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Values and culture are the foundation on which your entire business rests. Your company’s values will directly affect your company culture, influencing every decision you make as a business. Defining clear and cohesive values will help align your entire organization – from entry level to senior management – integrating employees as a team and ensuring that your company is working toward the same larger objective. . Here are four steps to help with this process.
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Step 1: Define
Values will help your company make decisions and drive your brand, culture and reputation. Start these important conversations by exploring why your business exists and what its purpose is. Take the time to get the right answers to these questions. Make a list of what is important to you and what is needed by your customers. Hopefully, you will be able to see where these goals intersect and use this as a starting point for developing your company’s values.
My software company has a number of values specific to our customers (customer service, data security, personal connections) and a number of special values specific to our business operations (automation and organic growth). Each decision is based on what is best for our client’s experience, rather than making board- or investor-based decisions. Your values will (and should be) unique to your business, customers, and future goals.
Internally, company values should not be decisions made in a leadership vacuum, but should involve employees at all levels of the organization. Depending on the size of your company, this could be a cross-functional, representative small group of individuals or your entire team.
Step 2: Align
Purpose, goals and values are key to attracting and retaining the right employees and overall employee satisfaction. Creating a long-lasting and inspiring workplace that delivers results starts with your core values. Start at the top and prioritize a leadership team that aligns with your company’s values. In this situation it is quality over quantity.
When building your team or hiring new employees, share your company’s values; Ideally, they will become a core part of your brand and reputation. Values should be well known and referenced frequently, and candidates should know your company’s values before joining the team. They will learn about your values through your website and job postings before an interview. During the interview process, share your values and frame questions that highlight specific values so that you can accurately evaluate candidates.
Your current employees should also have access to company values and understand their jobs in order to perform at their best. You will want to make sure that intrinsic values align in one way or another with the values of the company in order to create a team working toward the same end goal.
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Step 3: Share
Once you have clearly defined your company values, consider publishing them as a final step in holding your company and your team accountable. Write them down, pay close attention to your words and phrases, and post them. You may consider a version of this document internal to your company — more descriptive and strategic — as well as a public-facing document that can go live on your website. These will not only serve as a reminder to hold your company accountable, but they will also show your customers and outside audience that you have made this formal commitment.
Step 4: Maintain
It can be helpful to reevaluate your company’s values every few years as you continue to define and optimize your goals. When company values are at the core of your company, you will find yourself referencing them daily and thinking about how your conversations, decisions and actions relate to your values. If it isn’t, it may be time to reevaluate.
If you face conflict or are in a fight to make decisions that don’t match your values, it’s time to reconsider your actions or your values. Keep your values straight, so that each plan or decision can be separated from value before proceeding.
There are always sexy, trendy ways of developing or designing in the software industry. It’s hard for our development team not to get excited to hear about every new practice or technology. Since customer experience is one of our company’s core values, we regularly ask ourselves: will this really improve the experience for our customers, or is it a new trendy way to design a feature? If we ever find that the overall customer experience may suffer, we instead choose an action plan tailored to the needs of our customers.
Whether you’re building a new company or running a business that needs a refresh, make it a regular practice to assess your core values and how you’re honoring them as a company. Your values will define your brand and drive it to success. Not only will you get better employee and customer satisfaction, but you will see a positive impact on your bottom line.
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