Company culture starts with company values. Not every company makes an intentional effort identify or to mold their company values, but they should. Company values are reflected in the beliefs and behaviors of the business. These can either support the vision and shape the culture of what is important to stakeholders or grow like a weed without supervision, taking over the original vision and values of the founders. All too often, businesses focus on the technical aspects of a company and forget about their core values. Neglecting to intentionally focus on crafting values and principles that help define a business is one of the more serious mistakes a growing company can make. Ultimately, customers will interpret what your company values are and it may not necessarily be what you intended to portray. Companies that take a proactive approach to defining their culture, starting with values, can gain a distinctive competitive edge. In addition, a clear company culture assists in recruiting and retaining qualified, experienced personnel with similar beliefs who will help the company grow. Defining company beliefs is a process that should begin with the establishment of a company and can be achieved by following a few simple steps.
Asses the Personal Values of the Individuals
Before defining company values, it is important to assess the values of the individuals who work there. If you are an existing company and have not undergone any specific values formation, there is a good chance that the company values will be a melting pot of the individual employee’s values. This can have both positive and negative aspects. For example, it is far more difficult to change the core values of a person than it is to find the right person with similar values to begin with. However, taking an assessment of the values of your personnel will give you a starting point for identifying your company values. You must have a base of common values with a portion of key employees to implement and build on them to make them company values.
Build on Desired Values with Key Personnel
Key personnel such as managers, executives, top contributors, and difference makers who share the desired values need to be identified. This group of key personnel will be instrumental in developing the company values from the inside out. Conduct meetings with these individuals to identify, extract, and crystallize the desired values. It is also important to make key personnel feel included in the development and implementation of these values.
Put Values in Writing
In order for values to become part of the company culture, they must be explicit. Try to avoid generic wording, such as integrity, teamwork, or excellence and instead use the company voice to develop a written set of ideals unique to the particular company. Be sure to include everyone in the company when developing the written belief document. It is also important to understand that the process is never-ending and that company values and beliefs can grow and evolve with a company as it grows.
Reinforce with Rewards
The rewards a company offers must reinforce their identified values, otherwise their values will become little more than words on a poster. If the incentive system doesn’t align with the company values, another set of unwritten and less desirable values will emerge. The desired behavior must be modeled from the top down and employees need to see that those who comply with the values are rewarded and those who do not are punished and ultimately dismissed.
Hire the Values
Once you have identified the values you want your company to reflect, they should be front and center in your hiring process. As I mentioned before, it is much easier to find the right person with similar values than it is to change the core values of a person. This is why it is so important to also make your company values known to the potential hire during their interviews. Also, it may be more advantageous to spend early days of a new hires tenure reinforcing core company values than explaining their benefits or where the copy machine is located.
Creating the ideal company culture does not have to be difficult, as long as you know what is important to focus on. Following the steps outlined in this article will give you a good set of tools to begin crafting your company culture and ultimately help you achieve the results you want.