Kate Stark, Director of Brand Strategy at MerchantCantos, shares some thoughts on what makes a good set of company values.
Most of us struggle to recall our company’s values, let alone put them into practice in our behaviour at work.
Why is it so difficult to create something that isn’t instantly forgettable? How do you move beyond the generic (‘Collaboration’, ‘Responsibility’, ‘Customer-centric’) without over-complicating things?
Below we have put together a checklist of the attributes that we’ve found make a good set of values. How do yours measure up?
Good values checklist:
- Be short… but not too short . There is a limit to how much an individual will take on board, remember and use. If it takes a paragraph to explain, it’s probably too complicated to begin with. However, a single word (‘Teamwork’) doesn’t provide much to work with either.
- Have personality . Your values are an opportunity to talk about the more emotional reasons that your people come to work each day – what motivates them and what the company believes in. It should come from the heart.
- Guide behaviour and decision-making . Values should provide clear direction on what to do in day-to-day situations, and what the outcomes of more difficult decisions should be. If they don’t provide steer in relevant situations, they might be too generic – or superficial.
- Mean something on both an individual and collective level . An individual should be able to connect with the values on a personal level, as well as seeing how the collective effort demonstrates them. Everyone should see how their role matters.
- Be real . Values have to be genuine for your organisation both tonally and in terms of your policies, practices and behaviours. The situation on the ground today should be recognisable in the values, and should continue to visibly move towards them.
- Be aspirational . While being true to your organisation today, your values also have an important role in providing something to aim for in the future.
If you think your company values are not adding value, please feel free to get in touch. I would be happy to arrange a chat.