It’s Not the Soft and Squishy Stuff: Making Values a Valuable Company Asset

Companies like IBM, GE and Disney, where decision-making is based on strong values, rather than simply the bottom line, have a better corporate culture and more satisfied employees.   And more satisfied, engaged employees definitely have a positive impact.  According to Towers Perrin, companies with high employee engagement had a 19 percent increase in operating income and almost a 28 percent growth in earnings per share.

If your company’s values are not truly lived by each and every employee, have been developed just to check the box, are pushed aside for the sake of revenue, or are constantly changing, then you may as well not have them.

Here are some things to think about when crafting or refreshing your company’s values.

Make them distinctive.  Analyze the fundamental beliefs of your organization to create a list of core values.  This list should help tell the company’s story and explain what it stands for.  Values should differentiate you from the competition the same way a good brand positioning does.  Do you think Marriott and Airbnb have the same values?

Be authentic.  Only sincere and actionable values tied to your company’s vision and mission will make an impact. If a company can’t deliver on its values, they become meaningless.  Disney employees go through a training course to learn the value of making people happy and how to do it.

Crowdsource .  Receive input from all levels of employees, not just senior executives.  If employees help define these concepts, the results will be stronger, both in terms of the values and the unity of the company.  IBM is famous for using an all-employee “web jam” to help develop values that really mean something to the entire organization.

Limit yourself.    A laundry list of a dozen or so values is too long and not focused.  At the10company, we plainly state four values: commitment, collaboration, responsiveness, and passion.  They form the backbone of our company and are integral to the way our agency works.

Think inside and outside.   Make them meaningful to your clients/customers as well as to your employees.  Done right, values create a positive corporate culture leading to greater internal effectiveness, a stronger performance, and a superior experience for the customer.  For example, IBM’s values are: dedication to every client’s success; innovation that matters, and trust and personal responsibility in all relationships.  They remain relevant as the company transitions in the face of new technological developments and new markets.

Walk the talk. All work products, behaviors, and communication should demonstrate the core values.  Senior executives must ensure that these concepts are truly at the heart of all decisions.  At GE, if performance is lacking but an employee adheres to the company’s values, they will work with that employee to improve performance.  If you are a star performer, but don’t have the company values, you are out.

Model and reinforce behavior.   Employees must become emotionally connected to the company’s values.  Storytelling is a key way to show employees what they look like in practice. Align company performance reviews and award programs to the values you want to see dictate behavior and action.

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