What is it that your company values most?
I don’t mean things like money, sales, customers, and stuff like that. Those things are important, sure, and you can’t run your business without them.
What I’m talking about are your company’s core values. Integrity. Compassion. Commitment.
Do those values really mean something to you? Or are they just empty buzzwords on your company’s mission statement page?
If you’ve never thought about how to integrate core values into your business, then those words don’t mean a whole lot.
So many companies out there don’t really understand core values. They know they ought to have them, but they don’t truly know why.
Time and time again, business owners put very little thought into core values and how they affect their company culture. They do a quick Google search, pick a few nice-sounding words off a list, slap them on their website, and call it a day.
And that’s a real shame.
Core values have the potential to elevate your business from good to great. As a business owner, you should make your core values part of everything you do, from hiring new talent to marketing and beyond.
Does that sound daunting? If you want to know how to integrate core values into your business – and why you should – I’m here to help.
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Why Do Core Values Matter So Much, Anyway?
When you use them right, core values help your company:
- Hire great employees
- Communicate principles to customers and clients
- Enable efficient collaboration
- Foster teamwork for a common goal
- Make better decisions on a daily basis
Core values give purpose to every single employee at your company, no matter their position on the totem pole. They’re not just for executives, upper management, or the marketing team.
What if you’re building a new business and you haven’t quite figured out your core values yet?
No problem! In fact, this is a great time to lay the foundation so you’re ready to put your values to work right out of the gate. You can even include aspirational values, which are values you want to demonstrate but don’t yet have in place.
If you need some tips on coming up with your core values, try these.
Your Vision Statement
Create your vision statement first. Not only can this help you discover where you want your business’ brand to go, a vision statement tells customers about future plans for your company in one clear, concise sentence.
Don’t confuse a vision statement with a mission statement; they’re similar, but not quite the same thing. While a vision statement focuses on the future, a mission statement describes your company’s purpose, key offerings, and target audience.
Need help coming up with a good vision statement? Take a look at these examples from some of the most influential companies on the planet.
- Disney: “To make people happy.”
- Ben & Jerry’s: “Making the best ice cream in the nicest possible way.”
- TED: “We believe passionately in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and, ultimately, the world.”
Stand Out From the Crowd
It’s easy to choose core values such as integrity, courage, and respect. There’s nothing wrong with values like these, but they won’t stand out and grab someone’s attention, either.
Try to come up with some core values that are unique to your company. I’m not telling you to reinvent the wheel, but you want your core values to really apply to your company in some way.
For example, if you sell online training programs, one of your values could be “Always stay curious.” For a car dealership, try “Never stop moving.” You get the idea.
If your core values are too long and unwieldy, people are going to have trouble remembering them. Ideally, stick to values of no more than five words.
Your core values should fit easily into a simple list. This way, you can post your values almost anywhere without worrying much about space.
Core values don’t only belong on your website. Display them on posters throughout your company, promotional material, and marketing swag – you’re only limited by your imagination!
Once you’ve figured out your values, you’re ready to start putting them to use in your business. Let’s take a look at what your core values can accomplish and the best practices for integrating them with your company’s day-to-day routine.
Core Values on Display
It’s one thing to make a nice little list of core values, but quite another to bring those values to life. What are some ways to demonstrate core values in your workplace?
I can’t answer that question for every value out there, but here are some ideas to get you started.
- Inclusivity: If your company aims to be inclusive, you’ll want to hire and listen to employees whose life experiences, skills, and backgrounds are different from your own.
- Integrity: At any company, it’s wise to promote integrity between managers and employees. You can do this by encouraging employees to come forward with any concerns, questions, or difficult situations they might have. Offer employees a safe space to talk so they can share issues without being judged.
- Commitment: Keeping your employees accountable is a big part of demonstrating commitment. Accomplish this through regular check-ins, one-on-one meetings, and company-wide gatherings.
Make Smarter Hiring Decisions
People want to work for companies they like and respect. When someone applies to your company, they’re asking themselves: “Would I be happy working here?”
If their core values resonate with yours, chances are, the answer is going to be yes.
It works both ways, too. You probably don’t want employees who slack off if one of your values is “hard work.” Similarly, if your core value is “passion,” it’s best to avoid workers who only care about getting a paycheck.
How can you demonstrate core values to applicants if they haven’t interacted with your company much yet? Try these ideas:
- In job postings, include the things that are most important to your company so applicants know what you’re all about.
- Put your core values in a prominent spot on your company’s website. You’re not limited to an “About Us” or “Mission Statement” page. Placing core values on the homepage is a fast way to immediately tell applicants what you care about.
- Don’t forget about your social media pages. Many job seekers check out your LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook pages before applying, so refine your online presence and use it to your advantage.
- Round up a few of your best employees and make short promo videos describing what it’s like to work there. Ask your employees to list their favorite things about the company and their job. Social proof like this has real power – if these employees love your company, the applicant thinks, maybe they will too.
Look Inside Yourself
Nobody looks forward to performance reviews, but they’re a key part of keeping employees accountable and giving them actionable steps to improve for the future. Conducting performance reviews doesn’t have to be a dry, boring process, though.
Try making your core values part of each employee’s performance review. You can include a checklist of values and invite employees to rank their actions for each.
For more detailed feedback, consider asking a few essay-style questions. Questions will vary depending on your unique values, but examples include:
- “Did I go above and beyond to help each customer to the best of my ability?”
- “Was I honest to everyone, even if it wasn’t easy?”
- “How did I demonstrate passion for my work?”
After the review, managers can give their feedback and suggestions on how employees can better incorporate your values going forward.
Know Your Champions
In any company, you’ll find a team of employees who truly shine when it comes to demonstrating your core values. Think of them as your champions, ambassadors who can spread your mission and values both inside and outside the company.
Recruit these champions to encourage others and come up with a plan to further your values throughout the company. For example, you can have them speak at meetings to motivate others or explain your values to customers and clients. These champions also serve as a strong focal point for your promotional videos, as described above.
Keep Your Messaging on Brand
As a business owner, I’m sure you know the power of messaging. You use it everywhere, from your company’s website to marketing materials and more. That’s why it’s smart to include your core values in messaging every chance you get.
I’m not just talking about commercials, brochures, business cards, and all that good stuff. You can include your core values in these things, of course, and you should definitely do so.
But what about your employees? How do you remind them of your core values without shoving those values down their throat?
One way is to periodically reward employees with little gifts emblazoned with your values. Everyone loves free stuff, right?
Some ideas include:
- Pens and markers
- Tote bags
Don’t limit your marketing swag to employees, though. Try handing them out at a conference or mailing loyal customers a gift to keep your company fresh in their minds.
Give Back to the Community
Volunteering is an awesome way to share your core values while helping out your local community. Companies call this “corporate volunteerism.”
If you’re worried employees won’t want to volunteer on their day off, you have options. Consider offering extra paid time off (PTO) for workers who agree to volunteer. Lots of companies even have special “volunteer days” throughout the year when employees can get together and volunteer as a team.
What’s so great about corporate volunteerism? Aside from giving you the chance to demonstrate your core values, you’ll see benefits such as:
- Improved morale
- Reduced truancy
- Higher productivity
- Lower employee turnover
Volunteer days are fantastic for team bonding, too. Employees get the chance to work toward shared goals, forge new friendships, and participate in causes that are important to them.
With so many volunteer programs out there, how do you choose the right ones for your company? Start by making a list of your core values, then search for programs that embody those values, too. You can also look for programs that are closely aligned with your company’s purpose and target audience.
For example, if you’re a law firm, employees can volunteer their time at free legal clinics throughout your state. These clinics provide legal representation and advice for people who can’t afford to hire an attorney of their own.
What if you run a clothing store? You can donate garments to a charity and ask employees to hand out clothes to financially disadvantaged guests.
If you need more ideas to get you started, look for volunteer opportunities at:
- Senior living centers
- Animal shelters
- Daycare centers
- Food pantries
Corporate giving is another strategy that’s related to volunteering. Through corporate giving, you gift money and goods to causes with values that match your own.
Everybody Loves a Good Story
Think back to your English classes in college or high school. You might remember your teacher saying over and over again, “Show, don’t tell.”
What does this even mean? Simply don’t just tell employees, customers, and clients what your core values are. Show them with a really great story instead!
You don’t need to be a literary genius to pull this off. We’re not talking about crafting a beautiful work of art that would make your favorite English teacher weep with joy.
All you need is a simple, yet engaging, story that catches your listeners’ attention and keeps them hooked. You can have this story ready to whip out for presentations, conferences, job fairs – pretty much any time you interact with anyone who cares what your company does.
“But what kind of story am I supposed to tell?” you may wonder.
If you followed my above advice on corporate volunteering, that’s a great place to start. For example, you could say:
“Together, my employees and I served more than 500 meals at a soup kitchen in just one night. Even though it was getting late, the soup kitchen had a line of guests out the door. We didn’t want anyone to leave hungry, so we buckled down and made sure every person in line got a hot meal.”
What core values does this short story demonstrate?
All those values, packed into a few brief sentences. Do you understand how powerful storytelling can be?
What if your employees haven’t done any volunteering yet, though? They’re still a wonderful source of information for stories to tell.
Reach out to your employees. Listen to their challenges, goals, and future plans. Ask them what they love most about working for your company.
It won’t take long before you gather lots of stories to tell – and remember, those stories can make a huge impact, no matter how short.
Your Core Values are the Heart and Soul of Your Company
Does that sound a little sappy? Maybe, but it’s true. I hope I’ve given you some helpful ideas on how to integrate core values into your business. Don’t let your core values languish as empty words on a page – make them a key part of your company, and you’ll be amazed at how far they can take you.