Core values definition
A company’s core values are a collection of the most important beliefs and ingrained principles that guide the company’s actions. Usually, companies present their core values through a core values statement, which is a brief, action-oriented description that clearly and concisely represents the company’s most important precepts. The goal of establishing core values is to connect employees, clarify the company’s mission and define the brand for customers.
Related: Company Values
Benefits of establishing and communicating core values
Establishing and communicating core values to employees, candidates, customers and clients offers many benefits. Once established, core values help businesses make important decisions and keep everyone on the team focused, particularly during time or challenge or change. Core values are also a useful tool for recruitment—companies can structure applications and interviews around their core values to ensure candidates they hire align with the company’s most essential beliefs.
Similarly, core values are excellent tools for customer or client education. When clients understand what the business’s core values are and see how they align with the sales process, they’ll more than likely trust the company.
Overall, core values are unifiers. Whether it’s connecting leadership to employees, employees to customers, or customers to a sense of trust, core values bring people and elements together.
How to write core values
Writing core values is a valuable exercise that offers stability and guidance to many companies. Consider using these steps when establishing your company’s core values to productively clarify and build your unique set of core values:
- Brainstorm values
- Group and eliminate
- Distill core elements
- Draft a statement
- Finalize core values
- Communicate the statement
- Live the values
1. Brainstorm values
The first step in establishing your company’s core values is brainstorming potential principles. If it makes sense for your business, seek input from a variety of sources throughout the company. Ask current employees what they think the present core values are and what aspirational values they hope to see in the future. Create a comprehensive list of all current and potential values to review.
2. Group and eliminate
Look at the full list of established values. Group similar ones and eliminate any you feel don’t best represent your business or share too much overlap with others in the group. Work to establish roughly 10 values from your original list that truly represent your company and the work that you do.
3. Distill core elements
From the list of 10, determine which of these are vital to the success of the company. For some businesses, that’s three or four, while for others it’s seven or eight. Whatever the number, ensure it’s manageable as you’ll want to put these values into action through training, internal communication, external communication and brand establishment.
4. Draft a statement
Use the final set of values you established in the previous step to draft your first core values statement. Often, these statements are a series of bullet points or numbered lists rather than a paragraph or series of sentences. Write a few drafts with varying levels of explanation alongside the bullets. See if you can refine the language to the absolute minimum necessary to convey the value.
5. Finalize core values
Review the drafts with a focus group of upper-level management, other employees and customers or clients. Ask them for input on which draft of the core values statement best represents the business. Use the feedback to select and refine your core values statement until you have a final, ready-to-publish document.
6. Communicate the statement
You must communicate your core values to your employees and your customers. Determine the best ways to do so for your business. This might entail creating a training series for current employees or publishing the core values on your website or through a newsletter for customers.
7. Live the values
Finally, integrate your established core values into the everyday practices and procedures of the business. Make sure they’re widely available for review and commonly referenced. Making them a daily part of business operations ensures the core values are at the center of the company’s mission.
Examples of company values
Core value statements are often just a series of bullet points stating the name of the value, sometimes with a definition and sometimes not. Here are a few examples of core value statements using various structures to help you establish the best format for your own core values statement.
Departures Hotel is an independent, upscale boutique hotel focused on unique and customizable customer experiences.
- Embrace uniqueness
- Maintain humility
- Listen, then talk
- Laugh often
- Assess and improve
- Do good
Healthy Habits is a franchised health and wellness company with storefronts and offices across the nation. Their goal is to make healthy living accessible to everyone.
- Work with what you have: Use the resources available in your area first before seeking other options.
- Start where you are: Wellness journeys can start at any time in any situation.
- Honor above profit: Keep respect for the earth, the community and the individual at the forefront of every interaction.
- Support one another: Teamwork and collaboration drive innovation and growth.
Lids and Ladles
Lids and Ladles is a national kitchenware chain that sells high-end materials for cooking and dining. Their focus is on providing quality products and exceptional customer service.
- Hire the best people
- Meet needs and exceed expectations
- Quality over quantity
- Anticipate and deliver
Green Roots Tech
Green Roots Tech is a software and cloud computing think tank working to develop new technologies for businesses in the IT field. They’re focused on innovation and creativity.
- Try something new. We’re committed to developing alternative ways of working online that meet the specific needs of our customers.
- Embrace failure. Innovation comes with failure. We celebrate when we get it wrong because we know we’re one step closer to getting it right.
- Know when it’s done. Work hard and then give that work to the client. Tinker on details at the client’s request after they’ve had a chance to use the product.
- Do it right. We value working the right way over getting a project done quickly with errors.
World Wide Learners
World Wide Learners is an online school for English language learners around the world. They pair teachers with students and facilitate learning through immersion-based lessons with the goal of practical communication.
- Learning: Not only are our students always learning, but our staff is, too.
- Support. We know that learning online comes with the potential for IT difficulties. We’re trained and ready to support any tech issues that might arise.
- Perseverance: We know our students might have work, school, family or other obligations that keep them from regular classes. We help our students persevere with their English language learning despite barriers.
- Training: Our teachers receive excellent and ongoing training on research-based English language learning tactics and strategies to ensure confidence in the online classroom.
- Respect. All stakeholders care and respect one another, be they developer, teacher, tech support or student.
Passion Purveyors is a marketing company dedicated to providing clients with excellent and customized marketing materials.
- Focus on the client. We want the client to be happy with the final product. All the work we do supports client happiness.
- Find new ways to do work. We’re focused on innovation in our craft to create the most effective marketing strategy for our clients.
- Work smarter. We use data to support all our actions, meaning the content and strategies we produce are grounded in numbers-supported success.
- Love the work. We love the work we do, and we want our clients to love the work we do.
Communicating your company values
Establishing quality, actionable core values for your company is the first step to creating a business culture that lives by its values. The next step is communicating those values to internal company stakeholders so they can regularly implement those principles in every facet of the business. You can communicate company values to your employees in a number of ways:
Integrate values into processes
An effective way to ensure employees are recognizing and implementing core values is to join those values to specific procedures. For example, if a core value is continuous improvement, you might include a post-project meeting to discuss workflow, product and teamwork improvements from previous projects as a mandatory step in the project development process.
Post the values
Distribute the values in writing on shared internal communications and printed and posted in office or other workplace settings. The more often employees see the core values, the more likely they are to reflect on and internalize them.
Provide initial training
After you’ve established your core values, provide comprehensive training for all employees on these core values. Explain exactly what each one means, what the expectations are from leadership and how rank-and-file employees can integrate the strategies into their daily work.
Communicate values in external communication
While core values have the strongest impact on employees, customers and clients should know what your company’s core values are, too. Share your core values statement on your website and consider sending out an email or newsletter to current and past customers explaining how the company’s core values will increase customer satisfaction.
Ensure that internal and external messaging and communication align and reflect the newly established core values. Ideally, employees and customers see similar messaging and language on communications from the company or individual employees, showing that the company lives by the core values.
Conduct performance reviews
Another option for communicating core values to internal stakeholders is to hold individual performance reviews with each employee. In these reviews, managers can discuss how the employees currently uphold the core values and what they can do moving forward to better emulate, support and integrate the core values into their work life.
Bringing core company values to life
Once established and communicated, the last step in maintaining a core values-driven business is to live those values through company and employee action. Here are a few valuable tips for integrating your company’s core values into your daily work practices:
Company leaders must model the core values in their own work and presentation. If employees see their managers and other upper-level executives implementing the core values in their work and communication, they’ll have an example of how to do so in their own work and be more likely to do so.
Human resources representatives can structure hiring processes around the core values. They can create applications or questionnaires that ask candidates to reflect on the company’s core values to see if the candidate would be a suitable fit. Hiring managers can do the same during interviews by asking questions directly related to the business’s core values.
Offer comprehensive training regarding core values for new hires, much like the initial core values training for current employees. Give the new hire time to ask questions about the functionality of including core values in their daily task load and provide them with resources for establishing a value-based work life.
Offer development training for employees regarding the core values at regular intervals. Some training might be specific to a department, while other training sessions could be general refreshers to make sure employees continue to live the core values.
Offer feedback during performance reviews and other informal assessment opportunities. Let employees know what they’re doing well regarding core values and what they could improve. Offer concrete examples and strategies for increasing their core values integration in their job.
Publicly recognize employees who regularly implement and embody the company’s core values. Showing that you respect and appreciate these employees will encourage others to increase their commitment to the values.