re personally involved in hiring and firing each person in the organization. Eventually, you hire people that you think will do work the way you want them to and you fire those who aren’t doing just that. In those instances you’re hiring and firing based on your personal core values. At this stage in the game you probably haven’t put your finger on exactly what those values are, because it’s more of a gut feeling.

The problem with gut feelings is that you can’t teach people to understand what your gut is saying unless you put some words behind it. That’s where core values come in. All you’re doing when you create a set of core values for your company is creating words or phrases. These tell your people how to act, how to treat their customers, what characteristics you value, and more.

Time to Solidify Your Core Values

When your company has grown to the point you’re no longer one of the main people interviewing, leading, and firing, it’s time to make sure you solidify your core values.

Once you put words and phrases together, you’ve created a unique set of core values. Now you can begin the process of holding people accountable for living up to those values. Don’t hire people who don’t match up. Fire people who don’t live up to them. And absolutely do not promote leaders who don’t live up to them.

Combining Values With Your Culture

The greatest places to work in the world have built their entire culture around their core values. If you’re in the process of creating or transforming yours here are a few best practices to keep in mind:

    1. Creating core values isn’t a box to check. Don’t create them just because you want to be able to tell people that you have them. Creating values is about ensuring every single employee in your organization is acting. They represent how you want every employee acting and living up to.

 

    1. Single words are boring. It’s fine to want your people to live with integrity or accountability but those aren’t unique. Zappos asks their employees to “Deliver WOW Through Service”. Rackspace reminds their people to “Commit to Greatness”. Those phrases make you feel something. They, along with the other values, make people want to live up to them. They’re inspirational and motivating and they serve as a rally cry when needed the most.

 

  1. If the only place to find your core values is in the employee handbook, you haven’t done it correctly. Core values should be everywhere employees look. They should be on the walls, in the performance evaluation process, in the interview process, and in the emails written to the team from senior leadership. They should be talked about so often that even outsiders start to catch on.

Rounding Things Out

The most important thing to remember – once values are solidified, they need to be used as a benchmark for how you serve customers, employees, and vendors. No matter if you’re just starting the process of creating core values, or looking to revitalize the ones you already have.

Does your company have great core values? Tell us more about them.

Marisa Keegan
by Marisa Keegan Marisa Keegan has held culture and engagement roles inside two nationally recognized great places to work, started the networking group Culture Fanatics, and wrote the book Culture: More than Jeans and Margarita Machines. She was recognized as one of the Top 100 Employee Engagement Experts in the US in 2013 and is currently a consultant to organizations interested in creating a great culture.