Values are at the core of company culture. They are what makes your organisation unique and guide your thinking and your actions. Whilst competitors can copy your business model, they can’t replicate the unique culture you create or the personality of your organisation.
Not only do values reflect how you do business, but well embedded organisational values can also provide much needed guidance for ambiguous scenarios and tough decisions. This is especially important as companies begin to scale and decisions become more and more devolved.
Many organisations don’t start out with clearly articulated values. Often, in the early years, they reflect the personal values of the business owners and founders. But once the business grows, these values can become diluted as the founders become less visible and new leaders and managers emerge.
Getting the values right is critical so that everyone knows where they stand and what is expected in how they do business. A great example is Atlassian, the well-known and highly successful software development company. It was famously built on five core values, reflecting their founder’s ideals. These include – “One company, no bullshit. Build everything with heart and balance. Don’t f*** the customer. Play as a team. Be the change you seek”. Many years later these values still make them unique and drive the way they do business.
When the values are clear and well-articulated, you can attract the right talent, create a more effective and harmonious culture and retain good people who are willing to do business the way you want it done. Only when you have alignment between the organisational values and your people’s values can your business operate authentically.
Consider also, the important link between the business strategy and your organisational values. Focussing solely on strategy (i.e. target markets, customers, revenues, financial goals, product lines and services) in the absence of shared values (how you will do business) can lead to a lack of direction or even ‘results at any cost’.
So here are five things you can do to implement long lasting and rewarding values for your organisation:
- Reflect on the things that are truly important to your organisation and the unique things about the way you do business. This could be the way you think about your customers, how you expect your employees to operate, how you would like to be known in the market and the difference you make as an organisation. Whilst most organisations include common values such as Integrity, Respect, Innovation and Drive, think about what values are important to you and express them uniquely.
- Let the values guide the way you manage your people and use the values to make business decisions. For example, compromising the quality of your products/services for short term revenue when you know the long-term outcome will not be great. Tolerating toxic people in the workplace because they may generate good sales revenue isn’t going to work over time either.
- Test your authenticity by looking for evidence of where you have lived the values in how you operate. When in doubt, call it out!
- Look for personal alignment to your organisational values when hiring new talent. You will be more successful and the people you hire will have more job satisfaction if they value the way you do things and it lines up with the way they see the world.
- Make sure that your values permeate through to everything that you do. Embed them into the key phases of both your Employee Lifecyle (recruitment, employment contracts, performance reviews, leadership) and Customer Lifecycle (marketing, proposals, contracts, service agreements, account management and customer care).
So, if you are yet to articulate your values and/or you are still implementing your business model, developing your values can be a vital part of setting your organisation up for success.
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