When you're building your business, defining your mission statement and core values may feel unnecessary. After all, these are nothing more than feel-good platitudes destined for a slide deck or a brochure someday, right?

In some cases, they may be. Some companies write down a few broad statements, file them away, and think their job is done. That's one of the reasons why only 27 percent of employees say they believe in their organization's stated values, according to a study conducted last year. Even fewer know how to apply their organization's values to their day-to-day work.

Mission and values statements can help to define your company: who you are, who you employ, what you stand for, and where you're going next. But the work isn't in defining your mission and values -- that's the easy part.

In order to bring them to life, your mission and values must be connected in real ways to the day-to-day work of your business. Here are some things we do at my company to help accomplish that and bring our mission and values to life:

Hire for mission and values alignment.

There's virtually nothing more important for a company's success than hiring and keeping great employees. But a great employee isn't just someone who's smart, talented, and hard-working -- they must also believe in the same things you do. Take some time during the interview process to determine how much a candidate supports your company's mission and shares your values. If they don't, they probably will not thrive in the role.

Your mission and values can actually be a valuable asset for recruitment and retention. Many job-seekers today want more than just a paycheck; they are looking for a sense of purpose behind the work they do. If you can articulate what this is, you stand a much better chance of attracting good candidates and inspiring your current team to give it their all every day.

Make them a component of employee reviews.

If you're hiring by your values, you should also be sure to live by them. One of the ways we measure employee performance at Funding Circle is by asking how the person demonstrated each of our five core values: Think smart, make it happen, be open, stand together, and live the adventure. Two of these values are about the work itself -- the other three are about how we work together as a team.

By doing this, we underscore just how seriously we take our values and how critical we think they are to the long-term success of each employee and the business at large. It also gives employees a framework through which to measure their own success and solicit feedback.

Reinforce them through your company culture.

Your mission and values establish a shared sense of purpose that motivates people and serves as the "glue" in a company culture. Every company has its own set of traditions, awards, and events, and these can be great opportunities to communicate your mission and values in an engaging way.

Say you have identified creative thinking as one of your company's values. Why not host a team bonding event at an art class, or hand out awards to recognize the most creative solutions to a problem -- with an unconventional trophy? There are many ways to ingrain your business' values throughout your company culture. Check out AirBNB, who bring their "belong anywhere" mission to life through the design of their office space. There, employees can work and meet in a variety of different city-themed spaces, each with its own special flair.

Demonstrate that they are part of your decision-making process.

As a leader, you should model the behaviors you expect from your team. Alignment with the company's values and mission is no exception. If you don't take them seriously, there's a slim chance that anyone else will.

For example, one of our company's core values is "be open." To model this value, I and other leaders make an effort to clearly communicate our company's goals and progress  -- both the good and the bad -- on a regular basis, and share the context around each hit and miss. How you show your commitment to your own mission and values is up to you, but the important thing is to do it visibly and regularly.

There are many different ways to build a mission and values-centric culture; these are just a few. The important thing to remember is that they can't be empty words on a page. They must be integrated into your company's operations and the experiences of your employees, customers and the world writ large.

Published on: Nov 16, 2017