If someone were to ask you what your corporate values are, would you have a clear answer ready for them? Try it. If you find this difficult to do, it’s probably because either your corporate values are irrelevant or they’re not well implemented.
Jonathan Azoulay, the founder of talent.io, recently invited us to a Tech Away meetup with CEOs and start-up founders. The goal was to share experiences, both good and bad, on implementing corporate values in a start-up company. To do so, he had everyone try to answer the following questions:
Have you defined and implemented your corporate values? How? What impact did this have on your company? How do you measure this impact concretely?
But before getting to the different answers that were given during the meetup, ask yourself this: why implement corporate values at all?
Basically, corporate values are what bring employees together. Take, for example, a CEO, a sales rep, and a developer. They all have different responsibilities within a company, but their interactions, involvement, and daily state of mind are all a part of a culture built on shared values. These corporate values cause for better recruiting and aids in smarter international expansion. From onboarding a new employee to managing several teams over long distances (nationally or internationally), values help generate a real sense of ownership and create cohesion within a company.
Indeed, it seemed that everyone at the event agreed that values play an enormous role in the construction and growth of a company. The key is knowing which values to choose, and how to formalize and implement them.
Let’s go back to the exercise you did at the beginning. If you have existing values but no one remembers them (perhaps not even you!) this is often a sign that they are not good ones or have been badly implemented.
« Values let us know whether what we
are doing is good or not;
they define a way of working and
create rules for the company.
This gives people a frame of reference »
– Jonathan Azoulay
If you don’t already have a set of values, you have several options:
- Top-down: corporate values are often intrinsically linked to the founders’ personalities. They can be devised by the steering committee, ideally outside of the office environment, then presented to the employees.
The risk: employees may not identify with these values and feel that they are being imposed upon them.
- Bottom-up: involving employees in the values creation process is one way to ensure that they do identify with their corporate values. This is an opportunity to get employees together outside of the office to work on formalizing the company’s values. Another possibility is to conduct a survey to elicit the values that the employees themselves associate with the business. The founders or directors then make the final selection and present the chosen values.
The risk: the survey may result in values that the founders or directors don’t support.
Here are some recommendations to help you select and implement the best values for your company:
- No bullshit: it is truly important to believe in the values that you choose, to make sure they are coherent, and that they truly matter to you. Avoid meaningless values such as “pride” or “happiness”.
- Easy to remember: one simple, strong, and clearly expressed value is often worth much more than 17 detailed values.
For example, at Bureau à Partager (a French office-sharing platform), their single driving value is “confidence”. Confidence in yourself, your team, and your customers.
- Operational: values are not meant to be simply put on display in the lobby. They must have concrete and measurable applications (where possible and using common sense).
At talent.io, “confidence” is also one of their values. This value is made practicable through a conflict management process. As soon as a conflict appears between two colleagues, they choose a mediator to assist in resolving the difficulty, and together they find a concrete solution. Result: almost zero unresolved conflicts in their teams!
Of course, in each situation, everything must be tested and tailored to the specific needs.
Our last piece of advice: the values formalization process can prove difficult and is often abandoned halfway through. However, for good company development, this step mustn’t be neglected, so take your time!
Does this subject interest you? Discover how to create your company’s values in more detail using best practices and illustrated examples in the Galion Values Process, created by the contributions from the many entrepreneur members of Galion.