Communicating company core values: Definition, examples, and why it matters

Communicating Company Core Values
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It’s not hard to find the core values of any organization.  

They’re often featured, in large print, prominently on corporate websites. Posted on a plaque in the lobby of the corporate headquarters and on signs throughout company locations. Printed in employee handbooks. Honestly, they’re everywhere if you look for them.  

Roy E Disney quote

But living up to those values? Now that’s the challenging part for organizations. 

Words are just that. Words. How does a company uphold its stated values with deeds that keep promises to employees, customers, and the community? It begins by communicating those company core values in ways that everyone understands and then can act upon. 

Only then will employees know: This is who we are.

What are company core values?

As a definition, company core values are the clearly stated principles about the organization’s vision, mission, and principles. That way, everyone is aligned around a guiding philosophy to serve employees, customers, and the broader community.

That can also double as the definition of company culture. In many ways, values and culture are synonymous. They’re both about the higher aspirations of a company. The result is the DNA fundamental to a company’s identity. 

Elvis Presley Quote

Ensuring that everyone understands those ambitions requires great internal communication. The trouble is too many companies assume the workforce knows what’s most important. (After all, it’s a plaque in the lobby next to the elevators!) But because there’s a statement on a wall, website, or handbook doesn’t mean employees get the message.  

What’s needed is a clear, steady cadence of information that reinforces those principles. Let’s take a closer look into ways that organizations can thrive through communicating their core values.  

Twenty examples of company core values 

When distilled down to the basics, company values might be described simply as the Golden Rule. Treat others the way you want to be treated. Or, to paraphrase filmmaker Spike Lee: Do the right thing.  

Here’s a more expansive list of values that companies consider important. 

  1. Integrity: Demonstrating honesty, transparency, and ethical behavior in all actions and decisions.
  2. Innovation: Encouraging creativity, continuous improvement, and the development of new ideas.
  3. Accountability: Taking responsibility for one’s actions and ensuring the achievement of goals.
  4. Collaboration: Promoting teamwork, open communication, and cooperation across the organization.
  5. Customer Focus: Prioritizing the needs of customers and striving to exceed their expectations.
  6. Excellence: Pursuing the highest quality in products, services, and performance.
  7. Respect: Treating everyone with dignity, empathy, and fairness, regardless of their background or position.
  8. Sustainability: Embracing environmentally responsible practices and working towards long-term success.
  9. Diversity and Inclusion: Valuing and promoting a diverse and inclusive work environment.
  10. Agility: Adapting to change and quickly responding to market needs and challenges.
  11. Empowerment: Encouraging employees to take initiative and make decisions that drive the company forward.
  12. Social Responsibility: Giving back to the community and promoting positive social impact.
  13. Passion: Cultivating enthusiasm, dedication, and a strong work ethic among team members.
  14. Trust: Fostering an environment of trust by being reliable, consistent, and transparent.
  15. Learning: Encouraging continuous learning and promoting team member growth to stay ahead in the industry.
  16. Leadership: Developing and supporting strong leaders who inspire and guide others.
  17. Balance: Promoting work-life balance and overall well-being for employees.
  18. Profitability: Ensuring the company remains profitable by being efficient and cost-effective.
  19. Quality: Maintaining high standards in all aspects of the business to ensure customer satisfaction.
  20. Safety: Prioritizing the safety and well-being of employees, customers, and the community.

Five world-leading examples of company values

Google (Alphabet), Apple, and Patagonia and Unilever  each define their core company values in unique ways that reflect their organizational goals and culture. Here’s a brief overview of how these companies describe their core values:

Google (Alphabet):

Google (now a subsidiary of Alphabet Inc.) focuses on three primary company values, which are often referred to as “The Google Philosophy”:

  1. Respect the user: Google emphasizes putting the user first, providing the best user experience, and safeguarding user privacy.
  2. Respect the opportunity: The company encourages its employees to take advantage of opportunities to create innovative solutions and drive the company forward.
  3. Respect each other: Google fosters a culture of collaboration, open communication, and support among team members, regardless of their position or background.

More about company values at Google

Apple:

Apple’s company values are centered around six main principles:

  1. Accessibility: Apple designs products to be usable by as many people as possible, including those with disabilities.
  2. Education: The company supports and invests in educational programs to empower learners and educators with technology.
  3. Environment: Apple emphasizes reducing its environmental impact and promoting renewable energy and recycling initiatives.
  4. Inclusion and diversity: Apple strives to create an inclusive and diverse workforce that embraces different backgrounds, perspectives, and ideas.
  5. Privacy: The company prioritizes user privacy and data security, developing products and services with privacy in mind.
  6. Supplier responsibility: Apple works with suppliers who share its commitment to ethical practices, fair labor, and environmental responsibility.

More about company values at Apple

Patagonia:

Patagonia’s core company values focus on four main principles:

  1. Build the best product: The company commits to creating high-quality, durable, and functional products while minimizing the environmental impact.
  2. Cause no unnecessary harm: Patagonia aims to reduce its environmental footprint by using sustainable materials and ethical manufacturing processes.
  3. Use business to protect nature: The company actively supports environmental initiatives and donates a portion of its profits to conservation efforts.
  4. Not bound by convention: Patagonia challenges the status quo, encouraging innovation and embracing unconventional solutions to achieve its goal

More about company values at Patagonia

Unilever

Unilever’s company values focus on the following key areas:

  1. Integrity: Unilever emphasizes the importance of acting with honesty, transparency, and fairness in all aspects of its business dealings. This includes interactions with employees, customers, suppliers, and other stakeholders.
  2. Respect: The company values the unique perspectives, experiences, and backgrounds of its employees, customers, and partners. Unilever fosters a culture of respect, where individuals are treated with dignity and their contributions are valued.
  3. Responsibility: Unilever is committed to being accountable for its actions and the impact they have on people and the planet. This includes prioritizing sustainability, ensuring ethical business practices, and addressing social and environmental challenges.
  4. Pioneering: Unilever encourages innovation, creativity, and a forward-thinking mindset. The company continually seeks new ways to improve its products, processes, and operations, embracing change and driving progress.
  5. Positive impact on society: Unilever aims to make a positive difference in the world through its products, services, and business practices. This includes supporting social and environmental initiatives, promoting health and well-being, and empowering people and communities.

By adhering to these core values, Unilever works to create a sustainable and successful business that benefits its employees, customers, stakeholders, and the environment.

More about company values at Unilever.

Firstup 

Here at first up we believe in the power of employee engagement and that to be successful, no one can be left behind.  Therefore our company values reflect the importance of inclusivity, developing meaningful connections, and creating personalized experiences that connect us all.   

  1. Every employee is an owner with responsibility and credit for our progress.   When we take pride in our work, we perform better and feel more connected to our work. 
  2. Leadership is in our build and we see change as a catalyst for improvement:  Our leadership and innovation are essential for unblocking human potential and delivering meaningful results that help businesses thrive. 
  3. We win as a team, committed to helping our coworkers and customers thrive. We know we are in this together and by being committed to our vision, our customers, and each other, we will win. 

Learn more about Firstup and our company values or see our open positions here

Culture and values in action
“We know we can only be a great place to shop if we’re first a great place to work. The Firstup intelligent communication platform enables our culture and values in action through a digital tool.”

Statistics showing the importance of companies living their values

  • Actively disengaged employees cost the U.S. $483 to $605 billion per year in lost productivity Source: Gallup’s State of the American Workplace report 
  • Productivity improves by 20 to 25 percent in organizations with connected employees. Source: The McKinsey Global Institute 
  • One-third of global employees strongly agree with the statement: “The mission and purpose of my organization makes me feel my job is important.” By moving that ratio to eight in 10 employees, business units have realized a 51 percent reduction in absenteeism, a 64 percent drop in safety incidents, and a 29 percent improvement in quality. Source: Gallup’s Designing Your Organization’s Employee Experience 
  • 95 percent of HR leaders said in a survey that employee burnout is “sabotaging workforce retention.” Source: Kronos Incorporated and Future Workplace 
Steve Jobs Quote
  • Only 53 percent of survey respondents felt their organizations are effective or very effective at creating meaningful work. Source: 2019 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends 
  • 46 percent of job seekers cite company culture as very important when they consider potential employers and 88 percent say it’s at least relatively important. Source: Jobvite 
  • Employees who feel their voices are heard at work report they are nearly five times (4.6X) more likely to feel empowered to perform their best work. Employees who say their company provides equal opportunities are nearly four times (3.8X) more likely to say they’re proud to work for their company. Source: Salesforce 
  • More than half of employees (51 percent) are searching for a new job or watching for openings. Source: Gallup  
  • 67 percent of survey respondents say they need more and better communication from their employer. Source: FleishmanHillard 
FleishmanHillard survey

Communicating your company’s core values

How do you express your company values internally? Even the best, most well-planned mission statements are useless if they’re hidden away and rarely discussed. 

Company core values need to be on the big stage, in a bright spotlight, for everyone to see. 

That’s what excellent internal communication does. It continually brings attention to the company values with a steady cadence of reminders about what makes the organization unique. As we’ll see, it’s also highlighting examples of how the company is living those values.  

But first, how do you get those in front of everyone? 

Standard workforce communication tools 

Here are some of the traditional ways that organizations share their values with the workforce. 

  • Email 
  • Intranet 
  • Company website 
  • All hands meetings/town halls 
  • Digital signage 
  • Printed posters/signs 
  • Mailers/newsletters 
  • Collaboration systems 

The more places where employees can see or hear the company values, the better. (As they say in football parlance, you “flood the zone.”) A consistent cadence of communication will reinforce their importance to everyone. 

Also, each of us tends to get work-related information in different ways. For office workers, maybe email or intranet is the best way. For factor workers, perhaps the old break-room bulletin board works best. It’s essential to use all the arrows in your quiver to get those company values in front of the entire workforce.  

But there are limitations to these standard tools. That’s why companies are turning to a new way of reaching their people with the information they need and want. 

Modern internal communication tool 

Consider the way that all of us receive information in our personal lives. It comes directly to us – usually on our mobile devices. We get alerts from news sources that we trust. We have user-friendly apps. It’s an engaging experience. 

Simon Sinek Quote

Well, employees expect their places of work to communicate with them the same way. We may indeed check our email or the bulletin boards. But all of us are also staring at our mobile devices. That’s why digital Employee Communication and Engagement platforms have become the modern way for organizations to connect with their people. They break down information silos by:

  • Reaching every employee in real-time, wherever they are, on the devices they prefer – whether through a desktop app or mobile app – with the information they need and want 
  • Enabling internal communicators to measure the reach of their content accurately, so they can understand who received the information – and then optimize their efforts 
  • Giving leaders the confidence that the entire organization is hearing their messages, so everyone is aligned around company values 
  • Enabling employees to provide instant feedback through surveys and comments, so companies have a finger on the pulse of what the workforce is thinking

Company culture examples

Because Firstup is the platform of choice of leading companies around the world, including 40 percent of the Fortune 100, we’re fortunate to see some of the incredible ways that organizations infuse their strong company values into everything they do. 

Leadership examples 

It’s powerful when top executives – especially CEOs – constantly remind employees what the mission, vision, and values are for the company. We’ve even seen leaders start every Town Hall meeting with a quick reminder of what drives their organizations. 

But hearing from leaders is exponentially more difficult in 2020 when the pandemic has forced the world into lockdown. It’s also never been more important for leaders to be communicating their foundational corporate values to remind everyone how they play a part in getting through the crisis. It’s also not just the pandemic. Employees want to know where the company stands on the social justice issues as protests against racial inequality have swept across the country. Employees expect their companies to live their stated values. 

That’s why company executives use the Firstup platform to speak directly to employees. We’ve seen an explosion in “selfie videos” where CEOs post regularly to share company updates and how their values are helping them get through this challenging time. This ability was especially important when CEOs needed to speak from the heart about why their companies were supportive of the passionate outcry for greater social justice.  

Why diversity and inclusion are core company values

There are two reasons. 

  1. First, and foremost, a diverse and inclusive workplace is simply the right thing to do. Basic human decency is about creating a work environment where everyone is valued, respected, heard, and matters. 
  2. It’s good business. 

There are numerous studies that show more diverse companies have greater financial success. (You can read some excellent research here and here.) It’s why 81 percent of global organizations said that improving diversity and inclusion was high on their agenda, according to Mercer’s Let’s Get Real About Equality report. Mercer also found that 66 percent of senior executives are actively engaged in diversity and inclusion initiatives.   

Howard Schultz Quote

At the same time, the pandemic has slowed efforts to make companies more reflective of our society. According to a pulse survey of diversity and inclusion leaders by McKinsey, 27 percent of them report that their organizations have put all or most initiatives on hold because of the pandemic. 

Yet those values are more important than ever. That’s because customers are watching. 

Customers expect companies to uphold their core values

One of the main takeaways from 2023 is that people expect more from brands. They paid close attention to how companies behaved during the pandemic and if they fought for social justice. Do they genuinely live their stated values? Or are they just paying them lip service?

When brands disappoint them, they take their business elsewhere. 

Here’s some eye-opening research about consumer sentiment in our current times:

  • 80 percent of consumers would prefer to buy from companies who treated their employees well through the COVID-19 outbreak. Source: KRC Research 
  • 65 percent of survey respondents say the pandemic changed how they see companies as employers. Source: FleishmanHillard 
  • 60 percent of survey respondents said brands must take a stand and speak out against racial injustice publicly. Source: Edelman 
  • 56 percent say brands have a moral obligation for demanding action and 52 percent say they “owe it to employees.” Source: Edelman 
  • 33 percent of survey respondents say they have already convinced other people to stop using a brand that they felt was not acting appropriately in response to the pandemic. Source: Edelman 
  • 60 percent of respondents said that they will buy or boycott a brand based on if and how it responds to the current protests. Source: Edelman 
  • 87 percent of consumers buy products based on company values. Source: Cone Communications CSR Study.
  • 43 percent of company reputation is attributed to CSR efforts. Source: CSR RepTrak Study.
  • 66 percent of global consumers pay more for sustainable goods. Source: Nielsen’s Global Corporate Sustainability Report.

The employee Experience directly impacts the customer experience. When employees feel like the company is living up to its values, customers notice. 

Ten ways strong core values drive business success

  • Enhanced brand reputation: Strong core company values create a positive image, attracting customers and partners who share similar principles.
  • Improved employee engagement: Employees are more motivated and committed when they believe in the company’s values and purpose.
  • Higher employee retention: Staff are more likely to stay with a company that aligns with their personal values, reducing turnover costs.
  • Better decision-making: Clear values guide decision-making, ensuring consistency and alignment with long-term goals.
  • Increased customer loyalty: Customers are more loyal to businesses that prioritize their needs and uphold shared values.
  • Stronger company culture: Shared values foster a cohesive culture, enabling better collaboration and teamwork.
  • Greater innovation: A value-driven company encourages creativity and risk-taking, resulting in innovative products and services.
  • Enhanced trust: By consistently upholding values, a company builds trust among customers, employees, and stakeholders.
  • Positive social impact: Businesses with strong values contribute to society by supporting social and environmental causes, strengthening their reputation.
  • Long-term profitability: Companies with strong values are more likely to achieve sustainable growth and profitability through customer loyalty, employee commitment, and positive brand perception.

Employer branding and company values

Today, the Employee Value Proposition (EVP) matters more than ever. EVP is a way of thinking about what employees receive in exchange for their workplace performance. Yes, employees expect to be well-compensated for their labor. But increasingly, employees also want to feel good about their workplace. They want to know that, in some small way, they’re making a difference. The world is a better place because of their efforts. 

And that brings us full circle back to company values. 

The days of brands not living by their values is over. In our interconnected world, news of bad corporate behavior travels in the blink of an eye on social media. And a steep price is paid. But the organizations that try to stand by their values – and make amends when the inevitable missteps occur – are the ones most likely to succeed.  

Communication, as we’ve seen, is the bedrock foundation of ensuring company values are understood. Everyone knows what’s expected of them. Everyone knows what they should expect from their company. Everyone becomes aligned around the basic principles of why the company exists.  

And everyone thrives. 

How to identify your company’s core values (A step-by-step guide)

Step 1: Gather a diverse team

Assemble a team representing different departments, levels, and perspectives within your company. Including various viewpoints ensures a well-rounded set of core values that reflect the entire organization.

Step 2: Reflect on your company’s purpose

Discuss the company’s purpose and mission. Consider why the company exists, the problems it solves, and the impact it seeks to have on customers, employees, and stakeholders.

Step 3: Analyze existing behaviors and practices

Identify behaviors, practices, and attitudes that are already present in the company. Determine which of these positively contribute to the company’s success and should be maintained or enhanced.

Step 4: Brainstorm values

Encourage team members to brainstorm values they believe are important to the company’s success. Create a master list of all suggestions, aiming for a comprehensive collection of potential values.

Step 5: Narrow down the list

As a group, discuss the brainstormed values, evaluating their relevance and importance to the company. Eliminate redundant or less significant values, and aim to narrow the list down to 5-10 core values.

Step 6: Define each value

Clarify the meaning of each core value by providing a clear definition. This will ensure everyone in the company has a consistent understanding of the values and their implications.

Step 7: Prioritize values

Rank the core values in order of importance. This will help employees understand which values take precedence in case of conflicts or trade-offs.

Step 8: Test the values

Examine real-life scenarios and decisions within the company to see if the proposed values align with actual practices. Modify the values as needed to ensure they truly represent the company’s guiding principles.

Step 9: Communicate the values

Share the core values with all employees and stakeholders, explaining their importance and how they should be incorporated into daily operations and decision-making.

Step 10: Integrate and reinforce values

Embed the core values into company culture by integrating them into training, performance evaluations, recognition programs, and decision-making processes. Regularly reinforce the values through communication, events, and leadership actions to ensure they remain a central part of the organization.

How much progress has your company made on diversity, equity and inclusion?

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