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Jun 21'

The Complete Guide to Company Core Values Part 2: How to define your core values

Now that we have covered a brief overview of core values and why they are important in part 1 of this series, we can move to defining core values. If you haven't read part 1: why are core values so important, I'd recommend reading that article first before we jump into how to define core values! When starting to define your core values, it's important to ensure these core values are one's that you want employees to exemplify in day to day life. These core values should represent the type of behaviours that you would want to give employee rewards for when employees live by them.

With that, how do you go about defining your core values? We've come up with a 5 step process to help you define your company core values.

How to define your company values

1. Start by observing typical behaviours

The fun thing about going through the process of creating company values is that you don’t need to search too hard to figure out what they are. Your values already exist, you just need to identify them then put them into words.

To kick off this process, take a couple of weeks to observe business as usual in your organization. Are there any behaviours that you’re seeing take place often that you feel deserves employee rewards? For example:

  • Do people work in teams most of the time?
  • Are team milestones celebrated?
  • Do workers go above and beyond to make a client happy, even if it causes challenges in their day?
  • Does leadership encourage staff to speak their minds?
  • Is continuous learning always taking place?
  • Are teams encouraged to take risks?

Make a note of some of the behaviours that you’re observing and this will be your starting point. 

2. Ask all levels of staff to do the same task 

You might have thought that values should come from the top down, but to make sure all levels of staff buy into these values, you should welcome the opinions and input of all levels of staff in as many departments as you can. Also, in an article by Forbes, it states that you may have an overarching idea of your business, but your employees are the one's dealing with the day to day operations firsthand. Therefore, they can give you more perspective on core values that fit with your organization.

In a small organization, this can be quite easy through a few group meetings. For a larger organization, you might want to design an online survey to gather ideas from a wider group of people. 

Whether you’re hosting a group session or asking through a survey, ask team members these questions:

  • What individual values do you see staff bringing to the table?
  • Who inspires you on your team (or another team), and what is it about them that inspires you?
  • What’s important to us?
  • What brings us all together?
  • When we’re facing a tough decision, what usually guides us to make the best choice? 
  • What do you like about working here?
  • What are we proud of?
  • Why do you think customers or clients choose to work with us?
  • How are we different from our competitors?
  • How would you describe what it’s like to work here?
Employee rewards

3. Group your findings into similar themes 

Once you gather answers to these questions from your staff, you’re going to start seeing some similar themes in how people responded. 

Though everyone might respond differently, you might find that many responses talk about teamwork, or commitment to the customer, or having fun.

Group these answers into buckets that will start to form your overarching values. While grouping the answers, make sure you keep in mind the types of behaviour you'd reward employees for.

employee rewards

4. Write up your values and present them for feedback

Based on the themes that have come to light, you’ll already have an idea what your values are about, e.g. “something about teamwork”. Now it’s just a matter of wording them.

Your core values can come in the form of one descriptive word like “Innovation”, “Integrity" “Accountability”, and “Teamwork” or action-oriented statements like “Have Fun”, “Put People First”, or “Make it Happen”. It’s really up to you how specific you want to be, but try not to get too detailed with them. 

We recommend limiting yourself to 5 or 6 values and keeping them simple so that they are easy to remember by all levels of staff.

It’s a good idea to have headings for your values (these are how the values will be remembered), and one or two sentences that explain what they mean. For example:

Value: “Win and Lose as a Team”

Description: “We strive, struggle, and succeed as a team to create added value while leaving egos at the door regardless of location, role, department, or seniority.”

When you’re done writing your values and your descriptions, have a second meeting with your team to present them and see what feedback you get. You’ll likely receive suggestions to swap out a few words or make simple revisions. 

5. Share your finalized core values 

Once you have the finalized versions of your values, it’s time to start sharing them everywhere you see fit. Part 3 of the series will provide you with the knowledge to be able to start implementing your core values and have them actually make a difference within your company. Stay tuned for Part 3.

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