"Tell me what you pay attention to and I will tell you who you are.” - José Ortega y Gasset
This statement rings true for corporate identity all over the world. Company values are the cornerstone of your business, and a foundation upon which to build your mission. Your values tell people who you are, but why else are they so important?
Values shape who you hire
When it comes to recruitment, it’s not just skills and experience that are important. It goes without saying that you want to hire someone who can do the job, but what about when you have two candidates of equal measure sat in front of you? When it comes down to making that final decision, if you’re splitting hairs over who can do the job best, it helps to look at the bigger picture. Will this person fit in well with the current staff body? Will this person buy into what you do, will they believe in it? Does this person align themselves with your company values, and will they be important to them, or will they be at odds with what you want to achieve?
Values shape who applies
Just like they help you choose who to hire, values can encourage the best-fitting people to apply for the job. If someone feels completely at odds with how a company works, what they believe in and what they promote, they are less likely to apply for the position, regardless of their experience and skills. A solid set of values will help you target the right applicants for open positions.
Values help you to make decisions
In the words of Roy E. Disney (nephew of Walt Disney and son of Roy O. Disney) “it’s not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are.” If you’re feeling at odds with something at work, your company values are a good tool to guide you to make the right decision. Have you witnessed someone acting or working in a way that doesn’t seem right, but you’re worried about what action needs to be taken? Reflect back on your values. Are you considering signing with a new partner? Are they going to be representing you in a way that promotes you in the right light and vice versa? Share your values with them and ask for theirs.
Values form and support your company culture
When it comes to your company culture, your values should be right at the core. If you know who you are, what is important to you, and why you do what you do each day, your culture will take shape and stick. If you’re a global organisation, with offices spread out all over the world, a core set of values promoted and kept up by key staff members can help to ensure you have global consistency. Every office might look a little different, or focus on different products or areas of the business. Consistent values will ensure that regardless of location or responsibilities, your company culture is shared across all business units. This unites your staff and ensures that the message surrounding your identity is very clear. If there are times when your culture is slipping, or questions arise, you can strip everything back to your values. As the backbone of your company culture, staying true to them will help you get reacquainted with your identity.
Values speak to customers
In a world where opinion is presented as fact, and a viral post on social media can quickly make or break a company’s reputation, it’s important to make a connection with your customers. In fact, research shows that these connections matter to consumers. In the 2016 Harris Poll annual Reputation Quotient, “more than half (53%) of the general public indicated they proactively seek information about the companies they do business with”, with one third of the general public (37%) deciding not to do business with a company after learning something about how they conduct themselves. If you’re transparent with your company values, customers can decide if they feel connected with them. If they feel a connection to you, trust is built and with trust comes repeat custom and recommendations.
Values drive your staff
If you make the right hires, and bring in staff who truly embrace your values, you’re automatically giving yourself a headstart when it comes to good employee retention figures. Satisfied, motivated staff are likely to feel more committed to the company, long term. One of the key things to remember here though, is that staff of all levels, roles and responsibilities need to live these values. It has to filter from the top down as much as it has to work from the bottom up. Staff who see their line managers repeatedly acting in a way that contradicts these values may feel demotivated, but also less likely to uphold the values themselves. It needs to be a consistent approach, with equal efforts put in across the board. Senior staff setting the right example promotes good habits but also improves the working atmosphere and empowers the staff in their team to follow their lead.
Values promote self development
People will naturally possess some values, and have to work on others. The key to success is in fostering the relationships staff have with these values, and recognising and nurturing the efforts they make, as well as addressing the opposite, no matter how difficult the conversation could be. Promoting core values allows staff to demonstrate their strengths and embrace their weaknesses - no one will ever be perfect, but the journey that staff go on to live these values will create habits and situational awareness. Good habits and an awareness of how behaviour affects reputation will raise your company profile in the most positive of ways. Self development brings with it a sense of achievement; offer internal training or challenges around values to keep staff motivated and engaged.
As a recruitment tool, a retention tool and a way to differentiate yourself from other businesses and speak to your customers, a core set of values truly do become the essence of your identity.