What Are Company Core Values?

Company core values are the guiding principles and beliefs that allow employees to work together toward a common goal. Sometimes called “the way things get done,” core values help guide decision-making and create a purpose-driven culture. Employees know what is expected of them, customers love interacting with confident employees, and companies benefit by the increased revenues and lower employee turnover.

Why Having Core Values Is So Important

Core values support the company’s mission and vision. They inspire team members to emulate the most important behaviors the company deems essential when doing business. Some of the reasons core values are important include:

  • Guiding company decisions. Employees at all levels in a company make hundreds of decisions each day. When everyone understands that “respect” is a core value, for example, their behaviors will need to reflect respectful interactions. This empowers employees to do what they need to do.
  • Hiring employees whose beliefs and behaviors are aligned with the company. Smart companies will use their core values to screen candidates for fit. Employees who embrace company values will be happier and perform better than those who don’t mesh with the company values.
  • Inspiring and motivating performance. Employees will be inspired to do more than the minimum standard when they understand the impact they can have on the company’s success.
  • Creating a company brand and reputation. Core values tell the world how a company operates. Customers love to do business with companies that are consistent and share their personal values.

Examples of Core Values

Some companies have clever and inspiring core values. Here are some examples of values or value statements.

Example 1

Passion is a commonly used core value. Adidas states that “passion is at the heart of our company.” Coca Cola also lists passion as “committed in heart and mind.” Procter & Gamble has “passion for winning,” while Kellogg’s simply states “passion.”

Example 2

Diversity is another common core value. Teach for America simply lists “diversity,” while Twitter states, “seek diverse perspectives.” Build-a-Bear highlights “di-bear-sity.”

Example 3

Respect. American Express states, “respect for people.” Southwest Airlines says, “treat others with respect.” Barnes & Noble states, “respect.”

Other Examples

Engaging examples of core values include, “we think customer” from Virgin Airlines; “create fun and a little weirdness” from Zappos; and Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, “we strive to minimize our negative impact on the environment.”

How To Create Your Own Core Values

There is no right way to create company core values, but the following suggestions may be helpful.

Step 1: Take Your Business Goals, Employees and Customers into Account

Consider your business goals. Is innovation important to you? Do you want your employees to feel empowered to innovate? This is an example of how to identify the behaviors you want to emphasize.

Consider your employees. Ask them what values they observe in the workplace and what values represent the type of organization they want to work for.

Consider your customers. What values would your ideal customers expect from companies they do business with? What feedback have your customers given you about your organization?

Step 2: Summarize into Values

With this initial list, consider ways to condense them into five to ten values. Some companies allow all employees to vote while others invite a few team members to participate in a values creation project. Avoid copying the values of other companies; determine what is truly unique about yours to select the best values that represent your company.

Step 3: Decide How To Present the Values

Decide how to present the values. Will you select one-word values, such as “integrity” and “leadership?” Would you prefer to use phrases, such as “hire the best?” Some companies, like Google, use value sentences: “Fast is better than slow.”

Step 4: Review and Revise

Engage the help of a creative writer or marketer to wordsmith the final list. Be sure to make the values simple and easy to remember, as these need to be prominently displayed and memorable.

How To Embed Your Core Values into the DNA of Your Company

Values are just words unless they are actionable. Here are some ways core values can be demonstrated.

Action 1: Use Them in Your Marketing

Announce and publish the company values on your webpage and in your marketing and your recruiting materials. Display them on a wall in the office where everyone who enters will see them. Talk about them in company meetings. Create momentum and build excitement to help employees memorize and apply them. Celebrate employees whose behaviors demonstrate the company values.

Action 2: Align Your Processes

Align processes in the organization with the values. If “wow the customer” is a stated value, for example, look at processes currently in place that support this value and processes that need to be revised to support it better. Enlist input from employees throughout the organization to ensure this alignment.

Action 3: Integrate Your Values into Your Culture

Embed the core values into the culture. From recruiting candidates to onboarding new employees and beyond, core values need to be central to the culture of the company.