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Do you have values?

Values build culture. Culture builds the team and the team builds the company – this is why we believe it’s so important to develop a values based company.

The classic example is the values are:

  • Communication
  • Respect
  • Integrity
  • Excellence

These are from Enron and highlight better than anything the difference between having values and living values.

The first step in living values is to ensure they are authentic. You can do this by investing time and energy deciding what they are and expressing them in your own language, not business speak.

Your values unite your organisation because they apply to everyone, regardless of job description. You know you have great core values when care enough about them to sack an employee who does a good job because they don’t live the values. Remember, values are not just what you stand for but what you won’t.

The experience of businesses that focus on values is that to be effective they must be lived and celebrated daily. Make sure you promote values at every possible opportunity. It’s like marketing employees will not believe a message until they’ve heard it repeated by executives seven times.

Crucially, the company values need to be integrated into every employee related process. This includes the recruitment process, performance reviews and criteria for promotions and rewards even dismissal policies. From the first interview to the last day of work, employees should be constantly reminded of the values.

An example of a company that effectively integrates its values into its DNA is Siebel. It’s impossible for a new employee to spend a week there without realising that “customer satisfaction” is a core value. All the artwork on the walls comes from customers’ annual reports, and all the conference rooms are named after customers. Even bonuses and compensation packages are awarded on the basis of customer satisfaction surveys conducted by an outside auditor.

Another example is Nordstrom whose core value includes “customer service”. During employee orientation, rather than receiving a detailed handbook, new employees are told elaborate stories recounting the lengths fellow employees have gone to in order to wow clientele.

The story of the representative who took back a customer’s two year old blouse with no questions asked, told over and over – this reinforces employees’ belief that they work for an extraordinary company. Managers read customer comments, both positive and negative, over the intercom so that employees can hear how they are doing.


Image from Flickr by Nichole Burrows.

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