How to Identify Company Core Values

A company’s core values can often be found on their website, office premises and their marketing literature. These statements, words or phrases, tell employees, customers and the public who a company is. They foster connection between teams and help HR to recruit the right candidates.

Research also supports the fact that core values boost staff performance so it is imperative for a company to get them right. This article shares guidelines to help you identify your company core values. 

Treat it as a project, identify a project head

Treat how you identify company core values as a project. That means clearly defining what you will be doing, listing the different steps, identifying people who will participate and more importantly who will be in charge.

This person will be responsible for getting resources needed to streamline the process, planning tasks and for ensuring the project doesn’t get off track.

One thing they may be looking out for is the clarity of the goals. For instance, they should help everyone delineate between core values, what you are trying to identify, and aspirational values.

Aspirational values are those that a company lacks but needs in order to succeed. These are different from the core values which will guide the company. 

This individual will be responsible for accountability and ensure that the project gets to completion. 

Do some research 

At this stage, you want to take a good look at the company and examine it with objective eyes. Letting go of internal bias will help to arrive at questions that will help guide the process. This discovery stage will involve looking at other companies and evaluating their core values.

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It will involve stating what you like about them and what you would wish to avoid. If your company is in the healthy fast food space, it might interest you to learn that Chipotle’s values include commitment to the best ingredients and emphasising quality and responsibility.

This process might involve analysing popular broad core values such as;

  • Integrity 
  • People focused
  • Goal oriented 
  • Quality
  • Team work 

A list such as this can help you to start to distil what each means in the context of your company. 

Get everyone on board

While having a project lead when identifying core values is important, the task shouldn’t fall solely on one individual. It is important to have the full support of top management; that will include, the CEO and founders. Let them share what is important to them. Have a conversation around what their impetus was for forming the company and core values will begin to emerge. 

Depending on the size of the company, it may be feasible to also get a sample group from the employees to share their insight on what the core values are. This might involve giving both managers and employees a worksheet to guide them. Some templates include a section on;

  • How the respondent understands the company’s current image
  • What they see as important to the company
  • What problem the company is trying to solve
  • What they perceive as shared values
  • What differentiates the company from its competitors

Answers to such questions help the project lead begin to identify company core values by noting patterns and those responses that are shared by respondents. 

Remember, employees will have to live the core values so in addition to getting a range of voices on the topic, including them will lead to a greater sense of ownership over the values. It will also make embodying these core values easier.  

Draft the core values and get input

The good thing about making this a collaborative process is that you get to have feedback. From the research phase, you may have wound up with 50 values. It is now time to narrow them down to a few that resonate with the company.

Although the number may vary from one company to the next generally speaking, 3 to 10 is an adequate number. Identifying company core values can be an iterative process so be patient with it.

Share the draft with everyone who had input and have them share their thoughts. A survey may help to get feedback from a larger group of employees if you wish. The goal is to identify company core values that resonate with the company and those it interacts with. 

Workshop ways to identify company core values

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Define behaviour that goes with the values

At this stage, you can start to write out the values. Define what they mean and make them personal to the company. This goes beyond just writing a statement; For instance, Chipotle is committed to Authenticity, but they define what ‘Authenticity’ actually means to them as; ‘Being real means making food fresh every day.’ 

If one of the core values identified is Honesty, how does that play out it in interactions with suppliers, customers and teams.

If it is quality, you should define how that commitment will play out. It may mean preferring to postpone or not take on a job if you are not able to deliver the quality you are known for. This process will also require feedback but it is all worth it to get your core values just right. 

Share them with the company 

After you identify company core values, it’s time to get them off the page and into the workplace. Employees need to know about them. Explain the new core values to the employees and define their applications. A single email will not do; instead go with a reveal.

Put the values in places that are visible. The wall at the reception is a good idea, so is the sign off of your emails. You can also create a weekly recognition practice for employees who embodied a particular core value. 

In Summary

Core values are the principles that guide a company’s actions. They guide how it relates with customers, how employees are treated and how they treat each other and how the company relates to its external environment.

Identifying company core values will help a company in decision making and in difficult times too. Identifying and then living the core values will greatly benefit any business. 

Gerald Ainomugisha

Gerald Ainomugisha

Gerald is a freelance writer with a pen that is keen for entrepreneurship, business and technology. When he isn't writing insightful articles on employee engagement and corporate culture, Gerald can be found writing for a number of media outlets.