When you started your company, chances are you took the time to write a mission statement laying out what you wanted to do and who you wanted to do it for. You may have also written a purpose statement describing why you wanted to do what you wanted to do. Together, a mission statement and a purpose statement are important strategic planning documents for any company to live and grow by, but they’re not always enough. Many companies find it beneficial to create a third document outlining their corporate values.
Your corporate values should be in line with both your mission statement and purpose statement, but will likely add to both by creating a concrete list of the principles that matter most to your executive team and your employees. Corporate values emerge from the principles that are most important to the people who work for you. If your own values are not in line with the people that you’ve hired, you’ll need to do some serious re-assessing of your hiring practices.
If well-integrated into your business, your corporate values should underpin your internal company culture as well as the way you interact with other businesses and your customers. On their website, Coca-Cola states that their values serve as a compass for their actions and describe how they behave in the world. Similarly, Kellogg writes on their website that values are a part of their DNA, and guide how they work with their business partners and each other.
If you selected an employee at random in your business and asked them what your corporate values are, what would they say? Do you think you’d be happy with the answer? Or do you think they’d even be able to give you an answer?
It’s Never too Late, Here’s Where to Start
It’s never too late to establish principles for your company, so if you don’t have them yet, here’s a good method for defining corporate values:
1. First, decide whether or not you’re committed to running a values-based company.
Focusing on values, whatever those values may end up being, could potentially have a negative impact on your bottom line in the short run. Be prepared to defer profits in order to create a culture that places principal over profit.
2. Assemble a list of your executive team’s personal values.
Make sure to write down your own values, as well. Try to use single words or short phrases to create a list of the values that are most important to you in your own life. Do you value community, or is independence more important to you? Do you wish you lived a greener life, or do you wish you could help a greater number of people? Find out what the key people who work for you care about, and share that information amongst yourselves.
3. Next, find out what all of your employees value.
Create a master list of the values that your employees personally cherish the most. Assess whether your employees’ values are in line with your own, and determine which values your employees feel most strongly about.
4. Once you know what matters most to everyone in your organization, create a final succinct list of your values and share them with everyone in the company.
5. Finally, take steps to integrate your core values into everything you do.
Operations, materials, sales, and especially HR should all incorporate the values that you and your employees have identified as important.