Stephanie Dwilson

How to Choose Company Values That Make a Difference

When small businesses seek to rise above the competition, often it’s what the company embodies — rather than just the product or service it offers — that makes the difference, whether you’re trying to find more customers or hire new talent.

When reading job listings, more applicants now attend carefully to a business’s company values. Members of every generation, including baby boomers, are more likely to seek employers with high ethical standards and a culture they can wholeheartedly support. Unfortunately, although many businesses espouse core values, these values often remain abstract ideas discussed in the occasional meeting.

Here’s a look at how employers and HR professionals can help make core values integral to a company’s daily operations.

Choose Practical Core Values

A thriving corporate culture is contagious — it boosts productivity, profits and growth. But how do you achieve it? First, you’ll need practical core values that can guide your business’s everyday operations. Think about which traits describe your business’s culture or personality. If nothing comes to mind, consider creating a values committee that includes a diverse group of employees from different parts of the company (not just managers), along with customers and business partners. Ask them to pick several phrases that describe the company’s personality. Once you’ve narrowed down the list, survey your employees to get their opinions on which traits describe your business best. Or, discuss your ideas at an all-staff meeting. However you proceed, include as many people as possible to produce a set of ideas that employees feel represent the culture.

For reference, consider other business’s effective company core values. You may see values such as inclusivity, above-and-beyond customer service, teamwork, integrity, creativity, a passion for learning or environmental responsibility. Of course, these are just examples, and ultimately you may come up with something very different. The key is to look for practical values that truly capture your business’s personality and priorities. Keep the list short, ideally to just three values. Once you have your values, you can shape how you communicate them. Catchy phrases like “attitude of gratitude” or a set of values that all begin the same way, such as “Every day we …” may be easier for employees to remember.

Live Your Values — Don’t Just Talk About Them

Businesses shouldn’t just talk about core values in meetings and list them in handbooks. Bring them up often, and let them inform your company culture. Incorporate your values into your onboarding process. Choose your employee recognition awards based on who has embodied those values, and ask that managers nominate people with examples of how they demonstrated a core value. Then, discuss those values at the awards ceremony.

You can also follow your values beyond the office and into community initiatives. For example, Lego, which focuses on doing good, kicked off an initiative to accept any used Lego bricks and donate them to nonprofits. If you value teamwork, you might do a Habitat for Humanity project to give back to the community and strengthen your team’s bonds in the process. Make sure all major business decisions support your core values. If a business opportunity violates a core value, reject it. The short-term financial gain isn’t worth the long-term repercussions. If you’re ignoring your own values, word will eventually get around.

Strong company values can boost productivity and morale, but only if you commit to embodying them every day. Consider practical and meaningful ways you can demonstrate your core values — when someone thinks of your business, they’ll know exactly what you stand for.

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