More businesses than ever before appear to be sharing their core values with the public. What was once an internal-facing document displayed in the break room is now a highly crafted and searchable piece of online content. But as a business owner, you have to do much more than make it public for it to be believable and embraced by your team.
Building a strong culture requires a set of core values that will serve as standards and aspirational goals and ultimately help drive productivity. While aspects like perks, benefits, and employee-centric policies can play a role in fostering a positive environment, your company's core values should go much deeper in expressing your mission.
According to a Linkedin study, 71 percent of employees said they'd consider taking a cut in pay in exchange for working at a place that embodies the mission and values they agree with. On top of that, 2019 Gallup data found that only about 25 percent of a company's employees actually believe in their stated values with conviction.
So aside from bringing a sharper focus to your company's culture, displaying your core values publicly can also be a compelling--and differentiating--tool for recruitment, especially in today's super-tight market.
Defining Your Company's Values
As a founder or business leader, your company's core values should reflect your own personal values. What principles really speak to you? Which values do you champion the most? Think about it: At the core, your documented values are the personification of the best behaviors you promote, as well as the limits you'll tolerate. They're also the unseen guardrails around what's expected when you're not around.
At the end of the day, that's what makes it authentic. For example, as we began to formally articulate the core values at our company, we thought hard about a few key elements we wanted to include:
dedication to customers;
open and accessible communication between employees and leadership;
a strong work community; and
ensuring that employees feel positive and fulfilled when they leave work at the end of the day
While all equally important, the last point especially resonated with us. There's hardly anything worse than having a knot in your stomach on a Sunday night when you know you have to be at an unsatisfying or stressful job in a few hours. But on the flipside, with all the time spent at work, it comes down to wanting to be there, and having passion for what you do, so it goes both ways.
How to Put Your Values Into Action
Here's where things get really real. It's one thing to document and display your company values, but are you and your employees actually living them? This should be a daily thing. You'll see it in the quality of the work and the enthusiasm of your employees, especially during stressful times.
Here are five things you can do to encourage this on a regular basis:
Send out regular emails that honor an employee, a team, or achievement with full context.
Recognize employees on a regular basis in front of the company, like at an all-hands meeting. This not only builds a sense of anticipation, but can also serve as an incentive to raise the bar.
Host offsite events to learn new things and take a collective breath after working hard as a team.
Make sure core values inform employee reviews at every step when recognizing their contributions, especially for work that was done in a way that is consistent with your values system.
Encourage employees to take the floor as guest speakers in meetings to share their own unique talents or skills. It's a great way to show your appreciation for what they bring to the table.
While all these actions will help, there is one more--no matter how you title it--that you should especially emphasize: focus on your employees' ability to do their jobs or make decisions without unnecessary roadblocks. Personally, I'd rather go forward with 10 new ideas that yield just a handful of successful results than take extra time analyzing and agonizing over two initiatives that yield just one successful result. As a startup, you need to be nimble and unafraid of making mistakes, which may ultimately serve as valuable data points in your journey.
However you decide to steer your company values, it's important to always learn and iterate along the way, which you'll find challenging and invigorating. Practicing them on a daily basis will help ensure you don't just post your values and forget about them--or lose sight of some of your best assets: your employees.