Developing Company Values

by Eric Wann

Developing Company Values
Eric Wann

In the last newsletter, I addressed the need for a definitive set of company values for all organizations. Following is a five step process that can assist any organization in identifying the critical values needed for success.

Step 1

The first step in identifying a set of company values is to develop a draft set of values at the leadership team level. It is best to try to identify what you want your organization to stand for without having to place them within an existing structure. Because of this fact, many companies develop their values before they develop their vision, mission and strategy. In fact, the values become the starting point for everything else.

For most organizations their direction and strategy are already in place. For these organizations, the leadership team must identify and agree upon the few, critical values that will help the company to be successful. This must be accomplished by looking out at the vision and direction previously set and agreeing to focus the behavior of all employees in a few, key areas. The set of Common Core Values in the next newsletter can be used to get the process started.

Step 2

Once the leadership team has agreed to a set of core values it is critical that you gather information from all employees. In very large organizations this can be accomplished through the use of focus groups. However, in most companies group discussions with all employees will provide a better result.

The reason that it is imperative to understand the employeeís view is because they look at the business from a different perspective. Most leadership teams will identify about 80% of the key values needed for success. The employee base provides the additional 20% that is needed. This type of approach also provides a number of other tangible benefits.

First, the process provides for a method to educate all employees on the overall concept and necessity of company values. It also provides a means to discuss the direction and strategy that the business is headed. This process can also identify for management the employees who have interest in pursuing the implementation of values into the company. These individuals can provide a valuable resource for the values effort. Most importantly, it allows for all employees to feel that their input is needed for success. This process of group meetings increases the buy-in of all employees into the process and greatly increases the overall success factor of the values initiative.

Step 3

After information has been gathered from the employees it then becomes necessary to finalize the set of values and begin the communication process to the organization. During the communication process emphasis must be placed in two areas. The first is to tie the values directly to the company vision, mission and strategy. Everyone must understand that the only way for the organization to reach these goals is to behave as specified by the values.

The second area of emphasis must be to tie the values to the current work being done by the organization so that each employee understands what is expected of him/her. It is only when people clearly see how the values should impact their individual behavior that the necessary understanding occurs. Following up with individual employees is the best method to ensure their understanding of this connection. Do not stop communicating until this full understanding has occurred!

Step 4

Step 4 is used to translate the overall values into day-to-day behaviors. The behaviors are specific activities that can be tracked and measured. For instance, integrity is a value that many companies profess, but always speaking the truth would be a day-to-day behavior for this value. Excellent customer service is a value but always answering the telephone within three rings is a behavior that exemplifies excellent customer service.

Developing a set of day-to-day behaviors for all employees should be done with at least three behaviors for each value. These behaviors can then be used to support other Human Resource processes such as Performance Management, Reward and Recognition, Promotional Opportunities, etc.

In addition to the set of behaviors for all employees, it is also helpful to develop a separate set of behaviors for leadership. Leadership is always held to a higher standard than others. The set of day-to-day behaviors for leadership should reflect this higher standard. These expectations are now available for any employee to use to assist another employee whose behavior is not meeting the standard for a particular value. This includes members of management who do not seem to be keeping the standards.

Step 5

These behavioral expectations then need to be communicated throughout the organization. Each employee needs to clearly understand the behavioral standards for themselves and every other employee within the organization. In addition, many of the current human resource related processes should be reviewed to ensure that the new values are supported by policies and procedures.