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Creating Company Values That Are True to Your Culture

POSTED ON 
June 7, 2022

Coming out of the Great Resignation, communicators can all agree that maintaining a strong company culture has been tricky. In response, many organizations have stepped up and taken a closer look at their company's mission and values.  

WHETHER YOU’RE A NEW ORGANIZATION OR A LONG-ESTABLISHED PLAYER IN YOUR INDUSTRY, STUDIES SHOW THAT COMPANIES WITH A HIGH SENSE OF PURPOSE GROW TWICE AS FAST AS OTHERS.

Where are you on the values spectrum?

The values spectrum illustrates an organization’s position on a scale between two opposite points: establish values and refresh values. Here are examples of the use cases we’ve been helping our clients navigate and where they fall on the spectrum:

  1. We’re a new organization that is quickly growing, but we haven’t defined our values yet. Where should we start and how?
  2. Our organization rolled out values, but they don’t resonate with our people. How can we embed them into our narrative?
  3. We’ve had the same values for 10 years, but a lot has changed, and they don’t feel true to who we are anymore. What should we do?

What most organizations don’t realize is that no matter where they are on the spectrum, they can take three steps to identify values that are true to their culture. Here’s how:  

1. Understand the basics with shared language

Develop a clear understanding of the values ecosystem by defining the terms “company culture,” "values," "behaviors," and "business practices," as they can mean different things to different people. In the context of workplace culture, these are the elements that shape the way an organization functions.  

  • Company culture is the combination of values, behaviors and business practices guiding how people engage and perform at work. It is how things get done within an organization.
  • Values can be defined as the principles that guide an organization’s internal behaviors. They support a company’s mission and vision, shape its culture, and drive business success.
  • Behaviors are the values-driven actions modeled by leaders and expected of employees.
  • Business Practices demonstrate how an organization operates in accordance with its values, and how it empowers employees to do the same.    

2. Build a solid foundation for core values with employee research

The best way to identify what your organization values is to listen to your people. Consider the following research methods to get a pulse of what people within your organization observe and value and how they’re role modeling and behaving.

  • STAKEHOLDER INTERVIEWS: Schedule 1:1 discussions with members of your leadership team and any other relevant stakeholders to hear their perspective about the strategic direction of the organization, the role employees play, and how this shows up in the values. Leadership plays a key role in encouraging teams to pause and reflect on who they are, what they stand for, and what it means to be working together.
  • SURVEYS: Survey employees to assess the potency of your current values and understand what’s working and what’s not.
  • FOCUS GROUPS: Conduct focus groups (with a representative mix of employees across the company) to validate data, capture observations and understand perceptions.
  • BENCHMARKING STUDIES: Get a sense of how your values stack up – quantitatively and qualitatively – by understanding your competition’s positioning. Are your values uniquely yours? Do they truly set you apart?

💡PRO TIP: WE RECOMMEND HAVING AN OUTSIDE FACILITATOR MODERATE THE FOCUS GROUPS, SO EMPLOYEES CAN FEEL EMPOWERED TO SHARE THEIR THOUGHTS AND FEEDBACK WITHOUT HESITATION. BRILLIANT INK CAN HELP!

Once you’ve heard from your people about the reality of your company values and culture, use the results to bucket the findings into key themes. This will help you translate those big ideas into values and behaviors.  

3. Bring your company values to life throughout the employee lifecycle

Go beyond posters on the wall or words on the intranet, and embed the established values into people programs, campaigns, policies, and communications to create resonance and engagement.

Values should be integral to your company and apparent throughout the entire employee lifecycle. Bring your values to life in each key moment throughout the employee lifecycle:

  • Hunting & Hiring: Can you incorporate your values into interview questions? Consider including behavioral questions that touch on situations where candidates can demonstrate how well they've demonstrated those values in the past.
  • Day One & Onboarding: What do the values mean to new employees and how can they bring it to life every day? Perhaps offer a values workshop for new hires to help them understand the values or create a values training for managers so they can feel empowered to model them.
  • Day-to-Day Communications: How can you bring your values to life through everyday communication? Operationalizing your values throughout the employee lifecycle and reinforcing them through your storytelling and communications is an opportunity you don't want to miss.  
  • Growth & Development: Do your values show up in your recognition and performance management programs? Think about how your managers and employees alike are being encouraged and recognized for living the values.
  • Exit & Retirement: Are your values showing up all the way through someone’s gracious exit? Evaluate whether former employees are inspired by your values and ways of working. Would they recommend you to friends and family as an employer of choice?
WHETHER YOU'RE ESTABLISHING NEW VALUES OR REFRESHING OLD ONES...  

Establishing shared language, digging into employee research, and finally, embedding them throughout the employee lifecycle can help you create values that align with the experience of employees across the organization. Need help defining your values or tying everything together throughout your organization? We’d love to help!

For more bite-sized brilliance, subscribe to our monthly employee engagement newsletter, the Inkwell, and follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter and Pinterest!

Maira Sarwar-Sheikh
SENIOR STRATEGIST

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