Values Determine Corporate Culture

Mar 14, 2014

Every company has a culture — whether leaders shape it or not. Rather than simply letting culture happen on its own, wise leaders proactively plan for and manage their company cultures, by first carefully determining and setting an example of the roots of every corporate culture: company values.

In a recent survey, we asked employees and job seekers the most important thing they look for in a company. While 79 percent said salary, 77 percent said company culture. If culture is not top of mind at your company, it should be. In order to get you thinking about how to develop your corporate culture, consider both your company values, and how to put them into action.

The Importance of Values

Your company values form a roadmap for how you hire, brand yourself, and base performance discussions. Because your culture is a reflection of those values in action, spend time consciously cultivating your company values, instead of letting your culture simply develop.

If your company doesn’t have a set of stated company values, sit down with your top executives and spend time talking about what’s important to your company. Ask employees what they value about your workplace to make sure you are covering all the bases. Determining your company values should be about making your culture intentional so it works for you as opposed to against you.

Because culture trickles down, top executives must truly believe in and passionately practice the company values. Without their buy in, the culture can never be authentic because it will not be fully embraced.

Translating Values Into Culture

If your stated company values truly address the things that your executives and employees value, your culture will be a natural outgrowth from them. Potential employees and others will be able to get a clear idea from those values what it’s like to work at your company.

One of our company values is “people matter.” To translate this value into company culture, we wanted to get creative about what we could do to make everyone’s life better when they came to work. One way we did that was to start allowing dogs to come to work. People matter, and if they can bring their dogs to work they’re supported, less stressed, and not worried about leaving at 5:15 on the dot to grab Fido from the day care before it closes. Bringing their dogs to work makes people more relaxed and focused at work, so they do better and the company does better. Plus, it’s fun to have furry faces around the office.

Taking Action

To begin building a culture that will attract and retain the right workers — and help build a better, stronger company — there are several steps you can take:

  1. Define your values. Your culture begins with your values. If you don’t have them, gather the leadership team and begin to create them. If you already have them in place, revisit them. Remind yourself what they are.
  2. Don’t go for cookie-cutter values.Your values are your roadmap to your unique culture that will hopefully lead to company success. They can’t help you if they are too generic or basic. Think about the words that reflect your company and turn them into values that embody your workforce specifically.
  3. Don’t do it alone.Values and the culture that results from them have to start from the top down. You need your executives to be involved and supportive in order for culture to work.
  4. Involve stakeholders.Ask your employees and others to help you identify what’s compelling and different about your company.
  5. Don’t push for something that isn’t there.Don’t try to simply invent culture. If your company is full of 40-somethings with kids, you probably shouldn’t push for a late-night party culture. You can’t just come up with what makes your company unique; look at what’s there and determine what you can foster and shape from that.
  6. Enable your team to adopt the values. Once your values are published, get creative and offer ways to help employees easily act on them. If you value camaraderie, put some picnic tables outside and encourage workers to have lunch together. Plant the seeds to foster growth that will reflect your values.
  7. Make sure executives walk the talk. The people won’t eat at the picnic tables if they feel like managers aren’t into it, so encourage leaders to partake.
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