How Do You Identify and Communicate Company Core Values?

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While company values may not take hold overnight, they can play a decisive role in shaping your company culture down the road. How, by adding guidance, purpose, and inspiration for every person in your organization. In this article, we offer a guide into shaping company values based on how our team at Personio did it. We hope you enjoy the read!

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What Are Company Values?

Company values are your company’s North Star. They are the values, principles, or overarching philosophies that employees of all levels should look toward when making decisions or acting in the interests of your organization. In short, they are how your people operate, collaborate, or perceive themselves at work.

How Do You Define Core Values?

The first thing to do is distinguish a value from a goal. While goals change over time, due to competition or changes in the market, company values should only change when an organization decides to reevaluate them.

Why Do Company Values Matter?

Company values matter because they serve as an authentic reflection of your company culture. They also define the terms of how your employees work with one another, how they work against the competition, and even how they work with or serve your clients or customers. They matter because they affect almost every working relationship.

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

How Do You Come Up With Company Values?

Here’s the first rule: Never copy them from a competitor. Even if it sounds great, or is completely accurate, you won’t get anywhere by cribbing values from the competition. They need to come about naturally, and from within your team, as part of your overall organizational development strategy.

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When Should You Define Your Company Values?

There are essentially three triggers that may require defining, redefining, or revisiting your company values. These include:

When you don't have themIf you have never put time into crafting company values, now is the time to start defining and articulating them.
When you grow rapidlyAs your organization expands, and new people join, you may need to revisit what drives your culture.
When attrition rates are highIf staff turnover is becoming an issue, you may need to revisit or re-analyze what your company values.

Best Practice: Whenever big changes occur, it may be time to redefine or reshape your company values. Think of it as a good time to ‘reset’ and think about how you want your company perceived moving forward.

Company Values Example: 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 Personio’s 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, People Experience.

So, we needed to dig deep and continue to finetune what makes us great. That started from the very top, with 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 Personio is still living those values (or if they needed changing).

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

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The Five Steps That Help Define Your Company Values

Let’s take Personio’s processes as an example, to illustrate the step-by-step process to identify and sharpen company values in your own organization…

1. Define 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? How would your own employees characterize their everyday actions at work.
What are they proud of? What makes your employees get up in the morning and do their best work throughout the day.
Does that coincide with current company values? Is everything aligned with your current values and how employees act and feel?

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.”

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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.

Basically, you want an environment that is:

  • Collaborative – Everyone has the chance to feel included and to weigh in.

  • Honest – People are expected and encouraged to be honest (without repercussions).

  • Iterative – Ideas are able to be explored time and again, not once and never again.

  • Productive – There need to be concrete outcomes from any workshop that can be celebrated.

Let the ‘CHIP’ model guide you when it comes to choosing the right setting for any company values workshop that your organization might be planning.

3. Include The Right Stakeholders

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.

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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.

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 Do You Make Your Company Values Real?

“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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