Most people in business have heard of value propositions, mission statements and vision statements. These are so important they often get front page coverage on a business plan prospectus or company report.
For many who work for companies that have these within their organisations they are often forgotten when all you need to do is capture the latest data batch, or monitor the computer networks, etc. So why do I focus so much on company values and what can be learnt from the most successful companies?
Are company values really going to add value?
For an ordinary employee, company values are often looked at as non-essential nice to have things that do not really mean anything to their day-to-day job. However, companies that have sound values are always voted in the top of rankings as the best places to work, have better than normal year end results, and generally perform better.
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How to develop company values that work
When developing values for a new company there are three critical elements that company values must have to be effective, they are:
- Company values must be meaningful and reflect the company’s ethos and goals.
- Company values need to be demonstrated with actions starting from the top down.
- Company values need to be built into the everyday culture of the company.
In the world of business there are scores of companies that have great values beautifully written and presented. However, some basic questions must be asked of people on all levels in the business:
- Do they know the company values?
- Do they care about them?
- And if they do, how do these values impact their day-to-day working environment?
Developing meaningful values
The values of a company need to be clear and resonate within all levels of the organisation. Often when company values are not effective it is because very few people were involved in setting them up. This will at least give members the impression that their opinion is important. Try and incorporate the company values around points that are raised by the majority so that there can be a majority buy in. Each person brings with them a different set of values and tying these into the overall company values can create meaningful values that do change the success of a business.
Obviously a company’s values will differ depending on the type of company, but making them specific to that company and showing every individual how their roles play a part in the overall value system, will lead to greater productivity and happier staff.
Actions speak louder than words
So now you have great all-encompassing values that each member of an organisation has bought into and helped develop, but all too often this is where the process ends. All staff will now be looking closely at whether these are values are shown or just words on a piece of paper.
This is where the CEO, board of directors and senior management need to show through their actions that the company values are important to them and are part of everyday operations. If top management do things or make decisions that go against the agreed upon company values it will be very difficult to have ordinary members of staff take them seriously.
Building the values into the culture
Once the previous two steps have been put in place properly, the values that are set are meaningful, and have been put into action – especially by senior management – a company is well on its way.
The next step over the medium to long-term is building these values into the culture of the company. This is done by talking about the values in whatever forms are appropriate; this can include training, meetings, newsletters, etc. When people are being interviewed for new positions make sure the values form part of the hiring criteria. This way the values become more than goals but are what an organisation becomes.
Get it right from the start
Identifying and incorporating values for your company is one way of moving your business forward quickly. If done properly it can create a foundation that all members within the organisation strive for, thereby creating a culture of doing things for an overarching value proposition.
Fred Schebesta is the founder of Finder.com.au. You can follow Fred on Google+, Twitter, LinkedIn or his blog where he spends his time writing about areas passionate to him including entrepreneurship, HR and leadership.