How explicit should you be about creating values in your company?

by Thom van Wijk
ScaleHub Blog - Values

What does your company stand for? 

Your core values are at the root of your company’s identity – they educate clients and potential customers about what your company is about. But before anything else, your values guide the way you do business.

You probably have thought about what your company’s (core-)values are and how they drive and reflect why you do things a certain way. Values like integrity, trust and fun. 

Your values may or may not be known by everyone in your company, but the presence or absence of these values probably have shaped the culture as it is today. Seth Godin’s very simple description of what company culture – or any culture – is: “People like us do things like this.”

But why is this culture important? Why should you have a set of company values?

Why you need to have shared company values

There are many benefits to putting thought into your company values and articulating them clearly. When your company grows and you need to work together with more and more people, it’s essential to have certain believes that you can go from. What do you care about and how do you function together?

Attract the right people

Often in the process of hiring a particular kind of employee, you have to put into words – literally – what your company values. If you want to attract people that have the right attitude, matching what your company stands for, you need to be able to effectively get that message across to any potential candidate, also for them to know what they should bring to the table. If your company’s value is to build strong and lasting relationships with customers, it may not be a good idea to hire someone that values closing a sale over anything else.

Emphasize the importance of your values to new employees as you welcome them into your company. 

light at office

Work like a team

To get things done in the right way, you need people to act like a group; a set of guiding principles can help a team actually function together as a team to work towards a common goal, like building on customer relationships and company growth. Your company values can help create purpose and a sense of commitment in your workplace.

One idea is to create a manual, with your values in it, and review each team member on how well they are performing for each value, for example every six months. You can even reward outstanding performances on values, instead of rewarding common things like hitting targets. Embed values into your company culture so they are not forgotten by employees in the long run. They help you create a purpose, improve team cohesion, and create a sense of commitment in the workplace.

Define the mindset people should work from

It’s not strange not to have everyone know explicitly about your company’s values, or maybe not even have them expressed at all. You may not even have them figured out yet. Culture and shared values can evolve organically in smaller companies, especially if there are natural leaders and strong personalities taking a stand for certain beliefs that guide teams in the right direction. But as companies grow, values (and even good leaders) may get lost in the crowd. If you don’t want values and culture to evolve on their own, in ways that could potentially hurt your business and the people in it, you need to take good care of them. If anything, you want to prevent getting into a position of having to tell anyone: People like us don’t do things like this. 

Another benefit to being explicit about your values, is that it can enforce individuals and teams to be able to make their own decisions. Which helps create the future you want. This is different from strategy. Strategies change when they don’t work. Values don’t change, their priorities may change and they get re-evaluated.

How to find your values

Often values can be unique, but they don’t have to be. Most of all they must be true for you and the people in your company. And they have to make sense to employees putting in the work. It’s easy to get carried away with beautiful words that sound awesome, but if they mean nothing to the team, they mean nothing at all. Company values need to be clear and easy to remember, sticking to a small number.

We would like to leave you with a list of inspirational company values that are a little more “out there”:

  • Curiosity (Netflix)
  • Empathy (Slack)
  • Privacy (Apple)
  • Genuine (Volkswagen)
  • We make big bold bets (Uber)
  • You can be serious without a suit (Google)
  • Create Fun and A Little Weirdness (Zappos)
  • Have Backbone; Disagree and Commit (Amazon)

Feeling motivated to have a closer look at your company’s values?