5 Steps to Create Effective Corporate Values

5 Steps to Create Effective Corporate Values
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Smart Leaders Create Effective Corporate Values

If you want a high performance culture, a great place to start is to create effective corporate values that support and foster your strategies, your employees, your stakeholders, your customers, and, ultimately, your business.

Effective Corporate Values Done Right
Done right, effective corporate values are powerful drivers of how employees think and behave. Done wrong, corporate values are fodder for sarcasm and hypocrisy.

And organizational values, well chosen, are right at the heart of the strategic planning process because they help you to make tough decisions, cascade your core beliefs, define your desired performance behaviors, attract and select talent that fits, and align your culture with your strategy.

Attributes of Effective Corporate Values
As you seek to define your values, know that, to be effective cultural guideposts, corporate core values must be:

  • Few (3 to 5 are best)
  • Simply stated
  • Easily understood
  • Reflect the desired traits of desired current and future employees

Steps to Create Effective Corporate Values
Here is how to begin to make sure that you define and live core values in a way that makes sense for your strategy, culture, and talent.

  1. Review Your Current Values
    Along with assessing your current workplace culture, the first step to creating corporate values that matter is typically to review existing values with key stakeholders to understand what each current value looks like in action and to agree upon how to best involve employees going forward.

    This current state analysis forms the foundation for successful change.

  2. Agree Upon What Matters Most
    Assemble your team of high performers and think carefully about what drew you to them. As a group, what do you admire about each other? What behaviors, attitudes, and team norms do you share that the success of the business really depends on?

    Then think about what qualities you want to see in the employees you hire. Write them down.

  3.  Evaluate Your Values as a Team
    Do your corporate values resonate with everyone? Do they highlight your strengths as a company? Sift through the list until you have no more than five.  Then ask if they are easily understood and succinctly expressed.

    Determine if they are core values being currently lived or aspirational values necessary to get to where you want to go.

  4. Test The Longevity and Relevance of Your Corporate Values
    Flesh out why each value matters and how you will live it day-by-day in your business. Discuss and agree upon the specific consequences for not living the values.  Then determine if they will pass the test of time — ideally at least three to five years.
  5. Put Your Corporate Values to the Test
    Assign members of the executive team to be “keepers of the values.” Keep values that are being lived, and challenge the practicality of keeping ones that are aspirational only.

    For aspirational values that are aligned with your strategy and where you want to go as a corporate culture, put specific plans in place to reward the desired values and to weed out traits, attitudes, actions, and behaviors that go against those values.

Examples of Corporate Values

  • Zappos
    The number one value at Zappos, the online retailer, is “Deliver WOW Through Service.”  The company believes in providing the “wow” in every customer interaction and only hires employees who commit to that core value.  They must genuinely delight in giving superior service every time.

    This belief is 100% aligned with their brand promise, business strategy and talent plan.

  • Southwest Airlines
    Southwest Airlines calls it “Living the Southwest Way.”  Their values include Warrior Spirit, Servant’s Heart, Fun-LUVing Attitude and Work the Southwest Way.  For anyone that has flown Southwest, you know that they behave differently from other airlines.

The Bottom Line
From an employee perspective, you will know you have a values-driven organization when employees know your corporate values, can describe the specific behaviors that represent your values in action, and know that leaders and high performers embody the values on a day-to-day basis.

From a company perspective, you will know you have a values-driven organization when the corporate values are aligned with your business strategy and visibly part of the way you do business internally and externally to all key stakeholders.

To learn more about creating effective corporate values and aligning your culture, download The 3 Levels of Aligning Your Corporate Culture

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