In fact, here’s a quick experiment to try if your organization already has core values. Ask a few of your colleagues what they think their purpose is. Some common answers you might hear include:
The problem with core values is that we often get stuck thinking about them in conceptual ways. Sure, all of these answers might technically be correct – but they really don’t explain why core values are important in the first place.
Don’t worry though, our team has put together five clear-cut reasons why core values matter, backed up by years of research and experience living with them.
Take away all of the jargon and grandiose concepts, and you’ll find that there are at least five practical reasons for your organization to have core values.
Core values can give your business a competitive edge by emphasizing what your team does better than any of your competitors. Your customers might be able to get similar products or services from other places, but they will come to you because of these differentiating factors.
This is also a great way to build your brand, because eventually you will be known for the qualities that your team displays. Your internal core values will become interwoven with your brand promise, and will come to be expected by your customers.For example, the home furniture company IKEA has core values such as “Humbleness and willpower,” “Cost-consciousness,” and “Constant desire for renewal.” You might not have known these core values before, but if you’ve ever shopped at IKEA they will likely ring true for you as a customer. These are the qualities that make products from IKEA different from their competitors and set their business apart in the marketplace.
Once your organization has a set of established core values, it becomes much easier to hire people who are a good fit for your team. Without these qualities explicitly listed out, your HR department might not know exactly what they should be looking for. If that’s the case, it can be easy for them to make the mistake of hiring someone who is not a good cultural fit for your company.
For example, Barnes & Noble Booksellers has core values such as “Quality,” “Empathy,” “Respect,” “Integrity,” and “Teamwork.” If an individual applying for a job there emphasizes that they have personal core values like being fast, bold, and having a passion for winning, then the Hiring Manager would know that they are not necessarily a good fit.
How should employees act when there is a problem in the workplace? What should they do if they see an opportunity? How do you want them to communicate when they are speaking with a customer?
Clear and concise core values can answer these types of questions and give employees a resource to guide their behaviors and actions in the workplace. For example, here at Outback we have core values like, “Always Be Open and Honest,” “Always Be Self-Accountable,” and “Always Put the Customer First.” So, if an employee here were to make a mistake for a customer, they would know that they should admit that they made a mistake, own up to the consequences, and look for a way to make it right.
This is hugely beneficial when it comes time for performance reviews, because managers are able to point to clear examples of where employees lived up to the core values, and where there’s room for improvement.
People who all share the same core values tend to get along better, which makes for a more successful workplace culture. On the flipside, if you have people who are not a good core value fit, then it can make things more challenging.
For example, two of the most important core values at the cable news organization CNN are “Speed” and “Accuracy.” By emphasizing these two qualities, the employees at CNN are naturally inclined to hold each other accountable for these standards, and develop mutual trust based on how often these traits are displayed. How long do you think someone who is slow and sloppy would last in this sort of environment?
Having core values can help you establish the type of culture you want, and set a baseline for new employees.
The main thing that aligns your team is the purpose of your business. It’s the shared reason that you and your colleagues come to work every day. Here at Outback, our purpose is to build relationships through memorable experiences.
But what you might not realize is that core values are what support and drive that purpose. They give everyone – no matter their job title or department – something in common: a framework for what they should be focusing on; guidelines for the decisions they make; and a set of standards for the way they should be interacting with your customers, as well as each other.
With core values, you’re all following the same playbook, driving towards the same results.
Book your free consultation to speak with an Employee Engagement Consultant about how our team can help define your organization's core values.