How to make your company values meaningful
We all use values to drive actions and decisions in our private lives. However, depending on the circumstances, in a specific moment of our life, some of them might become more important than others. Initially, as young adults, we tend to focus on personal and professional development and are willing to sacrifice our comfort – or even safety – to reach our goals.
As time goes the situation might turn around, and security and comfort will become crucial to us. In a way, the same goes for businesses – in order for them to have an identity and drive motivation, they come up with sets of company values.
The following article will take a look at what company core values are, and how to make them meaningful. Let’s start with the company values definition.
Company values definition
Company core values are the pillars of a company’s internal and external identity. Businesses use them to support the organization’s strategy and motivate employees to work towards achieving their goals.
It’s quite straightforward – if we want to innovate, we have to invest time and money in innovative projects and initiatives. That said, in order to make these objectives tangible for employees, we have to translate them into specific leadership behaviors and actions which need to be rewarded.
Let’s take a look at a few company values examples.
Company values examples
Here are a few principles organizations can use as their company core values:
- Safety – a crucial term, especially for production companies
- Respect – a universal value, both internally and externally
- Development – supporting professional development on a per employee and per organization basis
- Effectiveness – performing in a productive way, i.e., driving results vs clocking in and out
- Data-driven approach – decisions being based on research and data rather than personal preference or sentiment
- Innovation – a crucial value irrespective of company size or industry, which matters especially in the tech sector.
With these in mind, let’s take a look at Google, which is a perfect example of the role values play in a business.
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Google company values
Google knows that having meaningful core values for all of its employees to identify with is crucial for building a strong organizational culture. The brand came up with a list of core values when it was just a few years old, and since, not a lot has changed.
Here are a few of Google company values:
- Focus on the user and all else will follow
- It’s best to do one thing really, really well
- Democracy on the web works
- You can be serious without a suit
- Great just isn’t good enough.
These give you a good idea of what working at one of the biggest tech giants might look like, as well as what it takes to become one of their employees.
How to make your company values meaningful
Values look good in your marketing materials and on posters in the office, but you have to be extra careful. Here’s the recommended course of action:
1. Make sure your values are clear to the entire team. If your employees can’t understand your company principles, you can’t expect they’ll follow them!
2. Use your core values to give employees more authority. Instead of creating endless rules, come up with values that will drive your employees’ actions and decisions.
3. Set an example. Leaders should set an example for the entire workforce so they can follow in their footsteps. Words without appropriate actions will provoke scepticism.
4. Hire employees who display values’ alignment. Refer to your company values to make sure that you hire people who share the same values. It will be much easier in the long term to ensure that the team identifies with your brand’s principles!
You might be wondering – do businesses treat values as useful or think of them as ‘the necessary evil’? I know many companies that operate according to well-defined and implemented principles. You can see values on their websites, they’re part of the recruitment process, and they are included in internal processes – not just in HR & development, but also in business units. In such a case, values serve as a great tool to build consistency.
However, there are also organizations that treat values cynically and are the source of negative comments. If you want to build your company culture on defined values, you have to be aware that there is no halfway solution. You have to be fully engaged and you have to walk the talk. People tend to treat values really seriously.
If you specify your values, you’re expected to consistently follow them – and your employees will watch you closely. If you say that respect is of paramount importance to you, but when you arrive at the office in the morning you only say ‘hello’ to your peers and supervisors and do not pay attention to other employees, it will discredit you.
Before we proceed, here are some key takeaways from this section:
- Values are always present – even if they aren’t defined and used consciously as a means of managing and building the company culture from the ground up
- If we wish to define our values and start using them to our company’s advantage, it’s absolutely crucial that we are aware of the risks it entails
- It’s better not to publicly display the values of a company than to make the mistake of defining, but never implementing them in your internal processes.
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Company values – CD Projekt Red case study
Let us take a look at CD Projekt Red, the company behind the long-awaited Cyberpunk game. It’s a great example of a “clash” between two key principles. Namely, there were two values that were critically important for the project – game quality (i.e., the obligation the company has pledged to Cyberpunk customers) vs its profitability. It’s also worth taking into account that the premiere was scheduled for December 2020, the middle of the Christmas sales rush, and right before the financial year was closed.
The consequences of having conflicting core company values
As we’ve all seen, CDP Red bet on the latter value. In the short term, the company was able to recover the financial resources spent on the game development. However, on the other hand, CDP Red stock value plummeted right after Cyberpunk’s premiere, displaying a clear drop in trust towards the company. Overall, the effects of putting profitability ahead of quality will stay with the company forever.
When you think of it, it’s easy to imagine what the company must have been going through internally. Especially, considering how opinions must have differed between the game creators and the company board who have the authority to make decisions. While the company promised its employees that they wouldn’t work overtime, upon the close deadline, CDP Red made it obligatory for developers to work on Saturdays.
This will surely have a long-term impact on the entire organization for many years to come. However, that said, not all business decisions are made solely with profitability in mind.
An alternative approach to decision-making
I know examples of other gaming companies that faced the same dilemma, yet, made different decisions. When faced with the decision to bring an unfinished game to the market, they chose to postpone the launch date – i.e., they decided that the gamer community’s opinion was far too important. This indicates that business decisions can also be based on non-financial company values.
Naturally, each decision comes with its own risk, which is why I’d like to stress that we should withhold judgment without knowing all the conditions and behind-the-scenes events. However, the game industry serves as a great example of how important company values can prove to be in times of crisis.
Company core values are always present – whether we define them or not. If they’re clearly stated, communicated, and cohesively used, they act as guidance for businesses and their employees. They help create an organization’s identity, support employees in their decision-making process and help in goals’ achievement.
However, if a company doesn’t put in the work to live by the principles it has created, it can result in a completely opposite effect. Therefore, if your organization isn’t fully committed to following your values and implementing them in your internal processes, you’re better off not disclosing them publicly.
If you’re wondering how to make your company values meaningful, you must:
- communicate your values to the entire team and make sure they understand them
- treat core values as a way of empowering your people
- lead by example
- include your company values in your recruitment process to bring the right people on board.
Photo by Ian Schneider on Unsplash