“Culture is a consequence of a company’s values.”

– Charles Day, Founder of Looking Glass


Let’s discuss your organizational values, which I believe are the foundation of your company culture. While values are often dismissed as some philosophical B.S., they may be the single most important cultural mechanism within a company.

Why are they important?

  • They describe how work gets done, which is just as important as what gets done.
  • They define how your staff should interact with the organization, customers, and peers. In the previous blog, we defined culture as a mindset or attitude that manifests itself internally. Values – and more importantly the behaviors associated with them – are how you demonstrate that mindset.
  • Values also guide decision making at all levels of the organization – who gets hired or fired, how to respond in a crisis or day-to-day event, and even what new products or services get created.

While many companies have values, the problem with them is often that:

  • The values are outdated, so they don’t resonate with the younger workers who are dominating companies today.
  • They are not promoted, seen, or utilized, so often employees don’t know they exist.
  • There are too many values, so employees are not sure what is most important.
  • The values are vague: they must have associated behaviors that are observable and measurable.
  • Company leaders do not support the values with their beliefs, words, and actions.

So, what can you do to refresh or rebuild your company values?

To begin with, plan on crafting just four values, because you can add more later on as people accept and begin to own the first four. I always recommend that companies involve the team in the process so that they take ownership in the updated values. Utilize an online survey or put together some small focus groups to help brainstorm the values. For each value, include two or three observable and measurable behaviors that will bring it to life.

Here is a quick example of a value and some tangible behaviors:

  • Value:
    • Be Creative
  • Behaviors:
    • Be open to new ideas, technology, and people
    • Engage in constructive disagreements that lead to the best outcome

Once your values are defined, incorporate them across the organization into key employee experience mechanisms, including:

  • Selection Process
  • Orientation
  • Performance Appraisals
  • Recognition
  • Leadership Expectations

Lastly, you must ensure your managers understand the values as well as the behaviors associated with them. After all, managers need to walk the talk and lead by example. Take the time to review the values and behaviors with them, and then give managers time to adopt the newly crafted ideals. I highly recommend making the rollout and ongoing promotion of the values a leadership expectation.

Company values are not just some philosophical B.S. They support the ability to work ethically, grow easily, and make decisions appropriately. Your values are the foundation of your employee experience and of the company’s success.

Thanks for reading my blog. If you’d like a comprehensive look at the Culture Hacker Methodology, then check out my book. Also, for best practices and insights from today’s cutting-edge leaders in company culture, check out the Culture Hacker Podcast on iTunes.