How to Define Core Values for Your Employees and Your Customers

Define Corporate Values for your organization now, and you’ll live to see a mountain of benefits.

If You want to Define Core Values For Your Business – Start with the Basics – and Then Include Absolutely Everyone

Defining core values, and living by them, is more than just a statement of ethics. It’s like a statement of beliefs that adhere everyone to the basic principles of purpose, conduct, service and behavior. Without a core statement – like a lot of businesses – your organization is afloat on a sea of assumptions.

This becomes a project for HR in that it doesn’t make sense to rely exclusively on the vision of distant principles, executives or stakeholders. In some business models, where the CEO really does know everyone personally, it can work, but for anything bigger, HR needs to be involved.

An organization that can define a “sense of self” will work better, work together and better understand its mission, and reason for being. The sense of higher purpose should – and will – pervade every corner of your work place and serve to remind all workers that there is something to be engaged in, something they’re working towards and something they’ll be getting rewarded for participating in.

Here’s a sketch of what it takes to start to define core values.

1) Get Committed

This can be the toughest part, but you’ve got to understand – thoroughly – that your organization is based in a values proposition. You don’t know what they are yet, but you’ve got to lay the foundations, whether your organization is 50 years old or starting up right now. Many organizations beginning to undertake this process will announce it as a 4-6 month project, involve the entire company and use today’s technology to extend the process to as many employees as possible.

2) Get Your Own House in Order

Personally. To define core values for an organization isn’t going to matter a wit if you don’t have a clear idea of your own most important motivations, drives, and expectations. These are all big “why?” questions, so look into them, write it all down, discuss them with your trusted confidantes, if necessary.

3) Get Managers’, Partners’ & Team Leaders’ to Do the Same Thing

This can be done by email, or in a conference. Define core values for who you are and who you want to be. You can assist all of them in the process by explaining the project, and by using an online survey, Google Drive, or something similar.

4) Put Everything Together

Even better, have everyone vote on all of the values, from the ridiculous and the absurd to the lofty and the far-reaching. You’ll be surprised – not only at how quickly crazy ideas go away – but also at how much they inform, inspire and promote movement toward focused and really good ideas. Having all of your combined values in one place even for a short time will profoundly inform your entire organization and the thinking of everyone involved.

5) Have Key Decision Makers Test Values Against Standard Employees

Which employees represent the organization and its values well and which do not? Make sure in this stage that all of the participants have as much freedom as possible to express themselves freely.

The result should be a list, perhaps quite long, of core values of all the people participating. It can be displayed on your internal website, or better, set up as a poll so that further participants can vote to start narrowing it down.

6) Begin Testing with Your Whole Organization

This step can take anywhere from a week to a few months, but the more people involved, the better it will be. You can use online surveys and blind replies, but again, the more people the more accurate and valuable the results.

  • Ultimately, you want every employee to be able to represent and engage with these values. You may want to issue them as a statement or a press release, but we’ll get to that.

A principled decision-making process that’s evident to everyone with a stake in the organization from the entry-level on up. Demonstrated commitment to values needs to be evident in every relationship from customers and employees to partners and affiliates.

We’ll return in another post to discuss the use of that newly defined core values statement and its presentation to both employees and customers. It won’t affect every single customer, but the service they receive from your employees will affect them, all of them.

Karin Jakovljevic

About the author

Karin Jakovljevic

Karin Jakovljevic is the head of marketing at Ximble, a powerful, cloud-based workforce management system, simplifying employee scheduling and time tracking for retailers, restaurants and small businesses.

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