You Failed at Setting Your Company Core Values–Here’s Why

July 11, 2014 - 4 minute read - Posted by

How many times have you walked into a workplace, seen a nice shiny framed wall plaque of a company’s core values, only to later discover no one in the company could recite them?Or better yet, that the employees didn’t even know they existed?

Sadly most core values are like that. Sure, they are created with the best intentions, but they usually fall short and inevitably end up collecting dust or getting buried on a website.

Core values should encompass the beliefs, philosophy, and ethics of your business. They should also help guide your overall decision making.

Sounds simple enough right? So why do so many companies get this critical piece wrong? Probably because of these simple mistakes:

They are copied from another company.
Your core values should be unique to YOUR business, not someone else’s. So stop trying to be like Apple, Zappos, Lululemon or Google. Their values work for them. They won’t work for you. Sure it’s great to use some of these companies as inspiration on how to be creative, just don’t confuse your values with theirs.

They are not tied to your actual work processes/goals.
The right core values can actually help guide production and efficiency. For example, if one of your core values pertains to customer service and you are releasing a new product, you can refer to this core value to better anticipate the need for adequate customer resources. Or if your value pertains to delivering on time, you can plan a product strategy that constantly reinforces timelines.

They are not specific enough.
You know the ones I am referring to—ones like respect, integrity, or honesty. Don’t get me wrong, they are lovely standards, but they don’t really set you apart. And they definitely don’t tell me who you are.  I often see “excellence” as a common core value, but isn’t this obvious? Doesn’t every company want to be excellent? I also see “delivering a difference”, but what does this mean?  What kind of difference? If you really want to use fluffy values, make them specific, and make them unique to who YOU are.

They are written by the wrong people.
Your core values should represent your entire company; not just some elite members of the executive team, and not just employees from the head office. A lot of companies make the mistake of hoarding their executive away on some retreat to come up with their core values. The outcome? A list of values that are disconnected from the rest of the employees. Include a diverse group of functions, departments, locations in any core value building exercises.

Remember, your core values give outsiders a sneak peek into who you are. This is useful not just for attracting customers, but for attracting potential talent. The more transparent you are the more willing people will be to invest in you.

Tags: , , ,