How to define Company Values? CNA IT Guide

Volodymyr Bilyk
09 September 2021

Company values (aka Organizational Values) are the underpinning that keeps the company in one piece and enables employees to bond and fulfill themselves professionally. So in terms of establishing effective employer branding, that’s one of the permanent goals of the company.

As such, having clearly defined company values that employees can identify with and follow is critical for the organization’s success.

The catch is that it is easier said than done. 

In our previous article, we’ve discussed the conceptual side of organizational values. This article breaks down how to do it right in practical terms.

Defining Company Values – How to do it right?

Company Values Sources – Mission & Vision

 

The company mission and vision are two crucial sources that provide an outline and direction for the company values.  Consequently, values are what make company culture click and turn it into a competitive advantage.

To put it in plain terms:

  • the mission describes the company’s cause
  • the vision attempts to interpret its impact
  • Overall, it is an overarching definition of the company’s motivation to do what they do.

But there’s a catch.

Since both components are critical marketing tools, the presentation of mission and vision is usually lacquered with buzzwords and positive, inspirational statements. 

While such a presentation is driven by good intentions, its unintended consequence is that it becomes nondescript and unrelatable for the target audience, which is the opposite of what a company’s mission, vision, and, ultimately, values are supposed to do. 

The thing is – over time, people develop a sort of banner blindness for smooth marketing-speak. Because of that, the plain and simple, genuine style would be a better way to present your company’s mission and vision.

What Makes Effective Company Values?

Effective company values rely on one simple thing – being concise. The goal is to provide the collective with a conceptual throughline that everyone can:

  • Understand;
  • Relate;
  • Share;

You don’t need to have a list of 317 values your company shares – you only need to have those few that matter and make a difference in how the company works.

This way, you will pull double duty and add your company values to the company’s unique selling point.

Here’s are several examples from our backlog:

  • Can-do approach – willingness to get the thing done, positive attitude towards your ability to find a solution.
  • Team synergy – a whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Everyone is on the same page. Just like an orchestral harmony – each instrument contributes to the melody. There are common goals. Each member of the team got complementary skills that contribute to the cause.
  • Rationality + Responsibility – the decision-making process is based on logic and necessity in the context of a particular case. Take action on your part with a well-informed, reasonable foundation for the decision. Be aware of the possible aftermath.

Use Surveys to Determine Company Values Relatability 

One of the common misconceptions regarding company values is that they form organically within the organization, and you don’t need to make them come from above. That’s not really how it works.

Because company values are the manifestation of the company’s vision and mission, their conceptual core is driven by the executive decision of the company’s management. After all, values shape the collective and their behavior in the company. Therefore, it would be unwise to let it run unchecked. 

That doesn’t mean management enforces the company’s values. In reality, the management conceptualizes the company’s values according to the company’s current mission and vision. That’s only one part of the process.

The other part is to prepare the company values for further refinement with the employees. Why? It is critical to ensure that every single employee from top to bottom understands, shares, and relates to the company’s mission, vision, and values.

One of the most effective tools in refining and fine-tuning values is surveys.  

How to make company values survey?

Values-related surveys consist of cognitive and perceptive elements.

On the one hand, there is a cognitive element

  • This part relates to how a particular employee comprehends the company and its values. 
  • For example, questions like “what values describe company X to you?” or “how would describe our company in adjectives?”.
  • The cognitive survey provides content for values refinement and fine-tuning. It may serve as a form of brainstorming combined with indirect critique. 

On the other hand, there is a perceptive element

  • This part is about assessing the quality of the company’s values from an employee’s point of view. The focus of such questions ranges from relatability of values to the clarity of presentation.
  • In the case of relatability, the questions can go from standard “yes or no” type to “rate relatability of X from 1 to 5” to more freeform “express your opinion” freeform style. 
  • In the case of clarity of presentation, the survey revolves around “do you understand what this means?” types of questions.

The ultimate goal of such surveys is to understand how the company’s employees and management see themselves as an organization and whether they share and understand values through and through.

How to Communicate Company Values?

Communicating company values is one of the most significant challenges the companies face. 

  • Not only do you need to have a clear definition of values, but you also need to ensure that these values will positively affect the organization in day-to-day operations.

 It is important to note that presenting values is different from presenting mission and vision. 

  • In the case of the latter, you are dealing with overarching conceptual things that attract and motivate employees. If the writing is straight to the point and everyone gets it right away – you did it right.
  • However, it is not enough to write it down plain and simple in the case of communicating values. You need to give company values some staying power in the back of an employee’s head. 

This doesn’t mean you need to go total Big Brother conditioning, hammering those nails in the head. Far from it.

Your goal is to get it “in the air.” 

  • It is critical to highlight company values during team meetings and discussions. 
  • On the other hand, peer recognition is also important in the subtle communication of values.

From this standpoint, it is essential to emphasize the practical aspect of values – how they actually contribute to everyone’s work.

For example: 

  • Encourage teamwork in accomplishing goals and specifically highlighting everyone’s part.
  • Champion thinking outside the box when it comes to figuring out effective yet unconventional solutions.

In Conclusion

Defining and establishing company values is a continuous process that requires constant fine-tuning. Just like the piano, it needs a tune-up once in a while. 

What’s important is that when you have a distinct vision and understanding of what works and what needs fixing – doing that becomes less of a challenge and more of a creative exercise.

If you need help with defining company values or fine-tuning the existing ones – our HR and employer branding consultants can help you out.

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