What are company values?
It is relatively rare that small and medium sized businesses have clearly written and well communicated values. However, with an increasingly geographically spread workforce, company values, ‘the way things are done around here’, are more important than ever before.
To quote Gino Wickman in his book Traction, Company values are ‘a small set of vital and timeless guiding principles for your company’. They define your business, culture and what makes you different from your competition. When properly defined and articulated, they are what attract the right people to work for your business and repel the wrong people. The same will be true with your clients, but that is a whole separate topic, for now I will focus on your people.
Properly defining your values is not a task to be done on the back of a fag packet! For the values to be robust, accurate and credible their development should involve people from all levels of your business and might include external partners such as a business coach or accountant, as well as managers and staff.
Once properly defined and fully embedded within a business, your values will help your decision making around the hiring, managing, inspiring and firing of your staff. From interview questions and company policies through to pay strategy and disciplinary procedures, once your values are established and understood, they become the foundations which underpin your business.
How do we identify our values?
As mentioned above, this should be an inclusive process and may take a couple of iterations to get right. Here is one process which would work:
- Ask all your relevant stakeholders to right down 5 – 10 things which make your business different.
- Group these together and remove duplication
- Put the amalgamated list together and ask your stakeholders to identify the top 5 which best describe your business
- Consolidate these so that you have a ranked order of descriptors.
- You are ideally looking for 3 – 7 values, so start at the top and work down defining what each of the first 7 values look like internally and externally.
- You may feel that once you have 4 or 5, you have a set of values which accurately reflect the business and enable anyone to ‘get it’.
It is important to remember that you may have one or two of the same values as other businesses, but it is the combination of your values which makes you unique.
Being able to define each value in terms of both internal and external indicators is really important. If you can’t define both, then it is not a value and drops off the list to be replaced by the next one down.
Why do they matter more now then ever before?
At a time when you may not see your managers and staff in person and are communicating my email, text, zoom and chat rooms, making sure that people are still engaged with and delivering to your standards is vital. You need to have confidence in your team and know that they are doing things the way you want them done. You need to be sure your customers are getting the best possible levels of service.
By finding ways to reinforce your values on a daily or weekly basis, you are strengthening your culture and your staff engagement levels. You will be improving your customer experience and securing your business.
If you need to recruit while in lockdown, you can ensure you have the right people by recruiting to your values. You can train them, in line with your values and you can evaluate them based on their delivery against your values. You need your staff to ‘get it’. You need them to embrace your way of doing things so that everything they do reinforces your company values and upholds your brand, even when you are not there to manage them.