Defining your company values will give you clearer decision-making

Company values may go a long way to bring a healthy dose of ethics, morality and decency in business, there are also a number of other tangible benefits

As an engineer, I’ve naturally and logically assumed that worrying about HR things, such as the company mission and values, is secondary to the primary goals of my organisation. After all, getting the job done trumps everything else; the things that matter are KPIs, targets, goals and objectives - things we can quantify with numbers.

Indeed, numbers are very important and with this trail of thought we may conclude that our company values are simply an afterthought. While my goal is to highlight the importance of company values, I am actually ok with the idea that company values are an afterthought. What is important is that we eventually get to that thought, and once we do, we will do a good job at defining our company values and take them seriously thereafter. I will argue that it is important to do this exercise sooner rather than later as, among other things, it can make a significant positive impact on your ability to reach your primary goals.

As leaders and founders, it is easy to assume that the people we’ve engaged in our teams share our work ethic and our internal value system. Yet most of us do not check these assumptions, we simply plow on, doing hard work and believing that the people around us naturally share our mindset. As a result, growing organisations can transform into something far removed from the ideals of any single individual within that same organisation.

Can we have it any other way? Is it possible to have an organisation that reflects and even amplifies the values of each individual within it? I believe this is both possible and desirable - every employee ought to be proud to work in a company that represents their own values in the best possible way.

We start by defining a company mission statement followed by a list of values. Together these two components should make up a pretty accurate description of our Company Culture.

The mission is very useful in reminding us why the organisation exists - our raison d’etre. The values on the other hand tell us how we will work towards the mission - this is not to be confused with a list of actions but rather a set of guiding principles within which every action towards reaching our goals must fall. The values basically define the style of our actions. You can find many literary resources with hints and tips on how to best define your mission and values.

Ok, we’ve now prepared a nice document with company values. Is that it?

Not quite there yet. Values are useless if they are not actively shared, referred to and supported by behaviours. Culture is not simply defined in a document, it is something we need to infuse into our business-as-usual.

Here are some crucial things that will help reinforce a strong company culture:

  • Discuss the values with each individual in your organisation.
  • Highlight your commitment to company values by factoring them into performance reviews.
  • Actively and openly celebrate behaviours which reflect company values.
  • Put your values on your company website.
  • Include a discussion about those company values into the interview process.
  • Hire for a culture fit.

Why should I take this seriously?

While company values may go a long way to bring a healthy dose of ethics, morality and decency in business, there are also a number of other tangible benefits.

  • Shared values allow for tight, stable and more robust teams.
    • Better staff retention rate.
    • Increased employee engagement.
  • Clearer decision making - values can serve as a tie-breaker when it comes to making certain tough decisions; does this action conflict with any of our values?
  • Your customers gain an important insight into the ethos behind your products.
    • Increased trust
    • Increase in customer loyalty / repeat business
  • Candidates know what to expect if they join your organisation.
    • No surprises during onboarding

Our case study

At talexio, our mission is to improve individual and organisational wellbeing by simplifying processes and making information easier to access and utilize.

We are committed to building a strong culture around this mission through a set of 8 values. These values, including a description of each one, are available on our website and now also form part of our onboarding process and performance reviews.

  • Team responsibility.
  • Responsive and helpful.
  • Efficiency through directness.
  • Calm and professional focus.
  • Deep and intense engineering.
  • Have fun and celebrate success.
  • Practical simplicity.
  • Tangible positive impact.

It is my hope that this article encourages more organisations to work on their values and start bringing this aspect to the forefront of their business. It does not matter which industry you operate in - a clear set of values can guide your team to better results, increased job satisfaction and most importantly help bring out the best in you.

Here’s a wild idea, might such a drive from the private sector even permeate to political parties and journalistic institutions? Wouldn’t it be helpful to set out a number of values to act as guardrails for our society in general?