How to create organizational values that spark productivity
Updated: Sep 18
Organizational values can make or break your company culture.
The term company culture can feel as soft and loose as a speed limit on a highway. But the reality is that your culture impacts your ability to achieve business results. It’s what sets your company apart from the sea of competitors and attracts the best talent to come work for you.
One activity of talent optimization is “Establish your culture.” There are various levers you can pull to shape an award-winning culture. One is creating organizational values.
So how do you create core values that will inspire your employees to work at their max capacity day after day?
The answer may lie in your company’s H.E.A.R.T.
H is for history: Start with your mission statement.
“Mission-driven” organizations report 30 percent more innovation and 40 percent higher engagement, according to Deloitte. Before you dive in to write your core values, let’s take a step back and think about why your company exists in the first place.
A good mission statement has three things going for it: clarity, social responsibility, and authenticity.
Clarity: You need to tie your organization’s product or service back to your mission statement. There should be no confusion as to what your company truly cares about.
Social responsibility: According to a Deloitte study, two-thirds of millennials chose their employer because it seemed “mission-driven.” A great mission statement can attract like-minded people.
Authenticity: Both customers and employees can see through the corporate culture fluff if you aren’t constantly working to achieve your organizational mission every day.
Here are some leading examples of companies who follow all three rules:
Google: “Our mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”
Tesla: “To accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.”
Facebook: “Give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected.”
With your mission statement clear and top of mind, let’s start talking about which values will shape the culture you desire.
E is for energy: Organizational values dictate desired behaviors.
While your mission statement articulates your company’s purpose, it’s your core values that dictate the employee behaviors necessary to achieve your strategic business goals. Values are the roadmap that everyone should follow.
Of course, your values must align with your overall strategic plan. If you desire to launch a new market category, you need people with lots of energy. If you want to build a culture of smart risk-taking, create a set of core values around action and drive.
Effective organizational values are less about originality and more about authenticity. Start inward, and think about what values matter to you and the rest of the executive team. What gets you out of bed in the morning? Creating a quality product? Providing exceptional customer service? Using creativity to make a difference in the world?
Another place to get inspiration is from your star performers. What behaviors and attitudes do they exhibit that makes them so impactful? Do they demonstrate accountability? Do they show exceptional leadership even during hard times?
Some other things you should consider when selecting your organizational values:
Degree of hierarchy: Is your company structured with many hierarchical layers to maintain accuracy and precision? Or is it flat to enable innovation? Different organizational structures call for different core values.
Degree of urgency: Do you need to push out projects quickly and react to a constantly changing marketplace? Or is there less need for urgency and prioritization of quality over efficiency?
People or task orientation: Do you put more value in enabling the people in your organizations to drive the company’s performance? Or do you focus on tasks, believing that efficiency and process drive success?
Functional orientation: What functional area of your company do you put an emphasis on? For example, an innovative company may have a core value focused on R&D.
A is for action: Organizational values need to be lived.
Values are little more than words if they’re not enshrined in what your company does. After you’ve chosen your organizational values, put them into action; let them guide business decisions. What this step really boils down to is people.
If you’re encouraging leadership at all levels, encourage more junior team members to insert their opinion without the fear of negative repercussions. Encourage individual contributors to manage up and across.
If your organization decides it’s going to value learning, then it better be ready to invest in people in some pretty visible ways. For example, offer tuition reimbursement and bring experts on-site regularly for professional development.
"Reward employees who exhibit core values to motivate others to follow suit."
For example, HubSpot’s corporate culture includes “taking ownership.” And they take action on this with their J.E.D.I. (Just Effing Does It) AWARD, which goes to an individual or team that drove an important project forward and got great results.
At PI, we reward above-and-beyond performance in special ways. When our car-loving IT support specialist showed teamwork and energy by going above and beyond to help us move offices, we rented him a Lamborghini for the day!
Finally, senior leaders must embrace your organizational values. After all, every employee will look to them to lead by example.
R is for reminders: Display your organizational values proudly.
Your core values need to be visible and communicated often. It’s no good if they’re only brought up in all-company meetings.
Start talking about your values during the hiring process. Share them with new hires in written onboarding materials.
Another easy thing you can do is frame your company’s values and hang them on the wall for employees and visitors to see. Try to be creative with this. Maybe commission a neon sign of your organization’s values.
You can also set up systems, like a designated Slack channel, where both senior leaders and individual contributors can shout out those who embody your organizational values.
List your core values and mission statement on your company’s website. Broadcast them on social media and encourage your followers to tell you what a given value means to them. Make sure they’re referenced on your company Glassdoor page.
However you do it, the point is that you should showcase your company’s culture whenever possible.
T is for talent optimization: Core values help you determine candidate culture fit.
Another activity of talent optimization is “Determine candidate cultural fit.” When you’re crystal clear on your organizational values, communicating your culture to potential employees becomes easier.
Top companies have some of the most ironclad hiring strategies—and that’s because they put culture at the forefront of hiring decisions.
Taking a talent optimization approach, your hiring team must communicate organizational culture to all candidates during the selection process so both sides can determine fit. We recommend appointing one person to the interview team whose sole purpose is to screen candidates using a set of specific interview questions to screen for culture fit.
Why is this such a critical step?
One of the four forces of disengagement is the lack of fit between employee and company culture. On the other hand, employees who strongly identify with the company’s culture and values work harder, put in more discretionary effort, and stick around longer.