7 ways to establish company values and create a vibrant culture
Culture is one of those unique aspects of professional life that is difficult to quantify and even harder to calculate a return on investment. But for those workplaces looking to create an environment rich in employee engagement and clear business values, creating and driving culture is a must.
For modern business, values and culture are intrinsically linked and permeate every fiber of an organization. When establishing or re-evaluating values, don’t underestimate their impact on the brand. Having a cohesive culture will help attract and retain top talent, encourage transparency throughout the business, and consequently drive success.
Businesses can start this process by clarifying their vision, individuality, and goals. In fact, multiple principles and best practices must be examined to ensure they are defined and clear. When reviewing values, companies should refresh their communications to ensure the right message is being portrayed internally and externally. And when studying the impact of internal culture, there are many questions that a company should ask itself.
Why does culture matter?
Although culture may be a somewhat nebulous term, experts agree that it’s essential for a successful business strategy. Research consistently demonstrates that organizations with a thriving culture obtain many business benefits. Deloitte’s 2020 Global Human Capital Trends study found that 44% of US-based survey respondents reported that being aligned with their organization’s purpose and values was essential. Without it, they felt disconnected from their workplace. Excellent company culture is a prominent component of all successful organizations.
Positive culture and strong values must reflect the mission of the company, and yet not undermine its overall objective or appear superficial. It drives engagement, meaning that employees are generally more content, and therefore improves staff retention. Happy and satisfied staff are a result of having a meaningful workplace culture, and they are motivated to perform better. This strategy puts businesses way ahead of competitors that may not have adopted this approach and even supports the attraction of top talent.
All in all, excellent company culture is a prominent component of most successful organizations. Internal communication professionals go to great lengths to ensure their internal and external brand reflects the company’s core values. In this land of glitzy agencies and billion-dollar tech companies, it takes a lot for a business’s culture to stand out amongst the noise.
The impact of business values
Implementing a set of values that are easy to understand helps employees grasp what the business actually stands for. It tells them what to be passionate about in order to progress within the organization, guiding them through their daily role and encouraging them to act in a specific manner. This helps employees make the right professional decisions, ones that align with the brand’s mission statement.
Regardless of the size of an organization, values are vital to success. They determine the behavior and actions that are deemed necessary to underpin employees’ daily activities, influencing decision-making and strategy. As the foundation of any thriving business, when chosen correctly, values support company goals and improve employee communications.
Regardless of the size of an organization, values are vital to success.
But what is the point of having core values if employees aren’t aware of them? Ensuring they are imprinted across every business action emphasizes their importance to employees. They should be encouraged and reflected in all professional activities and behavior. Rewarding those who display the appropriate values through peer-to-peer recognition is an excellent place to start. Don’t forget to clarify that the leadership team must also act in a way that clearly upholds those key values.
Aligning with employee values
An unhealthy culture with no guidance from company values can have a considerably negative effect on employees. It impacts engagement, leading to an unhappy and demotivated workforce that does not connect to their organization. Disengaged employees are unlikely to stick around long term, and if they do, they will lack motivation. Quite simply, they will not be as productive as those that are satisfied within their roles.
Word does get around about toxic workplace culture. Companies with a poor reputation amongst previous employees eventually feel the impact in recruitment and talent attraction. It could result in negative reviews on sites like Glassdoor, or on social media. This brings recruitment challenges, with an outpouring of money going towards replacing those roles, and a struggle to find suitable candidates. If left to fester, disengagement can even cause issues with the customer experience, affecting churn and the business’s reputation.
14 steps to great internal communications
So, how can business values help turn this around? The first step is to listen to employees and understand what they value and how that can fit within the business’s mission statement. Ensure that the leadership team is on the same page about what is important to the company overall and that they are willing to implement that messaging. Building precariously on a shaking foundation may seem like a quick fix, but if those core values aren’t established and agreed upon, it can all come tumbling down quite quickly and easily.
Culture defined by leadership
Values shouldn’t appear as fluffy or meaningless, or they will have no cultural impact whatsoever. Mission statements that empower and inspire will be much more effective than those that come across dull or tokenistic. They give employees the ability to connect to the organization. When trying to encourage the general workforce to adopt certain behaviors and sentiments, it is imperative that this is led from the top-down. For the philosophy of an organization to really take hold, it must be seen as inclusive of all. And that starts with the CEO.
Once the culture and values are set in stone, the business will really start to see those benefits come to life. A study by Columbia Business School of more than 1,400 North American CEOs and CFOs found 50% of them agreed that culture influences not only productivity but profitability and growth.
When trying to encourage the general workforce to adopt certain behaviors and sentiments, it is imperative that this is led from the top-down.
The leadership team and senior managers should reflect on the cultural values that will encourage employees to collaborate, and recognize those that go the extra mile. Highlighting diversity and inclusion is also a critical consideration. Employees from a mix of backgrounds will typically be more creative, with a wide range of experience and viewpoints. A diverse workforce brings empowerment and attracts those that are globally-minded.
Good leadership teams should have a vision of what the company’s values are and where it needs to go. They can communicate this to the entire business in a clear and straightforward manner, from the top-level CEO and investors to new starters and fresh-faced graduates.
Redefining culture from the inside
Top talent wants to know that they are having an impact on culture and values. One way this can be ensured through values is to encourage employee feedback, allowing them to speak up when they are unhappy about something within the business. Opening up a communication channel between workers and managers provides necessary context and insight that could prove valuable.
Knowledge sharing is another fantastic way to establish company values. It allows employees to think outside the box, and get involved in work they are passionate about that sits outside their job role. Those who take the time to help others and share their experience should be acknowledged and rewarded, clearly and distinctly demonstrating that the business encourages this type of behavior. Employees will learn and repeat this action, which will quickly become part of the culture. Any organization with this kind of peer-to-peer recognition creates a positive work environment with clearly defined expectations and high employee engagement, outshining competitors and supporting recruitment.
Establishing culture and values
Core values that are clear and easy to understand help guide employees and encourage a commitment to the broader organization. Aside from this, they also keep employees motivated and increase job satisfaction. Internal recruiters can seek out new hires that share the same ethos as the business, increasing their longevity. When coupled with internal communications, this will increase the overall productivity of the company through engagement with employees.
14 steps to great internal communications
For those just starting out on the journey to define culture or looking to revamp an existing strategy, companies need to take an inward look to ensure they are attracting the right talent and communicating well to drive business success.
So what steps can businesses take to establish those all-important company values, and ensure they are reflected in culture? Here are seven tips to ensure success:
1. Encourage transparency
Trust is an essential part of any relationship, and between an employer and employee is no different. The actions of the organization are interpreted by those within it, creating a workplace climate that could be positive or negative. When a business is transparent, it shows workers that you value their opinion and aren’t hiding anything significant. This honesty increases confidence in the organization’s direction, a connection to the leadership team, and high employee engagement.
Providing meaningful insights around the business progression shows the employees that their hard work is appreciated. It is a team effort, and the recognition for progression is spread business-wide. Encouraging feedback through different channels, whether anonymously or via a manager, is another way to provide employees with a way to be sincere about their thoughts on the business direction.
2. Have a slick onboarding process
Onboarding is the first introduction that new starters get to the company and its values. Whether trained in-person or remotely, it is a chance for the business to shout about what really matters to them. It provides an opportunity for the new hire to be immersed in the culture, the new role, and with their team.
Some employees may instantly recognize a toxic workplace culture or disagree with the business processes or values. These particular hires may even leave the business within the first couple of months because the environment wasn’t right for them. Remember, there is only ever one chance for a first impression, so make sure the onboarding process reflects everything about the business.
Once onboarding has ended, the introduction to culture doesn’t end there. The new hire needs to start practicing what they have learned and may need further support in their daily role. Try to provide them with the necessary resources, like an employee handbook or relevant posts on the company intranet, to really get them immersed in the culture.
3. Encourage resilience
Change is constant. Businesses have upward trends, and they have downturns. Building a culture of confidence within the workforce is essential, particularly when it is backed up by resilience. Nobody knows what the future holds, but when employees are comfortable within an organization, they are less likely to panic and jump ship in a period of unforeseen difficulty.
Enduring tough times, whether global fluctuations such as COVID-19, potential financial troubles, or a struggle to attract and retain top talent, will always be necessary at some point in the future. Strong internal communications encourage employees to push boundaries, trust in the company’s vision, and builds up a better connection with the workforce.
4. Be passionate with clear direction
One of the most indispensable qualities for the workforce is passion; it creates an atmosphere of commitment and ambition. Employees that take pride in their daily roles take the time to understand the business goals. It encourages teamwork and collaboration with colleagues. A passionate workforce will make it much easier to explain any upcoming business decisions or changes.
A strong internal communication strategy is the first step to cultivating a passionate culture. Listening to those around, and acting on any comments or feedback where relevant, creates the right balance. Giving employees the opportunity to express themselves, whether it is through user-generated content or an employee survey, establishes a culture where everyone has a place.
14 steps to great internal communications
Passionate workers go the extra mile for the business. They understand what is culturally expected of them and coax that behavior out of others, and this creates productivity. Innovation and collaboration increase when there is a mutual culture of respect and trust amongst colleagues. Through consistent communication and trust, employees can grow in their role and stay enthusiastic, whether they have been in the position for one year or ten.
5. Establish ownership
Employees that understand and appreciate values within a business know they are working for more than just a paycheck. They feel part of something bigger. Those that believe in the ethos and connect with the company are protective over the brand’s reputation. This is an invaluable asset to champion for employees and can protect the business from potential recruitment and customer service issues.
When employees feel like they have a voice, innovation is born. Those that feel trusted aren’t afraid to make suggestions and collaborate. A supportive work environment removes traditional silos within roles. Cross-team colleagues share relevant experience, encouraging cooperation and the development of new skills.
6. Make the values easy to understand
Try to avoid jargon and buzzwords when creating company values. These often don’t express the organization’s personality or tone of voice in the correct manner. Evaluate the business’s core beliefs and drive them through the workforce to maintain the same ethos and passion.
Communicate values internally, and make sure they are reflected in the everyday happenings of the organization. From the style of writing on emails, to how colleagues treat each other when times are stressful, values impact everything and should be accessible to all.
7. Bring values to life
When adjusting values or establishing new ones, make an effort to bring them to life in your workplace. Announce these changes on a blog through the company intranet, and make sure everyone understands the impact that the new, improved values will have. Be honest with employees about the specific choices of these core values and outline why they matter to the organization. Let them understand the decision-making process. Don’t forget to reward those who genuinely live the values on a daily basis. Without employees to adopt them, they are virtually useless.
Culture defines a work environment, and without values, businesses struggle to understand where their ethos lies. Establishing these is essentially the first step into an authentic workplace, and an opportunity to reap the many business benefits that this offers.