W Communication Agency

Core values – Buzzword Bingo or guiding stars?

You’ve probably seen them around – your company values. Perhaps they’re spelled out in frames, hanging in your conference room or corridor. But what do they actually mean?

Okay, here’s a wild guess at what they say: Customer Focus, Innovation, Passion or how about Openness? All big, important statements. But that doesn’t make them relatable and inspiring – or mean they communicate your business purpose or fundamental beliefs and behaviors in any way.

Do we need values, really?

Company culture, like branding, is frequently misunderstood. Often, it’s discarded as a fluffy business component belonging to HR. It’s not. It’s one of the most important drivers for long-term, sustainable success. Your values, or value statement, represent the guiding stars of your culture.

Today, purpose and culture play a key role when selecting an employer. In fact, over 50% of millennials say they would take a pay cut to find work that aligns with their values. For that reason and others, the answer is yes, you need to define your company’s values.

When well-crafted and activated, core values become both a bonding force and a rallying cry.

As a communication agency, we often get asked to help develop values, or to make existing values or mission statements come to life. We love those jobs. Because they’re tough – and because they require insight, skill and craftsmanship.

To share how we reason, here are three top tips. We’ll be happy to share more fun and ideas at a face-to-face meeting.

1. Define them!

Many CEOs and management teams spend a huge amount of time thinking in marketing jargon. That can result in organizational values that are too vague. Even simple words like “Leadership” are wide open to interpretation,
leaving them meaningless.

It’s not about throwing out words that sound good on paper. The words you choose are the foundation for team unity and employee loyalty – the glue that connects your business to the human element.

Involve key stakeholders. Go back to your business purpose. Define your intention with the values: What should they make people think, feel and do? Simply put, get the discussion going. (There are formulas for this – get in touch and we will share some.)

2. Get creative and specific!

The problem with most value statements is that they’re applicable to pretty much any business or brand. If your statement isn’t concrete and specific to your company, it risks being… nothing.

Craft your values and the underpinning rationales so that they have impact. Make sure they actually mean something at first glance. Use language and tonality that reflect your brand and identity.

Above all, be sincere. If your company truly aligns with a social initiative or has a genuine global impact, it’s fine to use a phrase like “World-changers”. Otherwise, make a different choice.

3. Live them!

Be true to your words. If “Transparency” is a value, managers can’t keep key information under cover. Make sure your leaders are aggressively authentic when it comes to living and demonstrating your values.

Embed your values into every business decision. Hire people using your values as a filter. Use your values as a metric in performance management systems, as criteria for promotions and awards. And of course, bring them to life everywhere – in people, products and spaces, as well as at events and in all kinds of communications.

Time to refresh your values?

Needless to say, this topic deserves more than a short article. Why not meet and create together? Get in touch, and we’ll help you develop value statements that separate you from the rest.

If you want to know more, contact Lisa Henningsson Önnerlid, Managing Director, W Communication Agency.