(This is the second of a monthly series about Corporate Health, where we examine different methods and ideas for improving efficiency, your company culture, and employee morale.)
Last month, we kicked off this series by examining the “GTD” method for managing your to-do list. This time, we are examining company “core values,” and how they fit into your corporate health.
What are core values? They differ from a company’s mission statement, which traditionally describes what a company does in a specific declaration. The core values describe a select list of guiding principles or beliefs which shape a company culture. For example, this poster hangs in the employee lounge here at Bold Technologies:
These are Bold’s core values. They aren’t just an abstract group of words. If you were to ask, nearly everyone in the company could tell you what our five core values are. They are a permanent and constant part of Bold. In the initial hiring process, they are explained to applicants as part of the job expectation. During quarterly reviews, they are used as a measuring point for performance.
Core values can be simple words embodying a larger definition (as Bold’s are), or larger statements. For example, one of our customers, a full-service monitoring center, lists these core values:
- Honesty and integrity
- Service to the customer above all else
- Do what is right
- Good enough is not good enough; pursue excellence
- Encourage individual initiative and growth
Sometimes, a company’s personality can be seen through their core value choices. Zappos Shoes encourages their employees to “Create Fun and a Little Weirdness” as one of their values. Build-A-Bear Workshop celebrates “Di-bear-sity.” Another of Bold’s customers, Damar Security Systems, shared one of their core values as “No Drama,” a lighthearted description for an important value.
Company core values aren’t arbitrarily picked from a list of desirable attributes. In fact, they are likely qualities already exhibited within your company culture, but never formally recognized. It may take time to figure them out, too! Young companies, especially, need time to explore their corporate culture. In fact, Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh acknowledged his company didn’t develop their core values until six or seven years into their existence.
Core values should be the result of collaboration and introspection. For example, some of Bold’s customers utilized their board of directors to define their core values, while others were developed by owners and management. Damar included their staff in the process to keep a personal feel and encourage employee buy-in. Zappos did as well, using an internal survey to find what values were most meaningful to their staff.
Bold adopted its core values through the guidance of the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS). The leadership team chose a selection of exemplary employees, then listed the qualities they possessed which made them an important asset. From there, they combined and eliminated to whittle the list down to the five most important qualities the company could possess. These became our core values.
So what’s the point of this process? Core values direct the focus of your company. They help you evaluate business processes to make sure they’re in line with your principles. They unite your employees with a better understanding of the company. They can even change the way you do business. After determining their core values, some companies realize they’ve been spreading their service too thin, concentrating on the wrong message, hiring people who don’t represent the same values, etc. As stated in the EOS book Traction, “(Core values) define your culture and who you truly are as people. When they are clear, you’ll find they attract like-minded people to your organization.”
 Gino Wickman, Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business (Texas: Benbella Books, Inc., 2011), 35.