Values come in different shapes and sizes for different companies. For some companies, values are nice-to-have platitudes splashed across the website and forgotten. For others, values are established to help inform decisions, guide leaders, and facilitate a positive culture. In order for values to matter, they should be lived out loud every day in your workplace. In fact, the values you write on the whiteboard or print on the back of your company swag will not be the same values that inform your work unless you intentionally make it so it’s time to get conscious and make a culture shift.
Your Leaders Should Model Your Values
From day one
As your managers or executives onboard new employees to their various teams, how do they introduce these rookies to your way of doing business? If your onboarding consists of a bunch of handouts that say nice things on them, you’re missing a grand opportunity to really embed that new employee into your culture. Your leadership team should be aware of ways that top employees are already demonstrating the values on the day-to-day and offer those suggestions to new hires.
Don’t wait until your employees are 6 months in to show them who you are, as a collective. By then, they’ll see whether or not you’re living your values and they’ll have followed suit, for better or worse. If everyone in your company is given a chance to absorb what you want the culture to be, you’ll have a better chance of seeing that ideal culture play out.
Example: One of your values is open, transparent communication. For her first 6 months, your employee Cassie didn’t know this was a core value. She’s been very hush-hush about how her projects are going. If her manager had introduced her to your open-door culture from day one, her insights would be flowing to you, and your feedback would be flowing back to her.
While monitoring deliverables
When your leaders are assessing employee work, capturing examples of greatness, and redirecting mistakes, are they thinking about your values? Leaders who focus on the numbers alone are missing the big picture. How did you arrive at the results you’re analyzing now? If your team members are putting out excellent work at the expense of your values, are the results still excellent?
Example: One of your values is saving the customer every dollar you can. Your sales division has been bringing in a massive uptick in high-dollar accounts. You’re thrilled - until you realize that they’re up-selling these customers on services they don’t need and charging them in excess. Giving performance feedback with these values in mind will redirect this practice.
As a representative
Your leaders represent your company outside your facility. They meet with potential stakeholders, investors, account representatives, vendors, collaborators, and new hires before anyone else. They represent the company at events - as attendees, hosts, and speakers. Their online presence is inextricably linked with the company’s reputation. Do your leaders take this position seriously? Are they value-aligned in everything they do as representatives of your organization?
Example: Lauren is your company’s CMO. She does a lot of keynote speaking at marketing conferences. She knows your company’s core values and makes sure to cross-reference those with her presentation content and her conduct on the circuit. People have come to see Lauren and your company as one, and that’s a great thing.
Your Employees Should Live Your Values
Through their deliverables
Your employees are part of your company to serve a purpose and do a job. What they do and how they do it should absolutely reflect the values of the company. From the procedures and processes they use in a workday to the final deliverable and everything in between, your employees should be checking their approach against what drives your business forward.
Example: Your company values the health and safety of every person - employee and customer - above all else. Your laborers should be checking every solution they engineer against your code of safety and making sure that if the rules aren’t clear, they proceed with the right kind of caution. Your foreman Glenn knows this protocol intimately and monitors his team’s work with safety in mind.
During conflict or disagreement
Not every day in your workplace is easy and problem-free - business just doesn’t work that way. However, your employees will mitigate conflict and collaborate better together if they do so with your values in mind. Companies that value a fast pace and quick decision-making will encourage a different kind of compromise during conflict than a company that prioritizes cross-checking and deep, methodical decision-making. Both have merit, but when in doubt, the values should dictate how conflicts get unblocked.
Example: Jacob and Ethan can’t agree on how to respond to a support ticket. The company values proven research above all else. This fact makes Ethan’s slower but more certain approach the better choice over Jacob’s faster, but a more risky solution.
In customer relations
Many of your employees directly interact with customers and all of your employees do work that will impact the customer. Most companies intrinsically value customer satisfaction but how can you dig deeper to better reflect your entire arsenal of values in every customer touchpoint? How can you make sure each touchpoint is giving your customers the same impression at every step of their buying journey? The answer lies in your values since those should tie everyone’s work together.
Example: A client is asking your account manager, Kelsey, for extra services or support outside the scope of their contract. Clear and concise documentation is of the utmost value for your company - the paper trail matters. Kelsey knows that she can leverage this value to redirect your customer without disappointing them. She’s empowered by your values.
While collaborating externally
Many of your employees will represent your company as they do work with vendors, contractors, affiliates, advertisers, sponsors and more. Much like when they’re dealing with customers, your teams should feel equipped to execute on your company’s values within these relationships. Your values will also help you designate which vendors, affiliates, and partners to work with who best align with your company culture.
Example: Your business development manager Dave has just signed a deal with a new affiliate. Your company and this new affiliate will be cross-promoting products together. Dave knows that your company values transparency above all else, so he’s careful to make sure he gets all the necessary promotional data from this new affiliate, and provide them with the same visibility into your company’s metrics. No curtain left unopened.
Your Culture Should Reflect Your Values
In the atmosphere
The atmosphere of your company should be pleasant and productive - but what that looks like may vary, depending on what you value most. If creativity or congregation are more important to your organization, the atmosphere should be bustling. If you value autonomy and flexibility instead, your atmosphere might be quieter and more separated. There’s no right or wrong answer for all companies - the right answer for your company lies in what you value most.
Example: Claire is confused. She just completed her onboarding to your company and she was told that your values included innovation and communication. However, her first week's post-orientation has been very quiet. She is already feeling that the atmosphere of your office is at odds with your values so she isn’t sure how to act.
One of the most effective ways to create a positive hive-mentality around the importance of your values is to encourage your employees to notice each other living the values. Provide a dropbox - IRL or online - where employees can positively acknowledge their colleagues’ commitment to your values.
Example: One of your company values is staying educated and informed in the industry. Brett catches wind that his colleague Eric is taking webinars and courses after work to learn a new facet of the business. He immediately calls their shared supervisor to praise Eric’s efforts. Eric’s efforts also inspire Brett and a few other colleagues to step up their game.
In all-hands meetings
When everybody comes together, magic happens. Or, at least, it should. An all-hands meeting, company rally, or retreat should be a time when you feel your values and your culture are on fire. Before your next big group meeting, review your values and decide how you can infuse your meeting with those values.
Example: Rachel is a facilities manager hosting an all-hands meeting at your company. One of the company’s core values is perseverance through every challenge. Rachel knows that the company has fallen on a few tough times and anchors her all-hands meeting to persevering. By the end, everyone feels revitalized in their purpose.
In the margins
It’s in the smallest and seemingly least significant moments, that your company decides its future. It is in the ways your employees greet each other, the extra perks you bring to the table, the ways you invest in growth for your team.
Example: The most important value in your company is family. You routinely invest in the families of your employees with childcare stipends, bring-your-dog-to-work days, and gratuitous parent-leave. But you also exercise your values in the small moments. When word spreads that Marc is missing work to mourn the loss of his mother, the company pitches in to send freshly prepared meals to Marc’s family for two weeks straight and his teammates cover his accounts for the duration, to give him more time away.
Are you asserting your culture or are you living it? Are you spreading nice-sounding buzzwords across your site and swag hoping that great values seep into your culture? Instead, make sure to get boots on the ground, survey your people, and make a plan to infuse those values into the work you do and the way you treat each other.
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