When you look at your company, do you see a brand? When you think about your business, is there a culture or vision that underpins everything you do? We call this company core values.
If you have driven your business growth to the point where you now employ several people, across a few departments or if you’ve launched a new company like we did with Office Kitten recently, it may be time to establish a set of company values so that everyone is pulling in the same direction.
What will be the benefits of having a company DNA, or set of values, written down in this way?
Well, it spells out to all of your staff exactly what the business stands for; it will aid recruitment and will also help you win future business (hopefully).
Company Core Values: Where to begin?
Where do you begin? A small focus group will be the best starting point, taking at least one person from each department internally. Try to mix up the seniority of the people involved, to ensure you are getting the widest possible range of opinions.
Once you have your group gathered together, get them engaged on the subject of the company – what are the things that make us successful? What do they think we stand for? What are our strengths? What makes the company stand apart from the competition? What makes them proud to work here? How should we be conducting ourselves internally and externally?
Ensure someone is leading the process and someone else is taking notes – keep the session light and fast-paced and don’t let it slide into any mud-slinging, although all opinions on the company should be heard.
This will give you a great start in the process. Encourage those in your focus group to go away and tell the others in their department what’s been going on, to get a buzz going around the business.
Once this is over, attempt to simplify everything that’s been said as much as possible. Don’t make it a shopping list – less is definitely more, as staff get bored if there’s too much to understand.
Look for four or five keywords that dominate from your group session. Can these work as headings for your values?
Perhaps it’s broad terms such as ‘passion’, ‘pride’, ‘knowledge’, ‘ambition’, ‘can-do’ or ‘solutions’. You can then describe under these headings what it is specifically that you mean in a practical, day-to-day sense.
Get these down, consult with senior colleagues and, when you’re happy, share with your workforce.
The ideal way to communicate your newly defined set of values is via training. This can be done either by department or all together and it’s vital that you get everyone fully involved and engaged.
Your workforce has to live and breathe this set of words; if they don’t buy into it, then the whole process has been for nothing.
It might work well to start by displaying your ‘headline’ words and asking staff to show you how this word will work in practice? Ask them ‘what does this mean to you?’ ‘Do you do this every day?’ ‘What does it mean to our customers?’
Part of daily life
Your values must be more than just a piece of paper, so ensure they are part of daily life in the workplace. It might be good practice to include the terms in staff one-to-ones and appraisals – how far is the employee living up to the values of the company in their actions?
Finally, your brand DNA and values must be ever evolving. The direction of a business can change quickly as new contracts or clients come on board, so make it an annual process to review the values and question if they still apply to the way the business is operating today.
With a defined set of values in place, you will be able to present yourself in a clear and attractive way to potential new customers and employees. It’s the next step in your business growth and you will reap the rewards by approaching it in the right way.