Why company values matter - main region
Why are company values important?
Your business values can – and should – be a powerful asset. Not only do they explain to potential employees and customers what your organisation believes in, but they remind current staff of the preferred way of operating and achieving outcomes. An organisation's values serve as the foundation of its identity and behaviour, guiding decision-making, shaping company culture, directing business strategy, and providing a clear sense of purpose for employees, stakeholders and customers.
But values can be difficult to define. Sure, they support an organisation’s vision and shape its culture, but what does that mean in a practical sense?
Company values defined
An organisation’s values can be described as behavioural guidance. A core value is more than just words, it is part of the principles and beliefs that provide a cohesive vision and define who you are as a business. In doing so, they define your organisation to employees, stakeholders and customers and remind staff of the preferred way of achieving outcomes. In essence, core company values are your “true north” that help you navigate your organisation through prosperous times as well as uncertain periods. More often than not, the company's beliefs are also embodied in its culture.
As a result, they influence the experience of your employees as well as the stakeholders and customers you work with.
Some examples of organisational values follow – although this is by no means an exhaustive list:
- Keeping promises
- High quality work
- Customer service excellence
- Do the right thing
- Make a difference
The importance of core values in business
Defining and communicating strong company values has several advantages and improves the chance of business success:
1. Firstly, values set your identity
An organisation’s values lay the foundation for what the company cares about most. It provides a common purpose that all employees should understand, work towards and live by. Once you define and promote your values, employees come to understand the behaviours that are expected of them that will lead to success. They recognise and appreciate what the organisation stands for, wants to achieve and how they personally can act to help reach the desired outcomes.
As a result, performance, workplace morale and staff engagement can all improve since employees are more professionally fulfilled.
2. Values help employees make the right decisions
Your organisation’s values will be aligned with its purpose and culture and should be the yardstick by which employees determine the best course of action. When faced with a new or challenging problem, even in volatile or uncertain times, by keeping your values in mind and being guided by them, your employees will make the right decision for your organisation.
This can also provide confidence to employees. By asking themselves if their decision echoes the organisation’s values, employees can be assured that they are making the right choice. If their decision does not align with the company’s values, it is a red flag that signals they should reconsider their response.
3. Values-based recruitment can improve retention
When job searching, most of us look for that elusive ‘fit’, or in other words an organisation where we can thrive and are aligned to their way of doing business.
Such values alignment is of growing importance to jobseekers, who continue to ask us questions about what an organisation believes in, not just what it does, before they will apply to a vacancy.
If you promote your values, you’ll therefore be in a stronger position to attract likeminded candidates who hold the same principles as your organisation. By recruiting employees who share the same values, you will retain them for longer because they already share your core beliefs and will work well within your existing team. In contrast, organisations that do not recruit for values alignment usually experience higher staff turnover since the principles of their staff conflict with those of the organisation.
4. It differentiates your organisation from competitors
Your values help you stand apart from other organisations operating in your field. In a competitive environment, values that resonate with your customers will help you attract and retain them. This is especially important when consumers have become more discerning than ever about business ethics and social responsibility.
How do you present your organisation’s values to the world?
As an employer, if you are to take advantage of the above benefits, you need to define, communicate and live your values. Lead by example by wearing your organisation’s core values on your sleeve, then communicate the company values to employees and encouraging them to walk the talk.
This process will be made easier if you integrate the organisation’s values into your employees’ daily work. From your training programs to your internal communications, your products or services, your weekly team meetings and the benefits you offer staff, make sure every interaction is representative of your core values.
Such actions will also help your employees authentically connect to the organisation’s values, which they can then showcase to the wider world through their interactions with customers, on social media and on employer review sites. After all, your employees have a large role to play – they are the living breathing examples of your values in action. It makes sense therefore to look at how they present themselves in a professional capacity, whether it’s at networking events or via their LinkedIn profiles.
For instance, here at Hays, every day our #WeareHays hashtag is used by our employees to share their stories of how they personally contribute to helping people and organisations thrive. From taking part in charity fundraisers to sharing CV advice or congratulating a candidate on securing a new role, these posts demonstrate our values in a practical sense.
You can also communicate your values in a strong and on-brand Employer Value Proposition, or EVP.
Ultimately, by ensuring your values are crystal clear to your audience on an ongoing basis, you will have a steady pipeline of like-minded and loyal customers and candidates who identify with your values and jump at the chance to work with you.
Company values vs company culture
Company culture encompasses the collective behaviours, attitudes, and norms that exist between the people working within an organisation. It is how employees interact, the atmosphere in the workplace, and unwritten rules that govern day-to-day operations. A company's core values on the other hand, are the guiding principles and beliefs that shape an organisation's mission, vision and purpose. Company core values reflect what the company stands for and its commitment to certain ideals or ethical standards.
A word of warning
When defining your values, they must be based on truth. If they are hollow words, they can undermine your organisation and its brand. In fact, if they are not grounded in reality, you run the risk of attracting customers and candidates who are aligned with the values you promote rather than the way you actually do business. This creates a huge turnover risk, with customers and candidates unlikely to be retained long-term in an environment that does not live up to what was promised.
Key points for employers
- Your organisation’s values influence the experience of your employees as well as the stakeholders and customers you work with;
- You must base your values on truth;
- Clearly articulate and bring your values into the whole organisation;
- Actions speak louder than words – ‘walk the talk’;
- Make sure your employees can not only identify your organisation’s values but use them to guide their decision-making;
- Make values-based recruitment decisions.