Integrity, respect, customer, innovation, honesty, accountability, openness, professionalism…
Sounding familiar? Well, they are all strong and powerful characteristics that any company would be proud to call their values. A display of decency, there to make you feel proud, which in turn, drives a productive and happy workforce. But let's be honest, most company's values broadly sound the same and as a result, instead of being expressive and relevant, become meaningless and unrelatable.
In my experience, a company's leadership team often feel that they must have values and as such come up with power words that sound great…but often don't mean anything.
Getting values right can return huge benefits for a business. Values can set a company apart from the competition by strengthening its identity and inspiring employee behaviour. A business should create values that stand out, that means something and not only become the principles that guide the internal culture but its connection with customers, partners and stakeholders.
Here are a few things that I've learnt, both through helping other businesses and of course, working for a company whose values truly shape our culture and drive behaviour:
- Values emphasise who you are as a business – your employees are your brand and they need to live and breathe your values to represent who you are a business
- Values should represent your core beliefs – they are there to not only retain and motivate good people but attract the right people for your business.
- They form a code of conduct that creates the basis for a strong and positive culture.
- Values can't just be created from a brainstorm in the boardroom, they should be shaped and refined through experience, hard work and self-awareness
- It's essential they are co-created by the people that represent the brand – at Top Banana our values were co-created by the employees, meaning they relate to them, believe in them and live by them.
- They must be integrated into every employee-related process – recruitment, performance measurement, promotions and rewards. From the first interview to the last day of work.
- They should create a connection between the company and the employee on a very personal level that locks in an allegiance and sense of loyalty.
Don't get me wrong, given all the hard work that goes into developing and implementing a solid values initiative, some companies may choose to bury their head in the sand. Creating belief and engagement in new or existing corporate values can be difficult. And for organisations trying to repair the damage caused by a sterile and meaningless values programme, the work is even harder.
But if you are willing to devote your time and energy in creating an authentic and unique values initiative, and lead from the front, there's a real chance that the results will create true emotional engagement. They will galvanise and motivate your people and ultimately produce an authentic and loyal connection to your brand.