Strong company values are not just for corporates, SMEs can profit too

Like most groups and societies of people, things tend to work quite well and much more productively when everyone is all aligned to a similar set of values. Small businesses are no different.

Company values may seem like your classic HR fluff or things that are only necessary in a large corporate environment, but look a little deeper and you’ll see that having some in place within your own SME will offer some very valuable business benefits.

Values represent the ultimate guidelines for how you expect your employees to conduct themselves at work; they indicate all the things that are of importance to a business and dictate decision-making and employee conduct necessary for delivering on your business goals. They’re also a brilliant way to create your point of difference and help you stand out in the market place from your competitors.

One of the greatest advantages of having values in place within your business is that it creates – yep, you guessed it – engagement! Creating alignment and a sense of belonging through a set of key values is a great way of creating engagement within your workplace.

We know that we harp on about engagement a lot but it’s for good reason. An engaged team will far outweigh the innovation and productivity that can be produced by a disengaged team, which means you’ll see bigger and better results from your team, sooner. That’s got to be a good thing!

Having values in place also allows you to measure not only what your employees do but how they do it. We’re sure you’ve all come across someone at work who is great at what they do, however, are horrible to work with and make working with them an incredibly tedious and unmotivating experience which you try and avoid at all cost!

Measuring employees on their conduct based on how well they live the company values on a day-to-day basis as part of their performance appraisal will make them much more accountable for their behaviour and will see a reduction in unproductive conduct that isn’t aligned to your ways of working.

They’re also a great recruitment tool. Making sure you hire employees who are already aligned to your values to a large extent will increase their chances of fitting in within your business and being successful in their role.

Values allow you to create a culture where everyone is on the same page, which is crucial to operating a business that is trying to achieve shared goals. Different businesses have different ways of coming up with their company values. Some prefer the top-down approach where management outline key values for their teams to follow. Others go with a more all-hands-in tactic where individuals across the business, in varying roles and levels, all have a say on the values that best represent them and the business.

The process of defining your values doesn’t need to be a hard one either, particularly if you already have a strong workplace culture and set of goals in place.

We recently held a values workshop for one of our clients where we took the all-hands-in approach and the team were able to come up with a set of values in no time. The values they came up with not only represented the way they work as a business today but also the things that were important for them in order to deliver on their goals in the future.

Without sounding too biased (!), the exercise was a great motivational boost to the team and you could clearly see them all getting excited about how they could impact the present and future success of their business, now that they had a clear way of working through the values they had defined.

It’s also never too late to put values in place within your business. If this is something that you haven’t thought of yet or set in stone, now might be a good time to put on your “HR fluff hat” and provide even greater direction for your team through a set of clear company values.

Janelle McKenzie and Abiramie Sathiamoorthy are the founders of HR firm E&I People Solutions.

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