Core values are the foundation of your company. They represent who you are and don’t change over time. They consistently influence decision making and accountability. But, why are they so important to your business?
Discover Who You Are
There are a lot of pieces that go into discovering who you are. Once you establish your company’s core values, you’ll have a concrete understanding of who you are. This will allow you to discover and promote what differentiates you from your competition.
The following are two examples of areas your company could consider when you’re starting to put together your core values. While “People First” and “Striving for Excellence” are commendable, they don’t apply to every company. Really dig deep to find your core values and what sets you apart from your competition.
Imagine an HVAC company with a core value about putting “people first.” It’s not surprising to learn their technicians call with an appointment reminder, wear shoe-protectors, and leave your home in better condition than when they arrived. But what if the boss demanded employees are on call seven days a week and are required to arrive at emergency calls within the hour? While that strict policy may benefit customers, it isn’t putting “people first,” since the technicians are people, too. In this case, a core value that may be more accurate is “customers first” or “customer commitment.”
Sometimes, discovering who your company truly is may require a significant process or culture overhaul. In the case of the HVAC company, they’re on the right track with putting their customers first. If they want to keep their core value, it’s time to consider how they can treat their employees like “people first,” too. Satisfied employees work harder and provide higher quality results. This benefits your bottom line, as well as increases customer satisfaction.
Striving for Excellence
When thinking about a bank, you’d expect them, and their core values, to be professional and detailed oriented. After all, they’re taking care of your money and have access to a lot of sensitive information. JPMorgan Chase and Co. goes deeper with their business principles to get to the true meaning of who they are and how they’ll get there.
“Operational excellence” is one of Chase’s core values. They go on to explain, “We act and think like owners and partners.” This value applies to everyone in their company, from the CEO to the frontline teller. One of the ways they incorporate this into the workday is by using a performance-based compensation structure. They understand that even a big company needs people who are innovative and “entrepreneurial-minded.” Providing their employees with an environment to “try even if they don’t succeed,” while also rewarding success with compensation, gives their employees opportunities to “act and think like owners.” Rather than micromanaging each interaction, this core value gives employees an opportunity to independently strive for excellence as long as they’re thinking like an owner.
An Opportunity to Filter
Discovering who your company is, on a deeper level, gives you an opportunity to filter who’s allowed inside your organization. This includes anyone you will interact with, from clients and employees to suppliers and vendors.
Begin by screening during the hiring process. You want to attract people who will be a good cultural fit and align with your company’s core values. The way in which you write your job postings will have a great impact on who does, or doesn’t, apply.
During the application process, you can use knockout questions to disqualify anyone who doesn’t match your criteria. For example, if one of your core values is “hard-working,” you could screen out candidates that won’t fit by asking about their willingness to work overtime, weekends, and holidays. If “hard-working” is in reference to a labor-intense job, be sure to include questions that will knockout anyone who isn’t up for the challenge.
If your candidate passes the application phase, you should continue to filter them for fit during interviews. You can do this by incorporating core values into your interview questions. For example, if one of your core values is a “commitment to learning,” you may ask candidates for examples of professional articles they’ve read or training they’ve completed. If one of your core values is to “be innovative,” you’ll want your interview to dig deeper to find people who are naturally curious, asking questions, and problem-solvers.
Hiring people who will fit into your company’s culture and align with your core values will eliminate a lot of issues later. When you filter in the right candidates, you start to build the employee experience and culture you desire.
Hire for fit, not for resume. If you’re choosing between a candidate with greater experience or greater cultural fit, always choose the later.
You can develop your employee’s job skills with coaching and training. However, values are pretty difficult to sway. Filtering candidates before they become employees is a great place to start using your core values to benefit your business.
Consider how your core values align with potential clients, suppliers, and vendors before you sign another contract. You want to do business with people who will help grow your company.
Imagine your company values “creating great experiences.” Your team appreciates the memorable opportunities you create for them. Your clients know they can count on you to go above and beyond during every interaction. One day, you take on a new delivery vendor. Your team begins to complain that each week, something is missing from the order. When you discuss this with the vendor, they say, “well…we didn’t think you’d notice if it came the next week.” Although missing office supplies probably won’t directly impact your clients, it does affect your team and their employee experience.
Consider terminating people, internal or external, who violate your core values.
The people you do business with will impact your employees, your company’s reputation, and its success. Core values give you an opportunity to filter, both internally and externally, so you can build your business.
Core values are so important in your business because they (should) influence everything. From how people behave to how they’re held accountable, core values offer a clear guide on how to do business with each other and your clients.
Put Values into Practice
If your company values “always improving,” it goes without saying that you should be investing in ongoing training and welcome open communication. If someone comes to your office with an idea to change an existing process, whatever you do, don’t say, “we’ve always done it that way.” Your team needs to know that everyone is onboard with the core values, no matter how busy or preoccupied you may feel when they suggest an improvement.
Align Processes with Values
Zappos, an online shoe and clothing retailer, is focused on customer service. Their first core value is “Deliver WOW through service.” If you’ve ever purchased a pair of shoes from them, you know how awesome it feels to get free shipping every time, no matter the size of the order. You’ve probably been even more “Wowed” if you needed to return something and received free shipping on the way back, too! A quick chat with a customer service representative makes it clear that they’ve been trained on “WOW” service and will do whatever it takes to satisfy customer questions or concerns.
Empower Your Team
When you define clear, meaningful core values, you empower your team to make decisions. This removes the need to involve management as frequently. While less management involvement is great for the manager, it also benefits employees and customers since they don’t need to wait for process approval as long as it falls within the company’s core values.
Better processes that align with your company’s core values will increase customer and employee satisfaction.
Promote Your Core Values
Hanging a poster that lists your core values on the breakroom wall isn’t enough. You need to actively promote your values internally and externally.
Starbucks has had some turbulent times in the media. However, they’ve taken it as an opportunity to share one of their core values: “Creating a culture of warmth and belonging, where everyone is welcome.” Starbucks’ focus is on the human experience; it’s not specific to employees or customers. They include everyone. In 2018, they implemented a “no purchase necessary” policy, allowing non-paying guests to sit in their cafes. This policy is completely in line with their core value and gives employees and customers a great impression of who the company is.
Promoting your core values allows you to attract the kind of job seekers, clients, suppliers, and vendors with which you want to do business. Make sure everyone on your team has a clear understanding of what your core values are, and more importantly, how to apply them.
Building a Reliable System
Core values are so important in your business because they affect the overall success of your company. At Core Matters, we understand how your core values impact your employees, customers, and overall brand. Our process helps you build a system that takes the extra work and uncertainty out of finding the right people to grow your team, while continuing to nurture them to improve your employee retention rates.