When you think about your personal values, most people reflect on their ideal self and the characteristics that are most important to them. Common personal values include trustworthiness, dependability, and generosity. These are values that represent the person we are or are striving to be. Company values are a little bit different.
Why Are Company Values Important?
Yes, company values should reflect the image the company has or is striving towards. But they are also the guiding force for decision making. When companies are making policy decisions or partnership decisions or setting strategic goals, they use their company values as an indicator to determine if this is the best decision for the company as a whole.
This is why company values are so important – they provide direction for goals and decisions. To effectively serve their purpose, each one must be clearly defined in its intention. It is not unusual for people to have varying understandings of the same word or to judge the word on a continuum. Values must have a shared meaning within the company. That means you can’t just put a word out there and say it is a value. You must have a detailed definition of what it means, the intentions behind it, and a clear view of how that value plays out in decisions and actions.
Company values are a critical component of your organizations culture. While they provide direction for the company, they also provide a standard of behavior for your employees. The better defined they are, the clearer you can be regarding acceptable and expected employee behavior. Desired culture can be difficult for some companies to articulate, values are one way to start that conversation.
What Makes an Employee Valuable?
Of course, you expect employees to complete their work in the proper way and in the designated time. But what is it that moves the employee up to the level where you recognize the value they bring to the company? What makes them valuable rather than just effective? It all comes back to values.
Employees who understand and demonstrate the company values, are the ones that push your company culture forward. They are the ones that set the example and influence others to embrace the company culture and its values. By living the company values, employees project the desired company image to those internal and external to the company. Not only is the work of the company being done, but employees enhance the company image. That is what tips the scales from a good employee to a valuable employee.
Value Based Recognition
To bring the importance of the company values to life, consider using them as your foundation for recognition and awards. Instead of having a recognition system based solely on performance achievements, have some that relate to the achievement of the company values. Use the definitions of each one to create the description and criteria of the awards.
If innovation is a company value, have awards based around creativity and ingenuity. Think about the organizational structure of your company and make sure there are opportunities for recognition at all levels. Innovation can take place at any level but if you only award those of a certain level, you are discouraging this behavior from the other levels.
If teamwork is a company value, have awards based around collaboration and cooperation. In the case of teamwork, these should be team awards. Depending upon the nature of your business, they may also include people from businesses with who you have an active and meaningful partnership.
Note: While this article is focusing on the organizational perspective, all of these strategies can be used within the team setting as well.
Putting It All Together
Thoughtful, well-implemented values can serve as a foundation for a positive and high performing culture where employees feel that they are valuable members of the team. The more valuable the employee feels, the more they will strive to maintain this feeling.
Think about what your company values are and how they inform your style of leadership. What actions are you taking to model those values? What structures and processes do you have in place that encourage employees to integrate these concepts into their work?
Values serve as the glue that holds everything together. While everything else within a company may shift and change over time, these are the one thing that should remain constant. Values are the North Star that gives both the company and the employees direction. As employees follow that direction, they increase the value of themselves and the company as a whole, making them valuable.
Revised December 2021. This article was originally published under The OD Pro in August 2019.