Business success starts with a vision. Having a clear understanding of where your business is headed gives you, and everyone involved with your company, a shared roadmap to achieving your future goals.
An integral part of your vision is having a clear set of company values. They provide your team with a blueprint of your business’s desired beliefs and behaviours. They also give your customers a reason to align themselves with your brand.
That’s why a recent study found that no less than 80% of big companies publish their company values online. Yet, making them visible is just the start. You should also focus on ingraining them into your company culture. That’s when you’ll truly start to reap the benefits.
My real-world business experience has given me the opportunity to witness what can go wrong when a company says one thing but does another. I’ve also seen first-hand the many benefits of embracing your values and walking the talk.
In this blog, I’ll pass on some of my learnings from the business world. Read on to discover how choosing and promoting meaningful values can help you foster a winning culture.
What do company values mean?
“It’s not hard to make decisions once you know what your values are.”
Roy E. Disney, partner and co-founder of The Walt Disney Company
As the quote from Roy Disney highlights, company values are the template for the desired beliefs, behaviours, and principles that define your business and drive business decisions.
The values you choose are the ways in which you want your brand purpose to come to life. Your employees should act with each other, and your customers, in accordance with your values, which essentially become your brand DNA.
They direct everyone in your business towards a common vision and help to distinguish you in a crowded marketplace. Once your values are ingrained within all areas of the company, everyone will know how to act – and make decisions – in any situation.
Why are company values important?
“If people believe they share values with a company they will stay loyal to the brand.”
Howard Schultz, Starbucks founder
In their bestselling book ‘Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies’, Jim Collins and Jerry Porras uncovered the successful habits of 18 visionary companies.
Among the principles and ideas that had allowed those companies to thrive was that many of them stuck to a set core of values. It’s clear to see why values equal long-term success:
- They provide a solid foundation that empowers employees to make strategic decisions
- Having shared beliefs and behaviours can help to create a sense of community
- They can help t attract and retain top talent whose personal values align with yours
- Customers buy into the vision of a company – values can help them emotionally connect
How to integrate company values
The last thing you want is for your values to become simple buzzwords – straplines on a poster that are glanced at, then forgotten. So, here are some of the ways in which you can help ensure your company values are lived rather than just a list.
Ensure your values embody your purpose
A recent study of the company values of large businesses found that many of them had the same values in common. For example, 65% listed ‘Integrity’, 53% had ‘Collaboration’, and 35% had ‘Respect’.
While these are all admirable values to adhere to, it’s important that you select values that reflect the must-have ideals that bring your purpose to life.
Your company values are also a fantastic opportunity to ensure that your business stands out as unique. So, choose values that highlight your USPs and distinguish your business from similar brands.
As for how many company values to choose, research suggests that the majority of companies (73%) have between three and seven. It’s also important to think beyond single-word values. Once you’ve chosen your core values add an easy-to-understand sentence or two that describes what needs to be done to bring that value to life in the workplace.
Communicate your values
Earlier, I mentioned that 80% of big businesses publish their values online. That’s because this allows everyone – both internally and externally – to see the DNA of how your business acts and discover reasons to connect with your brand.
Communicating your values should be an ongoing and integral part of life within your company, from the onboarding process to daily practices. Whether you’re sharing your values by email, newsletter, posters, or on your intranet, be sure to explain the why behind each value.
If employees have an understanding of why each value matters, they’re more likely to embrace them and incorporate them into their working lives.
Lead from the top
In an ideal world, everyone associated with your business will walk, talk, and breathe your values. Yet, for that to happen, it should start at the top.
The ways in which a business owner behaves sets the tone for everyone else. If the leaders aren’t behaving in accordance with your values how can you reasonably expect the rest of the team to do so?
It’s said that employees don’t believe a message until they’ve heard executives repeat it seven times. So, be sure to encourage senior management to make championing your values an ongoing and integral part of their role.
As Simon Sinek, author of the fantastic book ‘Start With Why’, once said:
“Customers will never love a company until the employees love it first.”
Reward employees who embody your values
When you’re trying to shape behaviours, incentives go a long way. Publically rewarding staff who live and breathe your company values will not only encourage them to continue doing so but also motivate other employees to follow suit.
It doesn’t have to be monetary rewards, of course. Research has shown that showing gratitude by simply thanking employees can make them:
- Twice as likely to be engaged at work
- Three times as likely to think their work has meaning
- 23% less likely to start looking for a new job
Reinforcing the right behaviours will help demonstrate the desired way to act in line with your values and keep you on course to achieve your future goals.