Company Values = Invaluable
Core values can drive alignment and make a company stand out
In early 2014, I decided to create a set of values for my three year old EdTech startup, EduKart. And why not, our team was scaling up and having a clear set of company’s values would help set expectations for new and existing employees. My core team and I discussed and debated and came up with six values that we thought would define EduKart.
Corporate values are an important lever at the disposal of top leaders to build a team’s culture. Company values act as the guiding light that helps teams to bond with a shared sense of purpose, for achieving common goals. Moreover, they also guide teams on how to behave and react to internal and external events.
Company Values: The Guiding Principles of Company Culture
Company values form the bedrock of decision making in any organization. Leaders lean on these pillars to drive performance, especially during times of change, crisis or rapid growth. Hence, it is very important for the company values to be specific, so that the team can easily resonate with them.
For example, Southwest Airlines is known for its culture of fun and that shows in everything they do. Right from the fun impromptu flight announcements by their crew to the way they treat their customers with spontaneity, everything shows their love for fun, even though they are in a serious business of running an airline. Below is a snapshot of the culture page where Southwest is really intentional to highlight their values of a fun loving culture.
Corporate values are not only important to align the behavior of internal teams, but many times they also play an important role in guiding customer behavior. According to a study by Accenture, as many as 63% of consumers are buying from companies whose values resonate with their own personal values.
Your company corporate values can resonate with your internal and external stakeholders
Think of words like integrity, ethical, fun, customer-centric. These are some of the most common corporate values. So much so that Denise Lee Yohn, a leading authority on positioning great brands and building exceptional organizations, suggests to ban some of these overused words in corporate values!
While the viewpoint sounds controversial, it makes a ton of sense to me as a company can really leverage its values to stand out! Choose the words in a manner which define your core values distinctively.
For example, many companies have a core value around being customer-centric. If you want to stay customer centric, think of who your customer is and what being customer centric means to this customer.
At one of the previous employers, a global EdTech company, one of our core values was ‘Students First’. It essentially meant that while all of us would be student centric, we would always try to do right by the student, and not necessarily what the student feels is right. The value really drove the passion around student success in the company and spoke about our distinct and unique view of customer centricity.
Similarly, at Tala, where I started recently, the company is centered around the value of ‘Radical Trust’. Just by the way it has been worded, it distinguishes Tala from many other companies which use “trust” as their core value. “Radical trust” at Tala is essentially a deep fundamental belief in people, both employees and customers equally, to uphold their commitments. I really believe that this is both bold and refreshing for a company, which essentially is in the business of trusting people, as it gives out loans to the underbanked around the world!
At EduKart, we had a value called ‘Build it for yourself’ which put ownership in the hands of the people—employees and students. Internally, it meant that we looked at everyone as intrapreneurs who were empowered to make decisions and deliver. Externally, it meant that our customers, i.e. students would take the right decisions on our platform to choose the programs that would eventually build their careers.
The Ever-Evolving Company Values & Company Culture
Just like a company’s culture is ever -evolving, the company values also need to evolve over time. This might be a result of growth, scale, changes in the business model or just maturity of the business. As you modify the values with evolution of the company, make sure to get a buy-in from your team. After all, they will make the adoption of your core values a success or failure. Many times, you have to make an extra effort to help your team get accustomed to the shift.
At one of my previous companies, we came out with a new set of values as the company had outgrown its existing set. One of the new values introduced was ‘Data-Driven’. For the effective implementation of this value, democratization of data was important and hence the company deployed a new set of tools to give the power of data analysis into the hands of employees across the company. Even in our day-to-day conversations, data started taking centre stage and accelerated the adoption of the new value.
Engage and Empower Your Company With Core Values
Core company values are great levers to boost engagement and empowerment for your employees. Undoubtedly, working for an organization whose values align with your own values and beliefs makes people feel engaged and empowered.
Finally, this can have a very positive effect on hiring as you would tend to attract more people who can relate to your values. I have always been impressed by the work that Stripe has done in this area and how clear it is about the kind of people who would succeed in Stripe as a result of their values and the resultant culture.
Do you believe in the concept of having a set of core values for the company? Which values attracted you to join your current company? Mine was definitely the value of radical trust. Tell me yours!