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.
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 you’ll learn:
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.
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.
Ten examples of company core values
Here’s a more expansive list of values that companies consider important.
- Integrity. Acting with strong ethics is a priority for everyone representing the organization as well as the company’s behavior as a whole.
- Honesty. It’s not just the best policy. It’s a core business practice to act in a transparent, trustworthy manner that earns the respect of colleagues, customers, and the public.
- Fairness. Treating everyone with the common decency we all deserve and expect.
- Accountability. Accepting responsibility for your actions (and inactions) is the ultimate way to build trust internally and externally.
- Promise to Customers. Creating a great customer experience begins with staying true to the words we speak and the bonds we make.
- Diversity and Inclusion. Organizations succeed by bringing different lived experiences and a range of backgrounds into a shared environment where everyone has equal opportunity.
- Learning. No one has all the answers. A culture of humility and continuous learning is a bedrock principle of successful companies.
- Teamwork. When people work together, they can create something greater than themselves as individuals.
- Passion. Having a joy not just for the work itself but also the people around us, so that everyone can be bold, innovative, and creative.
- Quality. Companies are judged by the craftsmanship of their products and services, so the highest standards must be maintained.
There are many other company core values, of course. (HubSpot has compiled an excellent list of 16 values and some specific company examples.) But defining a guiding philosophy set is unique to every company.
Yet that’s still only the start. The hard work is acting upon them.
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
- 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
Communicating your company 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.
- Company website
- All hands meetings/town halls
- Digital signage
- Printed posters/signs
- 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.
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 values into everything they do.
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 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 company core values
There are two reasons.
- 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.
- 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.
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 2020 is that people expect more from brands. They’re paying close attention to how companies behave during the pandemic and if they fight for social justice. Are they genuinely living 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 at a time of pandemic and social upheaval:
- 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 has 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
The employee Experience directly impacts the customer experience. When employees feel like the company is living up to its values, customers notice.
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 increasing, 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 much progress has your company made on diversity, equity and inclusion? We’ve assembled a comprehensive playbook with 7 plays to help you boost inclusion and engagement.