Why Excellence, Quality and Integrity Are Not Core Values
Integrity. Hard-work. Customer satisfaction. Are these terms concise and consequential? Or generic and mostly meaningless? When considering them in the context of core values, the answer might surprise you. As laudable as all three are as concepts, as a set of core values they fall pretty flat. For one thing, they’re everywhere! How many companies have you worked for that listed some variation of one of those as a core value? And as a consumer, how many times have you had a consistently terrible experience with a company’s service only to find that “customer satisfaction” is apparently one of the driving forces of its culture?
Core values are something that every company’s got (or if they don’t, they should) but very few understand how to choose, making them incredibly difficult to actually live up to. Which is why core values as a whole have gotten a fairly bad rap over the past decade. If done well, they can serve as invaluable guidance for major company decisions, hiring processes and future planning. When done poorly, they often lead to confusion among management and eye-rolling from disenchanted employees, or end up getting ignored completely. Unfortunately, despite the potential impact most companies still end up doing them pretty poorly.
If your organization is in the process of reinventing itself and redefining your core values, here are three key ideas to keep in mind as you go through the process:
Make Them You
First and foremost, your core values must reflect you as a company. And we mean the real you, not the you you wish you were or the you you hope you might become in a few years. Core values aren’t a dream journal for your company’s professional aspirations, they’re the foundational concepts that drive the heart of why you do what you do in the way you do it. To that end, make sure the people defining your core values are the ones who actually understand the company. Sourcing your core values from a company-wide survey of employees that may have been hired a week ago or are planning to quit in a month is never a good idea.
Make Them Unique
Let’s be honest, there are a lot of organizations out there that do essentially the same thing as their competitors. But even if the end result is similar, the means to get there are always going to be slightly different. Figure out what truly makes your company unique and be bold enough to let your core values reflect that. Distilling the language down into something more generally palatable might seem like the safest move, but ultimately it’s going to hurt your company’s image in the long run. People are less likely to trust or want to work for a company whose values read like a bad infomercial for corporate America. Understand what sets your company apart from the crowd and embrace it unapologetically.
Make Them Actionable
Ostensibly, once you’ve defined your core values you should then apply them throughout all levels of the company. From the customer service to the management structure to the hiring process, your core values should serve as a guiding principle to help inform how your organization operates. If, however, your core values are so intangible that they can’t feasibly be translated into meaningful, real-life results, they aren’t going to fulfill their intended purpose.
Struggling with crafting your core values? Don’t hesitate to reach out through the form below, or check out our blog for more information on how your brand affects your company.