People Magazine

How to cultivate positive company values and culture for an SME

Company values
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Defining and writing down your company values.

How to put company values into motion.

HR and company values for onboarding.

Tips for maximizing value-building.

How are you cultivating positive company values and company culture in your small or medium enterprise—or are you?

You can’t just sit back and hope for the best. When it comes to corporate culture, it will either develop organically (i.e. wildly) or you can direct a positive organizational culture. Ideally, this is consciously put into motion when your business is founded. However, today is always the best day to start taking charge.

Defining Company Core Values

Your company values are uniquely yours, and they will dictate the framework of your company culture. Here are a few general rules:

Write them down.

It’s great to have your company culture defined, but writing down these values makes them official. It makes them real, and it’s a way to go back and reflect. Honesty, integrity, and teamwork are a few examples of common company values.

Your organization should aim to establish four to five values. More than five values make it hard for employees to remember. Ask the following questions to help nail down the values that are most important to you.

  • Why is this important to you?
  • How does it fit into your business?
  • How does it contribute to the culture?
  • What does it look like to express and live these values?

Choose an ad hoc team to create them.

This might be co-founders when an SME is formed. It could also be a group that’s selected well after a business is in motion. Who do you want to direct the positive values of your company?

Revisit them regularly.

If you wrote down your company values when you started your business, can you remember the last time you revisited them? Revised them? They likely aren’t static.

Make them public (sometimes).

Some SMEs have company values that are public, along with a separate internal document, such as the employee handbook. It’s a good idea to make at least some of these values public, and they can take up their own landing page on your website. It helps shape how you’re seen by outsiders including customers, investors, and future employees.

Putting the company values into motion

You’ve written down your values and maybe even put them on your website. Now what? Little will happen if you don’t actively find ways to encompass and encourage these values every day. There are many ways to make this happen. Here are a few:

Post the values in key areas.

Especially for millennials today, your employees need to be reminded on a regular basis what the values of the company are. Maybe you can post them in the break room or include them in a weekly internal roundup email.

Choose activities that reflect these values.

From activities like a company philanthropy event to choosing happy hour locations, there are many ways to incorporate your company values into work activities. To maximize this connection, make sure to mention why and how these activities are integrated with your selected values. This is a great corporate social responsibility initiative.

Make your values part of your hiring decision.

There are a number of ways to better your hiring process. These range from having the best HR software to allowing your values to help drive the onboarding process. For example, you can include some of the values in the job ad.

Another idea is to ask candidates to talk about a time when the values were reflected in their past job experience. “Hiring for company fit” can and should include values.

When you’re working with HR for onboarding, ask how you can attract and keep candidates that share these company values.

Include values in performance reviews.

Many companies use performance reviews as a chance to measure how much each employee is living and practicing the company values. During performance conversations, it’s important to acknowledge how the employee upheld these values with examples.

Defining and writing down your company values is just the first step of the process. Actually putting them to work takes constant effort and time.

Eventually, they will become an integral part of your company and employees—that’s the ultimate goal.

Most importantly, the leaders in your company need to personify these values (including you). Values can be idyllic and not always realistic for a person to showcase 24/7. However, it’s likely that you chose these values because you value them.

Consider it an encouragement to adopt these values yourself and model complementary behavior.


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