I’ll admit it: company core values enter the cliche zone more often than not. We work together. We strive for excellence in everything we do. We put our customers first. But truth be told, there’s a reason why they’re overused. Plus, the authenticity of a company’s core values (even if authenticity is one of them) is unimportant. What matters is that they are clearly defined and actually carried out.
And cliche or not, data shows that core values impact a company’s bottom line:
With all that being said, my aim with this post is to define core values as a necessity for any business and then provide you with:
You’ll walk outta here with all the info and inspo you need to establish a set of core values that attracts customers, engages employees, and increases revenue.
Company values are concepts or principles that a business considers to be important for the well-being of the business itself, its employees, its customers, and the communities of which it is a part.
Basically, they’re the win-win, do-good principles that give a company a greater purpose.
Or as Waste Management puts it,
While a business is constantly evolving, core values remain absolute and unchanged and can guide a company in making sound decisions–regardless of department, stage of development, or individual personalities. They are essential for helping a business to form its identity, distinguish its brand, and improve its reputation.
Let’s quickly define mission, vision, and goals:
Mission statement: your function and purpose—what you do, who you serve, and why.
Vision statement: what you hope to achieve, inspire, or solve for the greater good, the bigger picture of which your mission is a part. (Get vision statement examples here.)
Goals: These are the tangible outcomes that contribute to overall revenue growth and moving the company forward.
Core values can both inspire and support a company’s mission, vision, and goals. Most importantly, they provide guidelines on the most ethical, unified approach to achieving those goals.
I like the visual CAT uses for their core values page:
The hierarchy denotes that core values connect behaviors and goals to mission and vision. They provide the most ethical, unified approach to achieving your goals in a way that lends to your greater cause.
Let’s go over some numbers here.
Translation? If you want more customers, better performance, and higher revenue, you need to have a purpose driven culture of engaged employees. And this cannot happen without established core values. Here’s why:
For most companies, each department has its own unique profile. The sales team has a different mindset from the web team. Content marketers have a different focus from product marketers. But like a human being, separate systems are needed in order for the whole to operate properly.
Core values are department-agnostic, serving as the common thread that brings everyone together to create one collective “us.” Unified operation translates into output that is greater than the sum of its parts.
Businesses are run by great minds that don’t always think alike—diversity of perspectives is important. But that also means there will be moments of disagreement. When faced with predicaments and tough decisions, company core values can serve as an objective, true north compass to an agreed-upon best course of action.
Every company is made up of individuals with unique skill sets and personalities. While KPIs bring skill sets together to accomplish tangible goals, company core values bring personalities together to create a firm identity. A firm identity gives way to better branding which gives a business its competitive edge in both marketing and recruiting.
Asana takes the values-based recruiting to another level. (Image source)
A truly core-value-based company facilitates, encourages, and recognizes demonstrations of those values among its employees. With a clear picture on what their company stands for and the positive outcomes this brings, employees are inspired to take meaningful action that goes beyond KPIs and metrics—leading to more fulfillment and engagement (not to mention more success for the company).
Company core values produce teams of employees that are fulfilled, motivated, engaged, and inspired to do their best work. When employees believe in both themselves and their company, better deliverables and customer service follow. This translates into micro-interactions that customers pick up on, write reviews about, and share with others.
Every person in the company has a different role. Your company core values guide the way each person can carry out their role. Consistent, meaningful behavior between employees and with customers, partners, and vendors speaks volumes to the integrity of your brand and its overall reputation.
Today’s workforce is more transient than ever. But when a company hires, fires, and operates according to a steadfast set of core values, it is prepared to withstand changes in staff, losses in leadership, or even entire reorgs.
Core values should be a mix of those that describe your company as it is now as well as what it strives to be. They should celebrate but also motivate; evoke pride but also inspire action.
In a former job, I once was tasked with establishing the company’s core values. I’m going to go over a high-level view of the six steps I took to do this, which you can adapt accordingly.
Note: For a smaller company, a full team meeting might be all it takes!
Send out a survey to your employees and ask questions about what’s important to them, what they prioritize when interacting with customers, what they like about working for the company, and what they’d like to see more of.
Don’t explicitly state that you’re trying to determine core values. Leave it open-ended so you can pick up on patterns and translate them into core values that use the language of your employees.
Talk or send out a poll to your customers, asking them for feedback like what stands out to them about your business, why they choose your business, and what keeps them coming back. Read reviews and see if there are any common themes.
Think about memorable experiences in your company’s past—positive and negative. What actions were taken (or not taken) that made them memorable? Use this information to collect anecdotal clues about your inherent core values.
Compile all of this information in one place and see what kinds of patterns you can pick up on. Whittle it down into a list of ten or so values that reflect the input. You can then have a meeting with select team members to come up with the three to five core values that make the most sense.
Now it’s time to use your marketers and content writers. Core values can get pretty redundant and generic. Come up with unique names and [short] descriptions for those core values that match your brand voice. Feel free to make up words and get playful here.
Display your core values in a location in your office where employees can see them every day. Start off meetings with a core values slide and give employees an opportunity to recognize team members who have demonstrated them (that’s what we do!). Instate a company-wide core values award every month, where anyone can nominate anyone (we do that too!).
And of course, put them on your about us or careers page to attract employees and customers who share your values. Or write a blog post like Flywheel did
I’m going to provide a master core values list at the end of this post to help give you a starting point, but first, I want to provide some real company core values examples so you can have an idea of what other companies are doing.
The Beiersdorf core values page is clean and simple. (Look, they’re already demonstrating one of their core values.) While their values are generic, they are placed on a page with a video and related links that provide further reinforcement.
What I like about this page is the personalization they’ve applied to their core values. You have a lot of freedom with your core values: you can make up names (CogoStars, Cogonauts), be a bit bragadocious, and go beyond the typical three to five.
Plus, some of the uncommon ones like “obsessive” are more memorable and also compel you to read on to see what they mean.
“Obsessive: We are tenacious in pursuit of our goals, and believe that success in life is proportional to the effort we put ini”
Outback’s company core values take a unique approach by describing their core values through quotes by employees of varying points of the hierarchy
“We’re in perpetual pursuit of new, innovative, outside-the-box ways to consistently improve ourselves, our products, and everything we do.”
Flockjay’s core values stand out to me with their unique word choice. Like Cogo Labs, they add color with their brand voice and use appropriate bird puns. But phrases like “invest in each other,” “whole selves,” “big bets,” and “let’s do this by” give them an authentic feel.
“When we flock together, we fly farther and faster than we can alone We support, celebrate, and in est in each other, working together to create an inclusive environment where everyone can bring their whole selves to work each day.”
Maybe you’re a team of one or three. Maybe you’re just starting out and don’t have a wealth of employees and experiences that lead to clear core values and related links. There’s nothing wrong with keeping it short and sweet with famous quotes.
Commitment is an act, not a word -Jean Paul Sarte
The Zappos has a whopping 10 company core values and is compiled into a comprehensive “Oath of Employment.” Each value comes with its own description, set of questions to ask yourself, sample behaviors, and video! I know that actions speak louder than words, but this page itself is an action. A company that makes this much effort to explain their core values is really serious about them.
“Deliver WOW Through Service”
So Keap’s core values page isn’t anything revolutionary. But I have this on my list because a company’s core values aren’t really the photos you see of teams doing community service or receiving “Best Places to Work” awards. These outward-facing materials are a manifestation of the mundane, day-to-day activities between employees that would be impossible to capture (and frankly, too boring to share) on social media.
And Keaps’ values statement says it all:
“Our values are an everyday process where leaders and Keapers through word and deed show that:
Bonus points if your acronym is a core valuesy word, like G2’s “PEAK”
“G2 Core Values:
With the information, steps, and examples above, you should now have a clear understanding of the importance of core values and a clear path for developing yours. And with the list below, you’ll have all the inspiration you need! Remember, the authenticity of your company’s core values isn’t important. What matters is that they are established and clearly defined. When your employees have a framework within which to exercise those values in their own unique way, the authenticity will follow. The purpose is to have a purpose.
And now, as promised, the list of words you can use to describe your company core values.
Kristen is the Senior Managing Editor at WordStream, where she helps businesses to make sense of their online marketing and advertising. She specializes in SEO and copywriting and finds life to be exponentially more delightful on a bicycle.
See other posts by Kristen McCormick
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