A company’s culture starts with the core values of the business. This is a group of goals that are carved into stone on the wall (literally or metaphorically), written into performance agreements, and used as guidelines for how employees should act.
The best core values focus on customer service rather than products or financials. Incentives to produce these values help companies build a sense of camaraderie that increases productivity and employee retention. By telling employees to act in these ways, companies are trying to inspire change within them.
- We will always try to make sure our customer is happy, no matter the cost.
- We will always work hard to be the best in our field and stay up to date on all relevant information.
- We will treat our employees, customers, and partners with kindness. We value their opinion because they are
- the ones who keep this company going.
- We will always be honest in our dealings. We focus on trust over contracts and other paperwork.
- We will always grow as a company by implementing feedback from every source available to us.
- We will try to eliminate all extraneous waste in the workplace, physical and otherwise.
The key point is that core values need to be clearly defined so all employees understand what the company stands for. That way, when outside forces try to disrupt those values, employees can make decisions from inside their historical perspective of those values. Otherwise, they’ll make decisions from a place of uncertainty or confusion.
When companies lack clearly defined core values and don’t have ways to share those values with employees, there will be problems because employees don’t know how to act in different situations outside their job descriptions. If they don’t know the core values, then they can’t fulfill their purpose—and they won’t feel fulfilled.
The best way to build core values is by starting with a list of potential examples. Getting employees to help draw these up when discussing what is most important to them in the workplace is the key to success. Then, define what those values are and put them on posters to remind everyone what they stand for.
Whenever there is a decision that has to be made, make sure the core values inform it. That helps when making decisions about products, customer service, or how employees should act. When making a critical decision, avoid asking, “what would I do?” Get everyone involved in discussing what they think the company believes in so everyone can uphold those values.
Inscribe Them in Stone
There needs to be some way of reminding employees about the core values. A wall they pass by every day will do, or a poster that is updated and reposted each time there’s an update.
When possible, get these written into employment contracts, so everyone is held accountable for upholding them. This also helps during annual reviews when managers can give employees specific feedback on how they can improve their values-focused behavior. If the company has a formal performance agreement, core values should be written into that document along with other personal goals and metrics. The employee should sign it to show that they understand what they must do to uphold those values. Asking them to write about a time when their behavior went along with the company’s culture is an effective way to find out if they understand what the culture is. Make sure employees feel like their actions align with core values and make it clear that rewards will be given to anyone who upholds those values.
Once a company has clearly defined core values, there should be processes for sharing them inside and outside the business. Post posters in break rooms to remind employees about the culture. Put them in employee handbooks and performance agreements along with other company policies. Make them permanent by carving them in stone or get an artist to make a sculpture that can be placed in the office. Make sure people understand how their actions align with these values so they can make good decisions consistently over time. By giving employees an understanding of the culture, you can provide them with a framework for making decisions in any situation, and you can incentivize them using employee engagement software. This will help your company culture stay strong over time.