The new CEO of a large company in Miami recently shared a morale and productivity challenge in his organization, stemming from the former CEO leaving in shame last year. He asked me how I would tackle something like that from an HR perspective.
My first thought wasn’t the typical HR answer of a “strong, charismatic leadership”, although leadership is no doubt a key component. I simply asked him if his company had any established Core Values. He didn’t really know what I was talking about. So I asked him what were the values in his company, and how were they promoted. He offered the generic honesty and customer focus elements of company policies and executive speeches, but this company did not have any established Core Values. (It’s possible that they have in the past, but have not been adequately promoted.)
No matter the size of your company, establishing a set of Core Values that everyone rallies behind is the best way to establish commonality in culture, performance expectations, and behaviors. Executed properly, you hire, fire, and promote employees with these values in mind.
The larger the organization, the more critical it is to establish Core Values. When there are multiple business units, a set of Core Values is one of the common threads keeping them aligned. This is especially important with geographically dispersed groups.
Small businesses should also have Core Values. It simply makes clear to everyone, especially new hires, how they are expected to behave, what is really important to the success of the company, and helps everyone row in the same general direction. At my company, Stiles, our Core Values have been around for decades and are seen as instrumental in shaping a great workplace and contributing to our success.
Much has been written about how Core Values contribute to business success. Chief among these are Good to Great by Jim Collins, and Delivering Happiness, a path to profits, passion, and purpose by Tony Hsieh, the founder of Zappos. These books are worth reading to really understand Core Values. Also, read this site’s entry, Core Values.
- Further definitions from the National Park Service
- Defining Core Values (About.com/HR).
- For sample corporate Core Values see Whole Foods and Zappos.