Company values are more than just meaningless words on your company website or in your handbook. Company values are your organization’s ingrained beliefs and principles. They are one of the basic building blocks of your startup’s DNA, intertwined with your company mission and vision, that not only provides a blueprint for company strategies and decisions, but makes your company unique.
For many early-stage startups, creating company values and integrating them into the everyday rituals can get lost in the day-to-day execution of starting the business. In fact, many entrepreneurs may wonder if it is even worth their time to craft their company values.
As you will learn below, there are several reasons why company values are incredibly important to craft early on:
Define company culture
First, company values help define your workplace culture. A strong culture is a common denominator among the most successful businesses. Employees who don’t like their organization’s culture are 24% more likely to quit, and more than a third of U.S. employees will turn down an offer if the company culture isn’t right. Even if you’re not ready to hire your first employee yet, your company values are the foundation of your culture, which will be hard to build and grow without laying out the ground work.
“Your personal core values define who you are, and a company core values ultimately define each company’s character and brand.”
– Tony Hsieh, Zappos CEO
Attract the right talent
Second, company values help your organization find like-minded talent. In this current war for talent, startups are already at a disadvantage when it comes to recruiting and retaining high performing individuals. For instance, most startups cannot competitively match the salary and benefits of more mature organizations.
Why will people want to come and work with you? Why will employees want to stay with you? Surprisingly, the answer is more than just a paycheck. This is particularly evident when it comes to the younger generation of workers. Millennials and Gen Z workers want more than just a salary; they want a purpose, and they want to align with a company’s mission and values. In fact, a Deloitte survey found that 77% of Gen Z survey respondents prioritize social activism and place importance on working at an organization whose values align with their own.
Finding the right talent and retaining your bottom line is difficult. Having well-established and well-communicated company values that guide your recruiting and retention strategies can help you find the right team.
Keep your employees engaged
Lastly, company values help engage your workplace. There is a strong relationship between engagement and company values: of surveyed workers who claimed to know all of their company’s core values, 88% say they are engaged versus 54% of respondents who say they didn’t know any of their company values. Likewise, 65% of workers who could name their values say they had a strong grasp on company objectives, versus only 23% of respondents who say they didn’t know any of their company values.
Bottom line, company values play an important part in keeping your team engaged.
Establishing company values
So, how can you create company values that inspire and engage your workforce from the start?
As a startup, there is no golden rule when it comes to creating a list of values. Examples of core values are honestly, decisiveness and innovation. Remember that defining values is bottom up just as much as it is top down: values need to be relevant to every employee, not just you as the company founder. Once you have compiled a list of values, you can narrow it down to five to six values that truly describe your organization’s principles. Learn more about how to identify your company values here.
After you have created your company values, you must go beyond simply listing them on your website’s “About” page, you must integrate them into everything you do.
For example, prospective employees should learn about your company’s values from day one. You can use examples of how company values are expressed in day-to-day interactions or you can ask candidates to think about times that they have demonstrated your company’s core values. It is important to remember that at the end of the day, you want to hire team members who align with and believe in your company.
Creating authentic core values can take sufficient time and energy, but your culture and people cannot be replicated, and they can be a source of differentiation against your competitors. Showcase your company values, incorporate them into your company rituals, and make sure your organization lives by them, every single day. It will be worth the investment.