Using your values statement to take your business to the next level
A set of company values have long been considered an important part of setting the tone of company culture and success. Your values are what can unify your employees, which in turn will create a better company culture and increase productivity. “The two most important things for any group of people are a clear sense of mission and clear values,” says Adamo CEO Josh Godknecht, “because everything else happens either in a functional or dysfunctional way in unity according to mission and values.”
Of course, there are plenty of companies that claim values that can’t be seen lived out in the way decisions are made or employees act. So how do you not only choose a set of values but also make them have a meaningful impact within your organization?
Choosing your Company Values
Selecting values that are tangible and specific to your organization can be difficult. To figure out what values to choose, you first need to take stock of what unspoken or undefined values already exist within your organization. For instance, is there a culture that management encourages in which employees consistently come forward to own mistakes or admit when projects go wrong? Accountability may be one of your values.
Harvard Business Review defines four different types of company values. For your company, your value set is likely to come from two of these: core values and aspirational values.
Core values are already integral to how you do business. When making the Adamo value statement, Godknecht looked at what his predecessor had prioritized in dealing with clients and employees to choose the company’s official values.
Aspirational values are ones that you hope to instill in your employees that may not already exist but you feel are necessary for success. However, when setting up your official value statement, you don’t want them all to be aspirational, as new values can be difficult to instill. They also shouldn’t contradict your existing values. For example, if you place an emphasis on work-life balance already, trying to implement productivity as a value by encouraging employees to work longer hours would cause you to lose something already core to your operations.
Make sure not to confuse your culture with your values. As your company changes, your culture will need to evolve to adapt to your employees. Maybe when you started you hired a lot of people right out of school, but now those employees are beginning to have families. Their needs are going to shift, and if you want them to remain at your company, you need to meet them where they’re at. Values, however, will carry your company through all seasons and keep your company moving in the right direction. “Your culture must evolve, but you can have a static mission and a static value,” Godknecht says. “There are very few constants that propagate unity, and I think mission and values are those constants.”
Making Values Matter
It’s not enough to have a list of what you claim your company values are; you have to work to make sure they’re lived out within the company. This begins from your interview process—if you want people in your company to care about your values, it’s far easier to try to hire people who already share them rather than to train them into new employees.
According to Godknecht, this is a two-way street. Part of your interview process should be making clear what your values are and how they’re lived out. If the interviewee realizes they don’t share your values, it gives them the opportunity to opt out rather than you always having to decide if they’ll align with your values based on very limited conversations.
Once your values are chosen, they must be reinforced by leadership within the company. If your higher-ups and managers aren’t exhibiting behaviors that align with your values, they set a poor example for the rest of your company. Bring in your values when making big decisions, and when praising someone’s work, use your values to frame their positive actions. Ideally, this will help to integrate them into every facet of company life. “Everything is tied back to values,” Godknecht says.
You also have to hold people accountable to your values, Godknecht says. When someone isn’t upholding the core ideals of your company, engage in a conversation with them. Point out the behavior and how it didn’t align with your values, then work together to figure out how to better meet the values in the future. If these types of conversations are frequent, however, that employee’s values may not be compatible with the company’s.
Strong values benefit your company, but for employees who hold the same ideals as you, it can be of great benefit to them as well. “If you teach someone how to cultivate alignment to their values, and make sure they’re behaving in alignment with their values, [they] can propagate goodness everywhere in their life,” Godknecht says. “And I think it’s a more sustainable good for the world.”