Core values: every company has them.
Few companies operate by them—or better yet, live by them.
Keep in mind core values aren’t just qualities like honesty, integrity and ethical behavior – those are values every business should display. Other core values go deeper and foster a sense of purpose and mission that informs and even defines how employees think and act.
In “Why Your Company Needs Core Values“, we explored why every business needs core values. Now we’ll look at how you can help your employees believe in and embrace a core value:
Show how a core value creates business value
Every employee needs to do his or her job well, but achieving that means understanding the company’s competitive advantage and underlying value proposition.
Say, like Zappos, your business says, “We value doing more with less.” Sounds great. Sounds catchy. But without a solid foundation that shows the impact on your business by cutting costs and finding creative ways to overcome challenges, in short, throwing brainpower at problems instead of throwing money at problems, expecting employees to do more with less also sounds meaningless.
The key is to…
Explain and Reinforce “Why?”
Why do you want to be the low-cost provider? Why do you want to, like Toms shoes, “Give sustainably and give responsibly”? Why do you want to create win-win partnerships with suppliers?
Always go deeper than, “Because it’s the right thing to do.” Explain that being the low-cost provider allows economies of scale that allows the company—and its employees—to grow. Explain why your company wants to make a difference in the community. Explain that creating long-term partnerships with great suppliers helps you both succeed.
An employee who only knows what to do will only work as hard as his or her work ethic. An employee who knows why—and embraces that why—will work much harder because she will want to not just meet standards but to come through for people who depend on her.
People who see their job as getting people to do what they want them to do aren’t leaders. They’re managers. People who help people think the way they think—and value the things they value—are leaders.
When employees believe in what they are doing, both as individuals and a business, they will achieve the impossible.
Reward Based on Core Values
You may be what you measure, but you definitely are what you reward.
Ensure that what your company values on its mission statement is what it values on its employees’ evaluations.
Cast the Right Shadow
Thousands of companies say what they do best is listen to their customers, but if a company’s leaders don’t listen to their employees, it’s almost certain those employees aren’t listening to their customers.
Employees naturally act the way they are treated.
If your company values responsiveness, first be incredibly responsive to your employees. If you value and embrace taking risks as a company, first allow your employees to take risks and be supportive if those risks turn into failures. If you value transparency, first create a culture of openness and information sharing within your own business.
Any disconnect between what you say you value and how you act on a daily basis will destroy your employees’ belief in those values.
Talk the talk all you want—but always walk that talk.
Allow employees to create their own shadows
We all care a lot more when something is ours—our idea, our processes or our responsibility. We care the most when we feel we are depended on—and given the authority—to make important decisions and to do what is right.
Great companies hold core values and then challenge their employees by giving them the autonomy and independence to work the way they work best within those values. They allow employees to turn “ours” into “yours”, transforming work into an outward expression of each person’s unique skills, talents and experiences.
If your company values taking an active role in improving the community, allow employees to suggest ideas and lead projects that support that goal. If your company values treating employees like family, allow employees to suggest activities and events that foster a greater sense of inclusion.
When employees understand the company’s core values, understand why those values are important, and see the company’s leaders embrace and consistently act in alignment with those values, then they don’t just feel accountable.
They feel they too own those values and will do everything they can to act in accordance with those values.
And in the process, you’ll build a company that truly walks its talk—at all levels of the organization.
Share in the comments below your company values that have the upmost importance to you.