Incorporating Values Into Your Business
As any business consultant, self-help book, or that cousin who thinks he knows everything will tell you, having strong values is extremely important in owning a company. Having strong values affects everything from KPIs, the company culture, down to your bottom line. Michael Eichenwald at the World Economic Forum writes about the importance of values saying: “Embedding values into the core of an organization is no easy task. But the outcome will be worth it: a human organization inspired by purpose, based on values and led with moral authority.”
But, no one ever explains how to tangibly incorporate values into your business. How do you incorporate the values you hold as the business owner into the company? Here are a few ways to make sure your organizational values are more than nice sentiments on a piece of paper collecting dust.
1. Clarify Values
The first step is to define the values in your company. BusinessDictionary.com defines values as “Important and lasting beliefs or ideals shared by the members of a culture about what is good or bad and desirable or undesirable. Values have a major influence on a person’s behavior and attitude and serve as broad guidelines in all situations.” Did you hear that? Values serve as broad guidelines in all situations. This should be your main goal in defining your company’s values. What are the things, tangible or intangible, that can guide your company and employees when you’re not there? Additionally, what you choose as your company values must align with the culture you plan to grow, with the capabilities of your organization, and how you make business decisions. Some common examples of company values are “Responsiveness”, “Innovation,”, “Fairness”, “Earth-Conscious”, “Healthy”, etc. If you want your company to be successful, you must choose values that are meaningful to both you and your employees.
The best strategy for choosing your values is to define exactly what your company stands for, what it’s goals are, and how it is going to achieve those goals. It is extremely important to collaborate with your employees on creating values at this stage of the process. By doing so, you aren’t only creating a clear path for yourself to lead the company, but you are also allowing your employees to be a part of defining that path.
2. Talk About Values
Now that you’ve defined your values, the next step is to talk about your values. You must do so repeatedly, consistently. Bring them up in one-on-one meetings, in the onboarding process, in your weekly team meeting, in annual reviews, literally all the time. You should also have a visual representation of your values in the office. Work with some of the creative people on your team to design a meaningful graphic that everyone can relate to. When having the “hard conversations” with your employees, point back to your values. Did their actions align with what the company believes in? If not, it’s important to explain why these values are in place.
Make talking about your values a daily habit for you and your employees, and you will see a huge difference in how effective these words and ideas are. Employees will begin to think in terms of the values you’ve been talking about. This is when you know your values have begun to mean something to your people.
3. Reward Values
The last step is to cement the values in your company. One of the most effective ways to do this is through recognition. These can be monetary, statutory, or even just buying lunch for the team.
Another example of recognizing values is to highlight a value each month or quarter and encourage employees to not only exemplify that value themselves, but also recognize it in others. At the end of that period, have the whole team vote on which employee has demonstrated the values the best. Think of it as a “good behavior” jar, where other employees can vote on the employee who is truly embracing your values. This not only creates comradery, but also gets everyone thinking about how they can get their name in the “jar”. This public incentive encourages employees to embrace the company’s values wholeheartedly.
Through clarifying values, speaking about how the values impacted business decisions, and rewarding demonstration of them, you can create an organization that operates from a common foundation. Decision making becomes easier and more consistent. High quality is the norm. And individuals who are not willing to live by the values are easy to recognize and replace. The values you hold as the owner must be infused into the DNA of your company, and the difference will be palpable.