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These days, companies need to do more than turn a profit.

Let’s talk about core values: what they are and how to adapt your own.

See Related: 9 Ways to Sharpen Your Public Speaking Skills

First, What are Core Company Values?

Core values are the qualities that a company prioritizes in its work and culture. A company’s core values define what it cares about.

Here are a few examples of values companies may find important:

  • Learning and growth
  • Honesty and forthrightness
  • Accountability and dependability
  • Equity, diversity, and inclusion
  • Teamwork and fun
  • Transparency and open communication
  • Meaningful relationships among staff and customers

The values you choose can set your company apart from others.

Maybe you make a similar product, sure. But people want to work for you because:

  • You run your business with integrity
  • Your employees are well-paid and happy
  • Your team actually represents the community you serve

The list goes on and on!

Many consumers want to financially support businesses with admirable core values.

Similarly, many employees want to work for companies that use core values to guide their decision making.

Alright, time to break this down.

You know I love a good acronym!

So, here is how to start developing your company’s core VALUES:

Creating Core VALUES #1: Visualizing the Future

Core values are about the business you aspire to be. Learn from mistakes you’ve made in the past, but focus on the next few years.

Ask yourself: in a perfect world…

  • What guides your work?
  • What type of person do you hire?
  • Who is your clientele?

Four colleagues in bright office practice the company value of open communication by putting into practice a defined system for feedbackDream about this “ideal tomorrow” for your business. Go ahead! Close your eyes. (Don’t worry – I’ve done this thousands of times as a corporate emcee.)

Then, identify corporate values that will help you get there.

Here are a few examples of core values that can help you create the tomorrow you want:

  1. The Vision: Your business serves a humanitarian purpose on top of turning a profit.
    The Core Value: Sustainability. Your company’s mission statement explains your commitment to using recycled materials and sustainable packaging.
    This draws customers to you because they are impressed with your environmental responsibleness.
  2. The Vision: Your team is comprised of people from a diverse variety of backgrounds.
    The Core Value: Diversity. You go out of your way to interview and hire people who bring new perspectives to the company culture.

Creating Core VALUES #2: Adapting to Employees’ Needs

If you want to hire – and keep – top talent, your core values must resonate with employees.

Want to know the best way to understand what your employees care about?

Ask current employees for their input

Who understands the company culture better than your current staff? No one, that’s who!

Two members of a team collaborate at a laptop and use their teams process for cross departmental collaborationTake employees’ temperature as far as the impact of company values:

  • At the current moment, do they feel that the company’s values are well-defined?
  • If so, do employees feel that the company “walks the walk” with regard to its values?
  • Can they point to values that would improve the work environment?

Asking employees for feedback can illuminate a lot about company culture.

It is easy for the leadership team to silo itself from the rest of the staff.

Those at the top of an organization must integrate themselves with other teams.

This is the only way to get an accurate sense of the culture that has been created. While you may take on the role of “event emcee” in terms of order of operations, you must also be on the ground floor. 

Make company values clear from the outset

Once you have consulted present employees, make your company values clear to those applying to the organization.

Five coworkers celebrate the birthday of someone in the office by dressing up and playing with silly props at a photo boothState the company values during the hiring process

  • When you post job listings online or on your company website, include your core values.
    • The benefit is that potential employees can understand your business’ guiding principles. That can inform their decision about whether to apply.
  • Many potential employees may be impressed that an organization stands so firmly by its core values.
    • Or, your values may resonate with those who come across the listing. Either way, the number of applicants will increase.

Reiterate company values to new employees

There is a lot of ground to cover during an onboarding process.

Make sure that part of each new hire’s training includes a reminder about your values.

This will help them start on the right foot.

The company values will be on their minds as they begin developing relationships and work practices.

It’s like teaching a child a new language from a young age.

If you emphasize their importance from the beginning, values will become ingrained in new employees.

Soon, they will practice these values without needing to think about it.

Four people on a professional team work in a warmly lit office and discuss the success plan they created to point their team in the right directionCreating Core VALUES #3: Listing the Company’s Foundational Needs

Developing core values requires introspection. You need to look at your day to day operations and identify how they can improve.

Did you know that defining your values can help you achieve your business goals? Well, they can!

Perhaps your business is struggling with attrition.

Think about the values that employees care about.

People could be leaving because their values are not in alignment with those of leadership.

By defining and acting upon company values, you can improve their lives – and your retention rate.

  • If they are looking for transparency, consider:
    • Sharing the organization budget and the decision making process that went along with it
    • Inviting employees to sit in on high-level meetings
    • Sharing the reasoning behind major business decisions
  • Are your employees seeking more respect? Consider the ways you can honor the work they are doing:
    • Award raises and bonuses based on merit, loyalty, and qualifications
    • Trust employees with flexible work schedules
    • Help them with networking and professional development

Invest in them and you are investing in your business’ success.

Group of colleagues improves team culture by exploring other forms of collaboration that make work more fun for everyoneMaybe you’ve hit a plateau and aren’t finding new customers.

Defining your company’s fundamental beliefs and guiding principles can help with this.

Connect with your community

Try focusing on the value of community engagement. Here are a few ideas for your team:

  • Meet potential partners by shopping at local businesses
  • Build a roster of potential supporters by attending local arts and culture events
  • Expand your clientele by donating samples of your product to local volunteer organizations

Identify the barriers to your business

Or, you can focus on the value of accessibility.

What may be preventing new customers from exploring your business? Consider:

  • If you have a storefront, ensure that it is physically accessible to everyone
  • If you do not have a storefront, think about how people can find your business. In particular, people who do not have access to computers or smart phones.
  • Who does your business cater to? Think about sliding scales, discount codes, and other pricing models that make your product more financially accessible.

Five members of a corporate team sit at a desk in a bright office and create a plan to improve workplace culture for the staff at their businessBonus: So, What Does An Event Planner Do?

Creating Core VALUES #4: Understanding That This is an Ongoing Process

Becoming a values based workplace takes time. That’s the case whether you are establishing company values for the first time or revitalizing stale ones.

Use KPIs

KPIs are key performance indicators. They are basically ways of measuring progress. This may sound odd, the idea of measuring core values. But there are ways!

  • First, reflect on your company’s needs and identify the strong values you want to establish.
  • Then, consider how you can measure progress – because things will not change overnight.

Creating a strong culture takes years. Here are a few KPIs to consider as you integrate fresh company values into the culture:

  • Survey responses from team members when asked about the quality of their work-life balance
  • The number of first-time customers and how many returned more than once
  • The percentage of staff who represent marginalized communities
  • Overall attrition and retention rates

Measuring KPIs can help you understand if your strategy for applying company values is effective.

A group of colleagues create a fun workplace culture by starting a new tradition of friday afternoon wheelie chair races for the whole staffCreating Core VALUES #5: Establishing a Plan of Action

In order to activate these values, you will need a plan.

Take ownership of this from a project management lens. Act as the master of ceremonies of your action plan, if you will. Organized tasks will help you accomplish your goal more efficiently.

Check out this example of how to structure your plan of action:

  1. Brainstorm core values as a team or in small groups. What values would most improve this workplace culture?
  2. Quantify how many core values the team would like to emphasize. (Some businesses will choose two core values; others may highlight more.)
  3. Define exactly how these values will help the company achieve its vision.
  4. Develop tangible policy changes that will ensure these values are more than just words.
  5. Communicate your company values publicly, in job postings, and on your website.
  6. Design a process for checking in with employees. Continue to reflect and see where the organization needs more support to live by its core values.

Marketing team set an example of how to create a positive workplaceCreating Core VALUES #6: Starting at the Top

I write frequently about the role of the leadership team on other team members. This is because it cannot be understated.

For values to pervade the work culture as a whole, leadership must live by them – openly!

After all, how can you expect employees to live by these values if their own bosses can’t?

For example, an organization decides on the value of teamwork.

But the leadership team still makes decisions in a vacuum, without any input from staff. See the disconnect?

Or, an organization highlights transparency as a value.

But the team receives no internal communications from upper management about major decisions.

Instead, information crosses the team’s desks via Google or the news, along with the rest of the industry.

Employees remember how you treat them, how you make them feel.

Leadership must put in the hard work to live by company values. Otherwise, the status quo will not change and no progress will be made.

Values can’t just be words in the employee handbook. They must be demonstrated by every person on the team, every day.

Person in polka dotted blouse laughs at a table with colleagues as they eat pizza and sit in a sunny office conference roomLet’s Wrap This Up with a Review!

If you are thinking about setting defined core values for your company, good for you. It is extremely important, not only for branding, but workplace culture.

Here is a recap of the tips we talked about:

#1: Visualizing the future (be the best you can be)

#2: Adapting to employees’ needs (values need to resonate with them)

#3: Listing the company’s foundational needs (what are you lacking that will help you function, or what do you have that you do really well that helps)

#4: Understanding that this is an ongoing process

#5: Establishing a plan of action (how to actually activate these values)

#6: Starting at the top

I can’t wait to see what you come up with. Good luck!

Keep Reading: 8 Helpful Ways to Measure Workplace Productivity

Adam Christing has been called “The Tom Brady of emcees.” He has hosted more than 1,000 company meetingsspecial eventsgala celebrations, and more. He is the author of several books and founder of For more event tips, follow Adam Christing on InstagramFacebookPinterestLinkedIn, and YouTube.