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Values and culture are the foundation upon which your entire business is built. Your company values will directly influence your company culture, impacting every decision you make as a business. Defining clear and cohesive values will help align your entire organization — from entry-level to senior management — unifying employees as a team and ensuring that your company is working toward the same bigger purpose. Here are four steps to help this process.
Step 1: Define
Values will help your company make decisions and drive your brand, culture and reputation. Start these crucial conversations by exploring why your business exists and its purpose. Take the time to get the answers to these questions just right. Make a list of what is important to you and what is essential to your customers. Hopefully, you’ll be able to see where these goals intersect and use this as a starting point for developing your company values.
My software company has several values specific to our clients (customer service, data protection, personal connection) and several particular values specific to how our business operates (automation and organic growth). Every decision is based on what’s best for our client’s experience instead of making a board or investor-based decision. Your values will (and should) be unique to your business, customers and future goals.
Internally, company values should not be a decision made in a leadership vacuum but should involve employees at all levels of the organization. Depending on the size of your company, this could be a cross-functional, representative small group of individuals or your entire team.
Step 2: Align
Purpose, goals and values are vital to attracting and retaining the right employees and overall employee satisfaction. Building a long-lasting and motivating workplace that drives results starts with your core values. Start at the top and prioritize a leadership team that aligns with your company values. It is quality over quantity in this situation.
When building your team or hiring new employees, share your company values; ideally, they will become a core piece of your brand and reputation. Values should be well-known and referenced often, and candidates should know your company values before joining the team. They’ll learn about your values through your website and job postings before an interview. During the interview process, share your values and frame questions highlighting specific values so you can accurately evaluate candidates.
Your current employees should also have access to company values and understand them to best perform their jobs. You’ll want to ensure internal values can align with company values in one way or another to create a team working toward the same end goal.
Step 3: Share
Once you’ve clearly defined your company values, consider publishing them as a final step to hold your company and your team accountable. Write them down, pay close attention to your words and phrasing, and post them. You might consider a version of this document internal to your company — more descriptive and tactical — as well as a public-facing document that might live on your website. Not only will these serve as a reminder to hold your company accountable, but they will also show your customers and external audiences that you have made this formal commitment.
Step 4: Maintain
It can be helpful to reevaluate your company values every few years as you continue to define and adapt your goals. When company values are at your company’s core, you will find yourself referencing them daily and thinking about how your conversations, decisions, and actions are related to your values. If this isn’t the case, it might be time to reevaluate.
If you face conflict or are in a battle of making decisions that don’t align with your values, it’s time to either rethink your actions or your values. Keep your values straightforward, so every plan or decision can be contrasted with the value before proceeding.
There are always sexy, modern ways of developing or designing in the software industry. It’s difficult for our development team not to get excited about every new practice or technique they hear about. Because client experience is one of our company’s core values, we regularly ask ourselves: will this truly improve our clients’ experience, or is this just a trendy new way to design a feature? If we ever find that the overall client experience might suffer, we choose a plan of action that suits our clients’ needs instead.
Whether you’re creating a new company or have been running a business that needs a refresh, make it a regular practice to assess your core values and how you are honoring them as a company. Your values will define your brand and what drives it toward success. Not only will you find improved employee and customer satisfaction, but you’ll likely see a positive impact on your bottom line.