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Values and culture are the foundation on which your entire business is built. Your company values will directly influence your company culture, affecting every decision you make as a company. Defining clear and cohesive values will help align your entire organization, from entry-level to senior management, unifying employees as a team and ensuring your company is working toward the same larger purpose. Here are four steps to help in this process.
Related: This is why articulating your brand values is so important
Step 1: Define
Values will help your company make decisions and drive your brand, culture and reputation. Start these crucial conversations by exploring why your company exists and its purpose. Take the time to get the answers to these questions right. Make a list of what is important to you and what is essential to your customers. Hopefully, you can see where these goals intersect and use that as a starting point to develop your company’s values.
My software company has several values specific to our customers (customer care, data protection, personal connection) and several particular values specific to how our business works (automation and organic growth). Every decision is based on what is best for our customer’s experience rather than a board or investor decision. Your values will (and should) be unique to your business, customers and future goals.
Internally, company values should not be a decision made in a leadership vacuum, but should involve employees at all levels of the organization. Depending on the size of your company, this could be a small, cross-functional, representative group of individuals or your entire team.
Step 2: Align
Purpose, goals and values are vital to attracting and retaining the right employees and overall employee satisfaction. Building a lasting and motivating workplace that drives results starts with your core values. Start at the top and prioritize a leadership team that aligns with your company’s values. In this situation it is quality over quantity.
When building your team or hiring new employees, share your company values; ideally, they will become a core part of your brand and reputation. Values should be known and referenced often, and candidates should know your company’s values before joining the team. They will learn about your values through your website and job postings before an interview. During the interview process, share your values and frame questions highlighting specific values so you can accurately assess candidates.
Your current employees should also have access to and understand the company’s values to better perform their jobs. You want to make sure that internal values can be aligned with company values in one way or another to create a team that works towards the same end goal.
Related: 3 Steps to Help Employees Understand Your Goals and Expectations
Step 3: Share
Once you’ve clearly defined your company values, consider publishing them as a final step in holding your company and team accountable. Write them down, pay close attention to your words and phrases, and post them. You might consider a version of this document internal to your company (more descriptive and tactical), as well as a public document that could be on your website. These will not only serve as a reminder that your company is accountable, but will also show your customers and external audiences that you have made this formal commitment.
Step 4: Maintain
It can be helpful to reassess your company’s values every few years as you continue to define and adapt your goals. When company values are at the heart of your company, you’ll find yourself referring to them daily and thinking about how your conversations, decisions, and actions relate to your values. If this is not the case, it may be time to re-evaluate.
If you are faced with conflict or in a battle to make decisions that do not align with your values, it is time to rethink your actions or your values. Keep your values straight, so every plan or decision can be checked against the value before proceeding.
There are always sexy and modern ways to develop or design in the software industry. It’s hard for our development team not to get excited about every new practice or technique they hear about. Since customer experience is one of the core values of our company, we regularly ask ourselves: will this really improve our customers’ experience, or is it just a new way to design a feature? If we ever find that the overall customer experience could suffer, we choose an action plan that suits our customers’ needs.
Whether you’re starting a new company or you’ve been running a business that needs an update, make it a regular practice to assess your core values and how you’re honoring them as a company. Your values will define your brand and what drives it to success. Not only will you experience better employee and customer satisfaction, but you’ll likely see a positive impact on your bottom line.
Related: The 8 Values Every Business Should Live By