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Organisational Values: Meaning, Examples, Purpose and Creation

In this article, we discuss the importance of setting out strong organisational values. We’ll also give some examples of organisational values from real companies, and share a step-by-step guide to putting your own values together. 

You can download our guide to corporate culture right here.

What Are Organisational Values? 

Organisational values are a set of core beliefs held by an organisation. They act as guiding principles that provide an organisation with purpose and direction and set the tone for its interactions with its customers, employees and other stakeholders. 

Your organisational values should be authentic and unique to your company. They should state clearly how you expect the people who work for you to act and guide them in their decision-making. 

Examples of Organisational Values

Here are some real-world examples of organisational values that companies have adopted…  

Buffer: Six Core Values

The social media scheduling tool Buffer set out its first set of organisational values when it was a small start-up with just ten employees. The company has since experienced substantial growth and updated its values in 2018. 

Currently, the company operates according to six core values

  1. Default to transparency

  2. Cultivate positivity

  3. Show gratitude

  4. Practice reflection 

  5. Improve consistently

  6. Act beyond yourself

Buffer also shares information about how these values shape the way it operates. For example, in the interest of transparency, all of Buffer’s salary and DEI data is public, and its code is open source. 

Kellogg’s: Six Core Values 

The food manufacturing company Kellogg’s has defined six core values that every employee is expected to uphold: 

  1. We act with integrity and show respect

  2. We are all accountable

  3. We are passionate about our business, our brands and our food

  4. We have the humility and hunger to learn

  5. We strive for simplicity 

Each statement also comes with a set of short bullet points that show employees how to take these values on board. 

Google: Ten Things We Know To Be True

Google wrote a list entitled ‘Ten things we know to be true’ when the company was just a few years old — and they revisit it from time to time to make sure it still holds true. 

These ten statements act as a set of corporate values that Google expects its employees to abide by: 

  1. Focus on the user and all else will follow.

  2. It’s best to do one thing really, really well.

  3. Fast is better than slow. 

  4. Democracy on the web works. 

  5. You don’t need to be at your desk to need an answer. 

  6. You can make money without doing evil. 

  7. There’s always more information out there. 

  8. The need for information crosses all borders. 

  9. You can be serious without a suit. 

  10. Great just isn’t good enough.

Each statement comes with an explanatory paragraph, which goes into more detail about how the value applies in the workplace.  

What Is the Purpose of Organisational Values? 

Almost every business leader has certain unwritten values and principles that they expect their employees to embody. But if you don’t set these out in writing, your employees can’t live by them — and your customers and investors won’t be able to see what makes you different from your competition. 

Here are a few benefits of formalising your organisational values:  

  • Sets you apart from your competitors: Organisational values are, by definition, unique to each organisation. They show the public what makes you different and can even give you a competitive advantage.

  • Guides employee decision-making: By clearly defining your organisational values, you can ensure every decision an employee makes is in line with the organisation’s goals and mission.  

  • Attracts like-minded talent: Your organisational values can help you to attract candidates who share the same values and fit the culture of your organisation. Over time, this can help you to build a workforce of like-minded people who will work together towards the organisation’s goals.

  • Attracts customers: Today’s customers like to see that the brands they buy from have values that align with theirs. Publishing your values on your website shows potential customers what you stand for. 

  • Improves employee engagement: Your organisational values give your employees something to believe in and work towards. This makes them feel more connected to your organisation, improving engagement and motivation. 

  • Informs strategic direction: Just as your organisational values should guide any decisions your employees make, they also underpin the major strategic decisions you make about your organisation’s future. 

How To Develop Your Organisational Values

Here are some steps you can take if you’d like to create a set of shared values for your company: 

1. Put a Team Together

To define your organisational values, you’ll first need to gather a team including your CEO, founders, and a few key employees such as HR leaders or managers. It’s important to select people who you feel really espouse your company culture and understand its mission. That way, you can be sure the values you come up with together will be the right ones. 

2. Brainstorm Your Values

Once you’ve assembled your team, it’s time to get together to decide on the values you want to adopt. Many organisational values are beliefs that are strongly held by the company’s leadership team, and which your best employees already embody. 

Here are a few questions to ask yourself to guide your brainstorming sessions: 

  • What is the core purpose of your organisation? 

  • What are your (and your leadership team’s) personal values? 

  • How do you want the world to see your organisation?

  • What behaviours do you want to encourage in your employees?

  • Which values are already embedded in your organisation’s structure, culture and processes? 

3. Distil Your Values Into a Short List

The next step is to take the results of your brainstorming sessions and condense them into a concise and easy-to-understand set of values. 

It’s important not to make your organisational values too long, confusing or ambiguous. They should be easy for your employees to remember and embody in their work. Some companies even choose to create an acronym to help their employees remember their core values.

4. Get Sign-Off From Leadership 

Once you’ve finalised your list, you’ll need to present them to any relevant stakeholders so they can be officially signed off. Be prepared to explain the reasoning behind each value and tweak them according to feedback if necessary. 

How To Communicate Your Organisational Values 

Communicating your organisational values to your employees is much more than just printing them on a poster and displaying it in your staff break room. 

Ultimately, your values should run through every aspect of your organisation, including your hiring practices, your performance management processes and the criteria you use for promotions, rewards, and even redundancies. 

That said, there are certain things you can do to help your employees quickly understand your organisational values and begin using them to guide their work. For example: 

  • Posters, displays and other printed materials: This gives employees regular reminders of your organisational values. Your printed materials will be more effective if they include examples of what each of your values looks like in practice. 

  • Newsletters and internal blog posts: Your internal communications are a great place to reinforce your organisation’s values. Rather than just stating them (which can be boring), consider giving regular shout-outs to employees who have embodied one of your values particularly well. 

  • Weekly meetings: You can also emphasise your values in your weekly or monthly meetings. Try to put them in context by talking about your goals for the week or recent achievements as they relate to your organisational values. 

Different types of organisational values

Some organisational values arise purely organically, while others are the result of a concerted effort on the part of a company’s leadership or HR team.

Your organisational values might include: 

  • Core values: These are fundamental, ingrained principles that guide all of a company’s actions. They are ethical standards that can never be compromised, and following them is non-negotiable for employees. These form a key part of your organisational values statement. 

  • Aspirational values: These are ideas that a company’s workforce might not necessarily embody yet, but that the company’s leadership would like to see. You can include these when putting together your organisational values, but it’s best to proceed with caution: you can’t expect an entire workforce to change overnight. 

  • Accidental values: These are beliefs which have developed organically, perhaps because of the particular circumstances at play when a company was founded. They may or may not be values that you want the company to hold onto going forward.

Save Time For The Important Stuff With Personio

Putting together a list of organisational values that truly define a company and its culture, vision and mission is a difficult task — and HR teams have a lot on their plates. 

With Personio, you can simplify and automate your HR tasks, helping you to hire the right people, manage employee data, track performance and more, all through one user-friendly application  — leaving you time to focus on the important things. 

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