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How to Create Company Values That Actually Mean Something

Written by: Ivan Danilov

Values. There’s a fine line between great ones and crappy ones. At best, they’re unifying concepts that bring teams together. At worst, they’re cringeworthy, empty, bland, and insulting.

Values are essential to building up reputation and credibility as a business. Yet many companies still struggle with crafting and expressing values that are authentic and powerful.

So let’s take a few minutes and talk about what goes into crafting effective values, and see what pitfalls we can avoid along the way. Hopefully you’ll be able to use this information to your advantage to help you build a stronger and healthier workplace culture.

With great values, you’ll build better teams. You’ll keep loyal employees on board longer. You’ll elevate your workplace to more than just a place where people do their nine to five. That’s the dream; can we get there?

The Purpose of Values

The purpose of values is purpose. And purpose brings profit. But for a lot of businesses, creating values is ticking a box in a checklist. Logo? Check. Mission Statement? Check. Values? Check. They’re born out of necessity.

I don’t mean to accuse - I’m sure you’re in business for the right reasons. However, if you think that values are a formality, I urge you to rethink their importance.

If your values are strong, they can be help you expand quickly and easily, and integrate new workers into your company culture. They can help you scale your business efficiently, and quickly give new employees a sense of purpose to ensure they stick around for a long time, and enjoy the work they do.

Which values apply to your business largely depends on which industry you’re in and what your purpose is. To get you brainstorming, here are a few perspectives:

Customer-oriented values. These are the values that express your attitude towards the quality of your product or service. They help you build and maintain strong relationships with loyal clients, and land new long-term business down the road. A few examples include:

  • Integrity
  • Quality
  • Accountability
  • Customer Service
  • Respect for Clients

Employee-oriented values. These are the values that improve the workplace for your employees. These values establish the culture and expected treatment of new and existing employees alike. A few examples:

  • Fair pay
  • Teamwork
  • Respect for coworkers
  • Accountability

The Difference Between Effective and Ineffective Values

Values are beneficial to your business as long as they’re good. Good might be an unclear rating for the time being, but bear with me.

There are great examples of values, and some pretty awful examples. Note that in measuring the merit of a good value, I make that assessment based on a few criteria, which I’ll go into now.

Be sincere, be authentic

Being sincere in your values is important. The modern public (see millennials) has grown incredibly jaded towards inauthentic advertising and corporate bullcrap.

Sincerity is central to creating strong and effective values; for several reasons.

Let’s go over two reasons why sincerity is important, suited for two different mindsets.

It’s good for business: Maintaining authenticity and having values that you created after putting in some serious thought will translate to better business in the long run. If your values revolve around making clients happy and being fully accountable for your mishaps, you will maintain clients. If your company values employee initiative, then you will have a more motivated workforce, with employees that are eager to prove themselves.

It’s the right thing to do: Here’s the hippie-dippie side of things. We’re all just people… on a planet. Sometimes being sincere and authentic is just better. For people. It makes employees happier by knowing that they’re part of an honest workplace. It makes clients that deal with you happier. It means people will perform better and be more motivated. Healthy values create healthy work cultures. Both are good for the people.

Same outcome no matter how you look at it.

Being authentic goes beyond values, it helps potential clients and employees make their decision. Over 86% of consumers agreed that authenticity was key when deciding which brand to go for.

Keep your values relevant and specific

In my eyes, relevance is a healthy chunk of what makes a value strong or “good”. This is subject to disagreement, as many companies continue to create values that, on the surface, have little to do with their business.

I mentioned this value as an example earlier, but let’s take a look at integrity. Integrity is a fine value but if you take a look at this list, it’s quite common.

The problem with a value as broad as integrity is that it doesn’t say anything unique about you, or provide much of an insight into how integrity helps you operate better than your competition.

Values should be measured in their benefit to the company’s longevity and survival. If a benefit doesn’t say much or contribute to the perceived value of the company, it should be scrapped for something better.

If you’ve already come up with some values for your company, take a look at them again. If you can pin-point something too broad or bland, just scrap it.

Let’s take a look at the U.S. trucking industry as an example. One of the most common values among trucking companies is “family”. you can see why, it evokes the feeling that maybe your boss isn’t going to screw you over and leave you trekking home from the interstate after your truck breaks down. But he most definitely will.

The problem with having values that are very common and very similar to others in the industry is that they completely lose their meaning and fail to elicit interest from jobseekers.

Practice what you preach

Your values need to impact the day-to-day of your company. How people act, how they work, how they’re expected to interact are all things that should be aligned with the values presented on your “about us” page on your website.

Sometimes that means rising above expectations - going the extra mile.

Have you ever been to Five Guys? They line the bottom of your bag with extra fries, and give you free peanuts. That right there is called going the extra mile. That’s a realer value than any of the five they have listed on their website, in my opinion.

American Express have time and again demonstrated their commitment to their values by delivering on peerless customer commitment. Amex Vice President, Raymond Joabar, provided this example when asked about a time they over-delivered on customer service:

“...we once received a call from an Argentine cardmember whose daughter was traveling in India and was running dangerously low on cash, and our care professional who took the call remembered that one of her co-workers, Maria, was flying to Gurgaon that night for a family wedding. Maria took the new card with her on the plane and, once in India, arranged for a courier to securely deliver it to the daughter. Maria stayed in contact with the family to keep them updated until the card was in hand.”

Raymond Joabar, American Express VP

If you’re committed to excellent customer satisfaction, prove it by going the extra mile. This was just one brilliant example of keeping your word, and an instance where abiding by your values can prove to be great for all parties involved. You can read the full Forbes interview here.

Let your values entice the right people to work for you

Now that we’ve gone over some examples and basics, it’s time to put what you’ve learned into practice.

Can you convey your unique values to the people that you want to be in business with?

A good place to start communicating who you are is a career site, which you can build in minutes right here. It might be your most valuable tool in hiring the right people. I wrote about why I think so in this blog post.