In recent years, we’ve heard a lot of buzz about company “core values” – you may have seen them in job postings, social media content, or highlighted throughout businesses websites. If you have not jumped on the trend and identified official company values at your firm yet, we recommend that you do so. Primarily, these core values offer you a blueprint for building company culture – an extremely valuable asset. As said by Arnie Malham in his book, Worth Doing Wrong, “It takes a lot of work to build the right culture, but it’s worth the work, because if you don’t get culture right, you’re going to fail. If however, you do build and sustain a culture that works, you will almost certainly succeed.” We agree with Malham on this wholeheartedly – focusing on culture pays off. Defining core values is a step in the right direction towards building a robust and consistent company culture.
So, What Are Core Values?
Core values are the beliefs, philosophies, and principles that drive your business; they are the genetic coding that determines how your firm operates, both internally and within your community. For example, cj Advertising’s core values are: Create, Collaborate, Communicate. These are things that we truly honor – creating the highest quality and most innovative advertisements in the Personal Injury industry, collaborating across departments to deliver outstanding service to our clients, and communicating openly and effectively both with our team and with those outside of cj that we work with. These values guide the decisions that we make when it comes to things like providing our team members with remote-work supplies that make collaboration feasible and communicating leadership decisions with the team honestly and regularly.
How to Choose Core Values
Core values need to come from the top. As an owner or CEO, it is your job to define company culture, not to let the culture be determined haphazardly over time. Think about the core beliefs that guide your day to day life and why you hold those beliefs. In Worth Doing Wrong, Arnie Malham writes about how he used defining moments in his life to determine his core values. He says, “We all believe what we believe for a reason. Ask yourself what you think your core values are. Then ask yourself why. If the stories flow easily, those are your core values.” Do this exercise and really put some time into it. Then, once you have determined your core values, think about how these could be applied to your company. When you share the core values with the team, tell them the stories about what made these values so powerful for you. This will not only make them more memorable for the team but it will also make it easier for them to think about how they can apply the values in day-to-day life at the office.
If you need some additional inspiration, think about some companies that you love and that seem to have consistent and value-based messaging. Chances are, these companies will have clearly defined core values that you can access on their websites. Additionally, you will likely be able to see how they use these core values to determine the way that they function and make themselves more compelling to consumers. Use these examples as a springboard for brainstorming some of the things that matter to you deeply.
Taking on all responsibility for determining core values as the founder/owner/CEO can seem like a daunting task. We understand that it is tempting to try and put this off on the team, making the process a more collaborative effort. However, you need core values to be permanent – something that will last even through team turnover. You need to actively choose your culture, not take a backseat and hope for the best in letting your hires choose the culture for you.
Implementing Core Values Into Culture
Now that you’ve determined core values, it’s time to think about incorporating them into daily life at the office. Here are some ways to ensure that your core values always stay top of mind:
- Visual displays: Print out posters, paint a mural, or create swag materials that incorporate the core values. If you have a slideshow or display board in your office, make sure they are featured here.
- Team recognition: Whenever you recognize team members, whether it be in a weekly huddle or in a thank you note, tie your recognition back into a core value. Did they create a beautiful product or new opportunity? Communicate especially well with a client? Say so!
- Performance reviews: In your quarterly or annual reviews with team members, use the core values as a framework for your conversations.
- Book club: If your office has a book club, have participants think about and discuss ways in which the books that they read tie into the core values.
- Monthly focus: Pick a core value to focus on each month. For example, November could be “Create” month. Highlight especially good examples of team members embodying this core value, host a “create” themed craft-making happy hour, or have the team get together at a catered lunch to discuss what “create” means to them and how they incorporate it into their role at the firm.
- New hires: When making decisions about candidates, think about who best fits into the value-based culture that you have established.
- Community campaigns: Choose to support initiatives that also tie into your core values. Highlight this connection throughout the campaign!
Determining and implementing core values at your firm will take hard work. However, we can assure you that the resulting culture will be stronger, more consistent, and will produce better results. If you have strong core values at your firm and ways that you incorporate them into day-to-day life, we’d love to hear about it! We are also here to help if you need some guidance in choosing and implementing core values at your personal injury firm or determining how to include core values in marketing material. Reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll get you connected with one of our experienced team members.