How Do You Identify and Communicate Company Core Values?

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Company culture is not something that happens overnight. It takes time, but it also takes thought and strategy. That can all start by defining some company core values. Company values add guidance, purpose, and inspiration for every person in your organization. Think of them like your company’s North Star!

After five years, the team at Personio decided it was time to revisit our company core values and roll out our very own ‘Personio Code.’ Here’s what we learned and what we want to share with you concerning your company values…

Before We Begin: Have you considered downloading our complete guide to Corporate Culture?

What Are Company Core Values?

Put simply, values are what your company stands for above all else. Values are engrained principles by which your company operates. They’re how people within your company work, collaborate, and perceive themselves.

The first consideration you need to make is understanding the difference between a value and a goal. While goals change over time, due to competitors or market changes, company values should only change when an organization decides to reevaluate them.

Ultimately, the importance of company core values is that they serve as an authentic reflection of your company’s culture. That includes both where it is and where you might want to take it.

Values ​​reduce uncertainty when making decisions and thus ensure that employees can concentrate better on their tasks.

Andrea Strohmayr, Culture & Change specialist, Culture by Design

That’s why values should never be for vanity or copied from a competitor. They need to come about naturally, from within your team and as part of your organizational development.

Your Employees Deserve To Feel Heard

Feedback illustration

Using regular feedback, you can realize the full potential of your employees and motivate them with ease. Personio is here, every step of the way, to support you in establishing the best processes possible.

Is It Time To Assess Your Core Values?

Now that you know the importance of core values in a company, when is the best time to interrogate or determine your company core values? 

When big internal changes occur, this can often be one of the most impactful reasons to examine your company values and how they are lived on a day-to-day basis. 

One example of this is as a company scales. When a company grows, and new employees flood in, how can you ensure that they not only understand but share the same values? 

At the same time, when you have a high staff turnover rate, it may be a good opportunity to revisit, reestablish, or build your values from the ground up. 

Company Values Examples: The Personio Code

After five years, and having grown to over 500 employees in multiple countries over that short amount of time, 2020 presented the perfect opportunity to revisit what makes our culture great. 

In fact, that’s what often attracts people to Personio in the first place. The majority of new applicants cited Personio’s culture as a key reason for applying and joining the company. 

“100% of our new joiners state that our corporate culture is one of the reasons why they decided to apply to Personio,” said Cassandra Hoermann, Team Lead Employer Brand & Culture.

So, we needed to dig deep and continue to finetune what makes us great. That started from the very top, with our CEO and Founder, Hanno Renner. 

It was his idea to take our company core values we established in 2017 and host a company-wide conversation, with a specific focus on employees, to ensure we’re still living those values (or if they needed changing). 

Along the way, Culture by Design helped support Personio in identifying and expanding on our values so everyone in the organization could identify with them.

Onboard Your Employees Efficiently & Effectively

Onboarding_Checklist_TitleFrom the moment an employee starts, they need to understand what your company values and how they can play their part. That can all begin with a structured, efficient, and clear onboarding process to help ensure your employees are off to the best start possible. Our checklist can make the difference.

Defining Core Values In 5 Easy Steps

Using Personio as an example, here’s how we handled the step-by-step process to identify and sharpen our company core values…

1. Define Your Current Values

If you’re trying to figure out how to define the core values of a company, it starts by analyzing the day-to-day. More specifically, what values are currently being lived in an organization.

Find out for yourself:

  • How do employees act? 
  • What are they proud of? 
  • Does that coincide with current company values? 

Models, like the cultural web model, can help, but starting with the status quo is also very revealing. That’s why it helps to give current employees the chance to discuss the company. 

Data and input from every level of the organization can help ensure you’re getting an accurate reflection of your current company core values. 

That’s exactly what we did at Personio. As Cassandra puts it, “the goal of our workshop was to collect extensive data [and] we had to find a reasonable format for this.”

2. Choose A Productive Setting

In the words of Andrea Strohmayr, “values are a very emotional topic…that’s why we decided on a co-creation workshop with a lot of storytelling. In this way, the process already contributed to filling the newly sharpened values with life.” 

As the team went through the process, things changed quickly. The rise of COVID-19 meant that the workshop could not take place in the office as planned. 

Instead, the team set up a five-hour online workshop. This required more preparation but also resulted in a more organized process.

3. Include The Right People

Because people end up living your company’s core values, it’s important that they remain as active as possible throughout the process. 

Corporate values ​​are not something you think up in the C-suite. They are a collaborative process with the employees.

Stephanie Berger, Culture by Design

A total of 40 people took part with representatives from every location and department. The result was varied representation at every level.

4. Rely On Listening & Storytelling

In a recent study by Glassdoor, 65% of over a thousand participants stated that they were more motivated and more committed thanks to an attractive company mission (2019). 

But, a strong culture needs moving and engaging stories. Stephanie Berger mentions that “it was important for us to get a feel for people, so we let them tell stories about Personio. Things they experienced together, and the things that defined Personio for them.”

To help facilitate discussions, participants in online workshops always exchanged ideas in smaller groups (what we called “breakout rooms”). It was the stories shared there that helped convey the essence of Personio.

5. Define Your Company’s DNA

With all these collected materials, Andreas and Stephanie used them to formulate the core values that could be discerned through the stories people told. 

“Personio already has an incredibly strong culture, so we only had to make small adjustments. We also wanted to know whether there were additional values ​​that had not yet been defined – here, for example, the value transparency came to light.”

However, values should never stand alone. They deserve to be partnered with working examples to help bring them to life. This results in a list of specific behaviors that was created to serve as an orientation aid for present and future employees.


How Do You Live Your Company Core Values?

It’s not enough to simply talk about what your company values, or to even write it down. Values must be lived, every single day. That’s the importance of core values in a company. Not that they simply exist, but that they are feasible, actionable, and lived by every employee. 

When you look at a company that has a very successful and strong culture, that’s because nothing has been left to chance. Everything is done thoughtfully and with purpose. 

That’s because, ultimately, culture is reflected in the day-to-day activities, priorities, and overall tone of a company. 

Company’s Value Examples: 12 Popular Values For Inspiration

So, what core values should all great companies possess? Below, we’ve listed some company core values samples to help you get started. 

These are all good core values for a company to have. Remember, though, that company core values are authentic reflections of your culture. 

They can’t be forced, and they need to happen organically, so be mindful of the fact that the ones you choose need to both be aspirational and reflections of your current atmosphere. 

  • Trust
  • Autonomy 
  • Passion 
  • Enthusiasm 
  • Innovation
  • Teamwork 
  • Diversity 
  • Satisfaction
  • Experience 
  • Growth 
  • Responsiveness
  • Stewardship

How many core values should a company have? That’s up to your culture! Remember, though, that employees need to be able to remember what your company values. 

If you choose 100 values, you’re asking a lot of your employees to remember each and every one (and to live them appropriately). Values need to be impactful, but they also need to be memorable.

How Personio Lives Its Core Values

“We took Personio’s fifth birthday as an opportunity to present our revised Values and Operating Principles to our employees — as the ‘Personio Code.’” says Cassandra. 

If you’re looking for some company values examples, we’ll help by starting that conversation! 

Here’s what makes up Personio’s company core values and how we live them every day: 

  • #CustomerEmpathy – We are always putting in the research to better understand our customers, their problems, and how we can help them. 
  • #Ownership – Everyone, across the organization, is encouraged to own their projects and their success (by setting clear goals).
  • #Transparency – Whether with our all-team meeting or other internal updates, everyone at Personio knows the “why” behind all of our decision-making.
  • #TeamSpirit – We believe heavily in supporting one another whenever we can and making ourselves available to our colleagues.
  • #Social Responsibility – There’s no ‘Planet B’ for us, and things like our sustainability committee help ensure we leave the world a better place than we found it. 
  • #Fun – Because work should be fun! We want to celebrate success and progress, as a team, to encourage people to always do their best. 

When it comes to recruiting at Personio, being a cultural fit is absolutely key. Our onboarding processes are designed in a way that all new employees are exposed to our values from the very outset. 

“We end every all-hands with an employee telling us a particular example of one of our values ​​or an operating principle. Basically, how this value was applied in a specific case,” explains Cassandra.

Stephanie and Andrea also noted that Personio employees truly live the company core values. “We saw how great the enthusiasm was for the workshop. The employees were proud to be part of the team and they told their stories with passion. That made our work a lot easier.”

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