The importance of company values – and why so many companies get them wrong

4 min read
What are your values?

What “values” really are

Do you agree that strong relationships are built on shared values?

In life and at work, you meet people, share experiences and eventually, choose the friends you spend time with based on a common set of beliefs and behaviours – otherwise known as values. Values also help you be the person you wish to become by informing the actions you take daily. They make you, you.

If values make you, you, then it is easy to understand why values are a fantastic mechanism for a company to express who it truly is, or strives to become. Values tell the world who you are, what you stand for, and how you behave – as a person or company. Someone wise once said that people are a company’s greatest asset.

In summary, values are an expression of oneself, informing the beliefs, behaviours and actions of an individual or organisation.

What good looks like

Organisations are driven by many things, most notably, growth. Without growth, people can’t progress, develop or improve themselves and companies have fewer resources available to make the changes they want to make in the world. Growth requires hard work, dedication and a belief in the positive effects of change – personally and professionally. So, how do you achieve this level of high performance and dedication?

The key to high-performing teams, and individuals, lies in building strong relationships – with each other, and the organisation. As previously mentioned, relationships are built on shared values and these are an honest expression of oneself, through actions.

What does this look like in practice? To many, company values and company culture are still perceived as the “intangible” or “fuzziness” of the organisation. However, research shows that the Stengel 50, a list of purpose-driven companies, including the likes of FedEx, Coca-Cola and Starbucks, saw 400% more returns on the stock market than the S&P 500.

The research doesn’t stop there. A Deloitte survey found that 87% of executives believe that companies perform best over time if their purpose goes beyond profit.

In summary, values matter, personally and professionally, and there is proof of the positive growth effects of aligning beliefs, behaviours and actions around a common set of purposeful values.

The pitfalls of so many

So, why do so many companies get them wrong? Company values are often defined at the start of an organisation’s life, or when going through significant growth for the first time. This helps align leaders’ desired outcomes with the actions of new hires joining the business, for example. The more growth a company experiences, the more perspectives and personalities there are for an organisation to incorporate. Moreover, the values defined at the start of the journey may no longer be relevant for the ever-evolving and transforming organisation.

Come back to the person for a minute. How would an individual’s values change over time? People go through milestones in life, which have a significant impact on their beliefs, behaviours and actions – starting a job, getting married or beginning a family. This is no different for an organisation.

Every company goes through change, now more than ever. These changes, big or small, require people to make decisions. Company values are intended to ensure that every decision is made in the best interest of the company.

Company values must be actively managed. They are not a one-and-done. When making decisions, values must be front and centre in each decision made. Neglecting to measure the inputs (decisions/behaviours) across the organisation makes it impossible for leaders, managers and individuals to make the changes necessary to realign themselves with the organisation.

In summary, aligning our beliefs, behaviours and actions is a continuous two-way process. The company asks its people to listen to them, and the company must equally listen to its people in return.

The benefits of active company values

The benefits of actively managing both the definition of and outcomes from, a company’s values span: employee retention, engagement, customer satisfaction, productivity and so much more.

Consistent and regular check-ins with the organisation will give leadership an understanding of how well their strategic goals are aligned with their people, enabling them to take appropriate action. Action includes active listening, personal development, teamwork and organisational transformation.

Successfully defining and living by a company’s values is hard work. As with friendships and relationships, values require time and attention to be successful. From a company’s perspective, they should be taken seriously and, with the right levels of active management, can become an organisation’s strongest point of differentiation.

Culture15 is your complete toolkit for tracking culture change. CEOs and Exec Teams at world-leading organisations use Culture15 analytics to ensure success by aligning their culture with what they need to execute their strategy. If you’d like to find out how to define the culture and values you need, diagnose the culture you have and close the gap, talk to our team.

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