Is it important for a company to have defined Core Values? And five top tips to creating them.

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Firstly, what are corporate or company ‘Core Values’?   We like to think of them as the core principles of a company, in other words, the guiding ethics that employees and the company as a whole should adhere to when doing business.

Because of that, we believe they are critically important.  This is especially true when a company is expanding and bringing on new staff who will be used to different cultures and business practices.  After all, if Core Values don’t exist, there is no cultural direction in place and different operational pockets working to different values within the organisation are likely to emerge.

The process of creating a set of Core Values can be involved as it should (potentially) garner input from a number of stakeholders including directors, employees and customers. Competitor research is also important to ensure differentiation.

And they don’t always need to be ‘corporate speak’.  In fact, we would argue that some of the best values demonstrate passion and personality and are unconcerned with adhering to traditional corporate language.  A great article from www.smartcompany.com (http://bit.ly/acMrhN) discusses the Core Values set out by Atlassian, one of Australia’s largest software exporters with revenues of $45 million.  Their values are:

  • Open company
  • No bullsh*t
  • Build with heart and balance
  • Don’t f**k the customer
  • Play as a team
  • Be the change you seek

An approach that’s not right for every organisation but one that’s refreshing and feels, to the outsider, very much from the heart.

Here are some top tips for creating or reviewing your firm’s Core Values:

  1. Do use specific language and phrases that customers (and staff) can understand and relate to.  Terms such as “Be the best” or “Deliver Customer Satisfaction”, for example, can be a little ambiguous and difficult to understand. Sure, you can put meaning behind them but it’s better to have initial certainty of meaning
  2. Do take your time.  Try to get input from all stakeholders, including the management team, employees, customers, investors and your market in general
  3. Do look at your competitors’ Core Values.  It’s (usually) important to differentiate yourself in your market and this process will ensure you have the opportunity to stand out
  4. Do make sure you can live up to the Core Values. If “openness” is a core value, then the management team must be encourage openness amongst employees and customers.  A good place to start is asking yourself whether your personal values stack up against that of your firms
  5. Do be succinct. Although it’s important to put descriptions behind each value so their exact meaning is clear, you should be able to summarise your list into a series of short statements.