Your company values are such an essential piece of your organizational culture and brand, and they can make a big difference when it comes to employee retention.
But while the executive leadership may understand the organization’s values deeply—they may have even had a hand in creating them—you have to ensure that this understanding trickles down the organization to people at every level.
Why bother having core company values if nobody even knows what they are?
- Among a group of 91 possible factors, personal commitment to an employer’s core values is the top driver of employee engagement.
- 54% of respondents who didn’t know their company’s core values reported being engaged while 88% of those that did know the core values reported engagement.
- 65% of workers who could name their values say they had a strong grasp on company objectives versus only 23% of respondents who say they didn’t know any of their company values.
Clearly, there seems to be a direct line between understanding company values and engagement and working toward company goals. This is good news for organizations—you just need to ensure your employees know your company values backward and forward.
Unfortunately, that’s not always as easy as it seems. Companies that do have a solid core of values have to reinforce them within their organization. It’s more than just handing over a manual during new-hire orientation; employees should be engaging with their company values on a daily basis.
Here at TINYpulse, we have a strategy that helps to drive engagement with organizational values. In cross-departmental groups, we role-play scenarios and discuss how we would respond to the situation based on our core company values.
Many other companies have many other ways to achieve this same goal: increasing employee engagement in alignment with your values.
What are company values and how to get started?
Before you get to establishing or fixing your company’s values, you need to completely understand what each are and why they are important.
Company values refer to a set of beliefs, principles, and best practices that are widespread across the entire organization and used by all employees to shape the company’s culture and your brand’s. These can include anything from the work approach you take and the benefits you offer your employees to the way you interact with your customers and the causes and ideas you support.
Leading companies that are known for their strong work and company culture usually display these ideas on their “About” page. This proves transparency and makes it easy for potential candidates to get a close look at what the company believes in before they even apply for a job.
The main purpose behind having a solid list of company values in places is to strengthen work culture and create a sense of unity. Not to mention that if you center your values around your employees, you’ll also be lowering your employee turnover rates and helping teams create stronger bonds and lasting friendships.
While these values motivate hires, guiding them whenever a decision needs to be made, make sure they’re realistic. An unattainable goal or value will only make your team feel vulnerable and helpless when, in fact, it’s just the target that was set way out of its scope. To ensure they’re realistic, look at your past results and benchmark any stats you might have. Align your past values with your business goals while keeping your team in mind at all times to attract and retain top talent.
1. Implement a real-time peer-to-peer recognition system
Values-based rewards should be a key component of your employee recognition program. Just look at the statistics from SRHM/Globoforce, measuring employees who responded “yes” to these three statements:
- “Employees are satisfied with the level of recognition they receive for doing a good job”: 34% of employees in companies with recognition programs and 43% of employees in companies with values-based employee recognition programs responded affirmatively.
- “Managers/supervisors effectively acknowledge and appreciate employees”: 55% in companies with retention programs and 65% in companies with a values-based recognition program responded affirmatively.
- “Employees are rewarded according to their job performance”: 64% in companies with recognition programs and 76% in companies with values-based recognition programs responded affirmatively.
Employees who take part in a values-based recognition program feel more appreciated for their work every step of the way.
TINYpulse empowers employees to translate your cultural values into behaviors through real-time peer recognition. Knowing you're doing a great job is one thing, hearing others say it out loud adds a different meaning.
With a new feature that allows employees to associate cultural values to the Cheers they send, you're emphasizing organizational values by recognizing behaviors that align with them. This way, your employees understand what each value entails. Learn more about Cheers for Peers to see it in action.
2. Decide who you would send to Mars
No, this isn’t a way of getting rid of underperforming employees. It’s a strategy of identifying and understanding your company’s core values. The idea of the Mars Group is to imagine you are leading a new branch of your organization on the planet Mars but that you only have room on the spaceship for five to seven people.
The catch is that you must send the best people for the job. By identifying these five to seven people, you’re identifying the people who embody the values you find most important to your company.
Have everyone on the team do this exercise and see which people consistently overlap across employees’ decisions. See who leaders and managers in the organization choose. Then discuss what this means for the core values of your company.
According to Jim Collins, who discussed the idea of the Mars Group, this values exercise should bring about a dialogue about several key questions:
- What core values do you bring to your work—values you hold to be so fundamental that you would hold them regardless of whether or not they are rewarded?
- How would you describe to your loved ones the core values you stand for in your work and that you hope they stand for in their working lives?
- If you awoke tomorrow morning with enough money to retire for the rest of your life, would you continue to hold on to these core values?
- Can you envision these values being as valid 100 years from now as they are today?
- Would you want the organization to continue to hold these values, even if at some point one or more of them became a competitive disadvantage?
- If you were to start a new organization tomorrow in a different line of work, what core values would you build into the new organization regardless of its activities?
By thinking about core values as people — not just a list of words — it helps your employees self-identify with and more deeply understand what the values entail.
3. Have your company values go visual
Company “culture decks” are buzzing through the human resources world right now. They are a visual representation of your values — the things your company holds as most important.
The most visible example of a successful culture deck was a slideshow created by Netflix, titled “Netflix Culture: Freedom & Responsibility,” The 124-slide, easy-to-read slideshow walked employees — and outsiders — through Netflix’s core company values and why they are important. Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg called Netflix’s culture deck “the most important document ever to come out of the Valley” — and, considering her own company, that’s massive praise.
The culture deck has been viewed more than 3 million times, and it sparked a revolution in many big business HR departments. HubSpot and Zappos jumped on board the new model of showcasing organizational goals.
The keys here are that not only is it a breeze to read and understand, written in a conversational language with examples, but it is also quite shareable. It puts your organizational values front and center as representative of your company as a whole, unshakably intertwined.
Company values are well and good. But they are absolutely moot unless your employees understand and live them. Ensure that communicating these values daily is a strong part of your employee engagement strategy.
4. Culture and transparency as part of your branding
Your company values are and should always be public assets. That’s why all companies with high retention rates display these publicly and even have programs, advertisements, and events based on them.
Some organizations are taking it to the next level and using their work culture as part of their branding. Buffer is a perfect example of a company that’s become a top-of-mind example both for their product and one of the key values they promote: remote work.
Everything the team does revolves not only around their product, but also around their culture. If they promote their tool, they also mention remote work. Part of their content marketing strategy is also dedicated to talking about their culture and team. They even have a separate blog where they open up about their culture, finances, and even business decisions, further showing transparency and increasing people’s trust in the company.
This shows both clients and potential hires what the company is all about besides just what they’re selling. It reminds them that you’re also a human who’s interested in similar values to theirs and not just looking to make a profit at the expense of employee happiness or customer satisfaction.
In turn, the Buffer team noticed that customers started to show interest in the team behind the product. They went from simply asking their team to share what they thought the company’s values were to turning these into a solid brand. The company ultimately turned to branding as one of the ways to reinforce their company's core values.
During the transition, they involved the entire team in this process, making sure they set realistic values which, in turn, were all centered around the employees. In other words, they let their workers establish core values, essentially allowing them to contribute to the branding of the company.
5. Incorporate culture into your hiring process
With so many potential workplaces out there, your company values will ultimately help top professionals choose their next long-term job. If you’re looking to catch the eye of the best talent out there, look into bringing your values to light as early on as the hiring process.
The DigitalOcean team is a perfect example if you’re looking for some inspiration on this. Their first value is making sure they keep being a people-first organization. For them, this means they’ll invest more in their people and ensure that the budget priority goes into their employees’ satisfaction before anything else. As the company grew, they introduced their values within the recruiting stage despite increasing hiring velocity.
Noticing the high competition in the job market, they switched their hiring process to make sure it’s a humanized one that’s differentiated from other companies and competitors. All candidates now receive personalized and friendly messages after sending in their application. Classic phone calls are now held via Google Hangouts so the candidate gets to interact face-to-face with their recruiter.
The entire recruitment process is kept transparent. The recruiter tells the candidate every aspect they’re going to pay attention to as well as any stats that will be tracked. Time to hire as well as new hire engagement are just two of the key factors that are recorded and benchmarked to measure the success of their recruiting process.
To make the process enjoyable, each candidate gets access to any resources they might need. These include employee handbooks, videos, and other tools that can introduce a potential hire to the company, its values, and leadership or colleague they will work with.
All this resulted in a 76% positive experience rating from people who sat an interview at the company. Most candidates named this their best hiring process, citing a smooth flow and focus on values as the main reasons for this high review.
6. Let every single team member have a say in the decision-making process
Company culture can only go so far when employees have to deal with the values you impose. A real team experiences and believes in values that everyone contributes to actively, talking about what they don’t like and how they’d want to improve the general environment in which they work and how they collaborate.
This is a need that companies like HubSpot have taken advantage of for years, developing new ways to bring organizational values to life to ensure everyone feels welcomed and happy at work. Beyond simply allowing people to choose which values represent them, they also give them the freedom to participate in the decision-making process. To make these decisions, they have access to transparent information on the financial status of the company, slide decks for board meetings, and other details related to the long-term strategy of the organization.
While the values are clearly defined, each team member has the right to act upon them as they wish, bringing in their touch and creativity. They take transparency one step further with decisions no longer being made behind closed doors with offices that encourage collaboration instead of individual confinement.
Pair this with all the benefits they provide and diversity inclusion to get the perfect workplace most people can only dream of being a part of. No wonder they’ve been named as a Top Place to Work At several times, making their leading work culture one of their greatest achievements.
Ready to bring your organizational values to life?
If you’re looking to use these methods for bringing organizational values to life, start by writing down an action plan in a systematic order.
If you’re lacking the motivation or ever doubt the role of creating and reinforcing company values, just look at what the others are doing.
Most companies where employees are happy and would gladly stick around for years actually do similar things: they offer top benefits, they care about their people above all else, and they listen to what their employees have to say.
Add some transparency and diversity to this mix and you’ll find yourself leading one of the best workplaces of the decade before you know it.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in July 2015 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.