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Values: What are they and aren’t they?

7 mins read

This article explains what company values are and what they aren’t, along with examples of each.

Your company values communicate the “how” behind accomplishing your company’s vision and mission statements. Clear set values help your employees understand what your company stands for, which gives them guidance for their work. As a result, employees are most likely to make decisions that align with the company’s goals. Each of your employees — from top leadership to entry-level — becomes accountable for those decisions by asking a simple question: “does this decision reflect our values?” Let’s dive further into what company values are, as well as what they aren’t.

What Are Company Values?

Your company values are the beliefs, principles, and philosophies that drive your business. Values help shape the culture you create, support your vision, impact your business strategy, and help to guide in decision making. Your core company values also help to ensure that all your employees are aligned and working towards the company goals with the same ideals. We recommend choosing a maximum of 5 core values for your company as this should provide enough information to express the company’s principles without going overboard or becoming redundant. It is also beneficial to break down each value by explaining exactly what it means for your business.

Two Examples of Strong Company Values:

Coca-Cola

1. Leadership: The courage to shape a better future
2. Collaboration: Leverage collective genius
3. Integrity: Be real
4. Accountability: If it is to be, it’s up to me
5. Passion: Committed in heart and mind
6. Diversity: As inclusive as our brands
7. Quality: What we do, we do well

Adidas

1. Performance: Sport is the foundation for all we do, and executional excellence is a core value of our Group.
2. Passion: Passion is at the heart of our company. We are continuously moving forward, innovating, and improving.
3. Integrity: We are honest, open, ethical, and fair. People trust us to adhere to our word.
4. Diversity: We know it takes people with different ideas, strengths, interests, and cultural backgrounds to make our company succeed. We encourage healthy debate and differences of opinion.

What Aren’t Company Values?

Company values are not a meek list of words that have no meaning to your employees and your brand. It is important that employees are able to describe the company values and what they mean as a whole to the culture of the company, rather than just being able to list them off. In order to develop a solid company culture, employees should be able to connect to the values and reinforce them with what they do and the decisions they make. Values are also not something commonly used for external marketing, as their importance is mainly seen internally among employees. While they are usually listed on the company website for visibility and transparency to show what drives your company, values truly shine internally, reinforcing the “why” behind everything your company is accomplishing.

Company Values are not:

    • Random listed words with no meaning behind them
    • Something to be left for last during the planning stages – it is recommended company decisions be based on the company values
    • Negative or unmotivating
    • A one-off lecture – they should be regularly clarified and spoken about
    • Open for personal interpretation – there is a clear definition of what they mean to the company
    • To be used as a justification for poor or harmful behaviour
    • Something to forget after writing – should be promoted to everyone in the organization for alignment, and should also be reinforced regularly

Two Examples of Company Values that Do Not Fulfill their Purpose:

1. Honesty
2. Integrity
3. Teamwork

While these are great values themselves, they have no definition to accompany them which will make it difficult for employees to connect with them and fully understand what they mean to the company. There are many companies where even the executive team who decided on the values have different definitions of what those values mean to them. For example, the CFO could think integrity means you don’t steal, while the CMO thinks integrity means you do the right thing for customers, and the CEO thinks it means you are a good member of the community. Values are unable to guide consistent behaviour if they don’t have consistent definitions.

1. Teamwork
2. Independence

This is a clear example of contradicting values. It will be hard for anyone to understand what the company truly stands for if their values are unable to work together in unison. This could even lead to people thinking there is a lack of honesty or truth within the company as the contradiction is misleading. While it is good to prioritize your values by listing them in order of importance, it is also essential that each value be cohesive and not contradict or challenge one another.

Are Your Values Truly Valued?

You now have a basic understanding of what company values are, as well as what they aren’t. It may seem like an easy task to create company values; however, the importance comes in the next steps of living your company values and reinforcing them within your company culture. Afterall, is there truly any value to your company’s values if they are not believed, embraced, and used to guide decisions?

If you have yet to create your company values, we hope that this article has provided you some insight into what your values should accomplish. If your company already has values determined, then we challenge you to ask the following question: “Are we truly valuing our company values?”

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