What are Core Values?
Core values are our deepest and most closely held personal beliefs that make us who we are.
Most people have a set of personal core values (even if they don’t realize it) that determine guidelines for behavior, which helps shape how the world perceives them.
But developing core values for your brand is also important - not to mention a great business strategy!
Ideally, core values should be defined from the outset of your business. But if you haven’t, the beginning of a new year is a great time to start.
Why are Core Values Important for My Business?
Your company’s core values serve many functions; namely, communicating who you are to the world (which helps build brand affinity) and giving your employees buy-in, or a sense of being invested in the larger scope of the company.
Core values can be incorporated throughout many areas of your company, including:
- Interview: Find candidates whose values are in line with your company’s.
- Onboarding/Training: If your team understands behavioral standards from the moment they walk in the door, there’s less room for ambiguity. Core values set expectations and provide employees with a mental checklist to review before making a decision or reacting to a situation.
- Education/Learning Management: Provide refresher courses tied to your core values as part of company-sponsored continuing education services. Consider adding a section in the employee contract that communicates part of annual reviews will be based on how an employee represents the core values of your company.
- Service: Post your core values where your team will see them every day. They can refer back your core values as guidelines when faced with a challenge.
- Discipline: It’s a lot easier to refer to a transgression in humanized terms as opposed to an arbitrary, numerical rule buried in the handbook.
How do I Define My Company's Core Values?
While determining your core values may seem like an internal activity, or not a priority at all, it can actually have far-reaching impact on your company as a whole, from staff to strategy.
Before defining your core values, practice some mindful activities and brainstorming to help you get started.
First, answer these questions:
- What are 5 things that make your business unique?
- What are 5 things that make your business competitive?
- What are 5 ways your business can work through from a negative experience?
- What are 5 ways to that you can drive your business forward?
Next, here are some tips for determining your company’s core values:
- Keep your list of core values strong, but short - usually 5 is a good number (choose more than 10 and some may be forgotten).
- Consider coming up with a creative acronym for easy recall amongst your team.
- Always be reevaluating! Times change, brands change, and people change. Don’t be afraid to reword a core value or ditch it altogether in place of a new one. Maybe one of your values is providing the best ingredients at all cost - but you’re trying to be more sustainable. It’s ok to switch it up. Your team and clientele will appreciate your transparency and openness to change.
- Incorporate your core values so they seep into every aspect of your business, from the interview process to displaying them prominently in your place of business. This will not only keep everyone accountable, but help you to build brand affinity in your community.
- Involve your team in choosing or reevaluating your core values. Your people are the face of your company and should represent the embodiment of your company values and culture.
Below is an example of what 5 core values might look like for a restaurant:
- Raise the Bar: There’s no such thing as unreasonably high standards. Deliver the highest quality in everything you do. Encourage others to do the same.
- Own It: Treat your role like a business, and the whole team wins.
- Think Green: We can’t solve food waste - but we can be stewards of the environment by practicing sustainability.
- Frugality First: Always strive to do more with less. Find creative and cost-effective ways to get the job done.
- Be Family-Focused: We’re a work family. We also have families. Supporting others makes us stronger.