Core values are the north star that guides companies through both calm and stormy seas. Many organizations have them, yet few use core values to their full potential. Here are a few easy ways to make sure that you are:
Keep it Real(istic)
It's not surprising that such a large number of companies want to associate with values like strength, integrity, respect, and excellence. But are those really the most accurate words you could use to describe your organizational values and goals?
No doubt, those are generally good things to aspire towards; however, that's the point — they're very general and aspirational. Effective core values are specific enough that you can see them in your work on a regular basis.
You can attempt to force an association with particular values all you want, but if you're not really living them, you won't have much success. It may even do more harm than good to your company culture.
Think about it:
If you're proudly parading core values that don't match your practices, it's an immediate and very present signal of discord. Core values, by their very nature, must be in harmony with your goals, philosophy, your culture, and your team.
Choose core values that are specific, and realistic for your organization to uphold on a daily basis. For help crafting your company's mission statement, check out this article.
Core values are a lot like pants: it's important to have them, but it's just as important to make sure they fit reasonably well or you're going to look and feel silly with them on.
Patrick M. Lencioni shared a perfect example of this in his Harvard Business Review article, "Make Your Values Mean Something."
It's good to stretch yourself and your team towards positive goals, but it's important to choose core values that aren't such a stretch as to be unattainable, or completely off-base. Remember, it's not just one person adhering to these values, and these values create the expectations that will lead employees to improve their performance.
It's crucial to understand your team well enough to know how they fit into the picture. Holding them to an idealized image that only a small handful reflect will only be an exercise in frustration for the rest.
Get creative and personal with the core values you choose. Reddit's recently published company core values are a great example of this. Choose core values that are aligned with the values of your team. Better yet, get their input.
Clearly communicating organizational values internally as well as publicly are crucial aspects of getting it right.
If you already have a set of core values, consider this next question carefully:
How many of your employees can recite your core values without cheating and looking at the company's website?
What's the point of having core values if you don't communicate them?
Make sure you're effectively and consistently communicating the values you're expecting others to uphold. If they don't know what they are, how can they work to exhibit them?
Publicly recognize the contributions team members make that exemplify a certain value. It refreshes everyone on the importance of that value in their own work, and gives them a reference for how to exemplify it themselves.
It's not enough to send out a company-wide email, or list the values on your company's 'about us' page. Find ways to constantly reinforce your company's core values, or that's all they'll ever be: a few lines of text on an email, buried beneath thousands of others.
There are countless ways you can reinforce your values — the most important thing is to remain consistent, and to do it often. By making your company's core values a regular and inseparable part of your work experience, they will transcend simple lines of text and become the north star they're meant to be.
Need an easy way to improve the effectiveness of your company core values? Try implementing peer-to-peer recognition with Bonusly. Each piece of recognition given through Bonusly is tied to one of your company's core values.
This helps reinforce the importance of those values to the entire team, and also shows how their everyday work aligns with them. The insights you gain through your team's interactions can also help you to further align and improve the list of values you have.
No matter how you choose to build, align, and reinforce your company's core values, make sure to give that process the attention it deserves, and you'll see the true benefits.