Work your core (values)

May 12, 2017

Core values are the pillars of your company’s belief system. They reflect the goals and mindsets you want your teams to embody every day, as well as the tools you can use to empower your employees to be better, smarter and faster.

Company culture is a hot topic—as more millennials move into the workforce, powered by perks and demanding work-life balance, more companies are taking stock of who they are and what they have to offer new talent. Whether you’re just starting up or you’ve been around the block a few times, having a set of company values can keep you on track.

Setting core values 101

One of the key elements of creating a cohesive, energizing core value set is making sure your people have a hand in crafting your list of values.

Things you need: a giant white board, management team, a couple of your A-players and about 90 minutes blocked out on your calendar.

Once you have your top people assembled in a Justice League-type formation, it’s time to get to work.

Step 1: Brainstorm

Have a person with legible handwriting work the white board for this part. Step 1 should be a free-form conversation during which all team members are free to throw out ideas. Nothing is too dumb, nothing should be erased.

To help you organize this a bit better, here are some categories to cover:

  • Best: What qualities do your best employees have? Ambition? Heart? Tenacity? Let everyone share their ideas!
  • Worst: Think back to employees who were fired—what did they have in common? This is a negative list, but knowing what you don’t want is just as important as knowing what you do.
  • Admire: Who are the people that you admire? What characteristics do they have?
  • Love: Look to your friends and family—what is it that makes them so special to you?
  • Left: At some point, you may have lost some good talent—why did those individuals leave? What was lacking at your company that made them seek opportunities elsewhere?

Step 2: Pare down

After your brainstorming session, you should have a large list of characteristics. Take a minute to erase duplicates—it’s great to have “hardworking” on there seven times, but you only need to see it once for the next step!

Step 3: Group the characteristics

Next, make groups of similar traits. For instance, “hardworking,” “fastidious” and “attention to detail” make a nice trio, as do “positive,” “team-first mentality” and “honest.” You may be surprised by what characteristics go well together.

Step 4: Marketize

To ensure your core values stick, make them short, powerful phrases! Look at the groups of characteristics you created in Step 3, and see what phrases come out of them.

Here are some examples of core values born out of this exercise:

  1. Team first
  2. Passionate and positive
  3. Evolve or die
  4. Own the results

Step 5: Make your values breathe

It’s not enough to have some great core values written on a whiteboard—you have to send them out into the world to live, breathe and become a major part of your company culture. Think of ways you can publicize and promote your core values, including:

  1. Posters: Make your core values into art by working with your design team and hanging posters around the office.
  2. Interviews: In our topgrading interview piece, we talked about hiring with your core values in mind. As part of your interview process, make sure to gauge whether candidates would be a good culture fit!
  3. Screensavers: Creating a cool computer desktop design is another way to make your core values a subtle part of everyday life.
  4. Culture committee: If you have a culture committee already, make sure its members are working on finding ways to incorporate your core values into events and initiatives. If you don’t, why not create one?

In the third part of this series, we’ll be giving you the tools you need to implement your new core values.

Missed Part 1? Catch up here.

Are you more of a visual learner? See Paul’s core values video here in the Vault.

Questions? Contact EPX Support here