How to Communicate Company Core Values Authentically
November 11, 2022
It’s surprisingly common to see an organization out of step with its values.
There are numerous reasons for this misalignment. The values may be too abstract, more aspirational than accurate, underutilized, or perhaps they weren’t well articulated in the first place.
Some organizations have a list of core values longer than a CVS receipt and earnestly believe they can instill 25 core values across a diverse range of individuals who may or may not even know they exist. Even when core values are well-defined and authentic, if they’re only displayed on a poster in the break room or the ‘about us’ page, good luck getting them to stick.
So, how can a company communicate its core values in a way that feels authentic and effortless? Let's start with the basics. What are core values, and why are they important?
What are Core Values?
Core values are the foundation of what a company believes in and aspires to be. These principles guide decisions, shape company culture, and demonstrate uniqueness. A business should reflect the core values of its owners in everything it does, from how they treat employees to the products sold. Values should be more than a simple list of buzzwords. Instead, they should be ideals and actions that can be identified in team members.
Here is a core values definition from business writer Susan M. Heathfield:
"Core values are traits or qualities that are not just worthwhile, they represent an individual's or an organization's highest priorities, deeply held beliefs, and core, fundamental driving forces. They are the heart of what your organization and its employees stand for in the world."
A strong company vision with a short list of actionable values will inspire employees to do their best work and be loyal to the company.
Why are Core Values Important for Companies?
If customers see that a company lives up to its values "in thought, word, and deed," they're more likely to trust the brand and keep coming back for more.
It is also essential for new generations, like millennials, that the brands they buy from align with the values that represent them. According to the 5WPR Consumer Culture Report, 83% of young people (18-34) want companies to share their values, and 76% want CEOs to comment on important issues.
Additionally, a robust set of core values can help to attract and retain top talent. Job candidates who share a company's values are more likely to become motivated employees.
A study by Deloitte focusing on Gen Z in the workplace found that: "The core values of the generation are reflected in their prioritizing social activism more than previous generations, and in the importance they place on working at organizations whose values align with their own, with 77% of respondents saying that it's important."
By 2026, Gen Z is projected to be the largest generation in the U.S. This means that there will be approximately 82 million people in this age group, according to Business Insider.
A company's core values must be attractive to this generation, as they will soon make up a large workforce. The following 11 brand values examples are commonly seen in Generation Z, according to CMSWire:
- Digitally sophisticated
- Environmentally concerned
- Ethical shoppers
- Values access over possession
- Racially, sexually, religiously diverse
- Financially minded
- Social media activists
- Politically progressive
- Supportive of women's rights, LGBTQ+ rights, BLM movement
Finally, a company's core values are essential for guiding the decisions of a business. For example, if one of the core values is "integrity," they know that any decision they make should be based on honesty and doing what's right, even if it's not an easy choice.
Tips for Defining Core Values
Defining core values can be challenging. After all, they guide everything a company does, so they need to be carefully considered.
Core values should be:
- Specific: Clear, concise, and easy to understand.
- Relevant: Based on the company's mission and goals and guide the business's decisions.
- Aspirational: Inspire the company and team to do great things, something they can strive to live up to.
- Flexible: Able to change and adapt as the business grows and evolves.
Keep the number of values to a handful. This makes them easier to remember and internalize. If you have 20 values, are they really core to your value system? Boil those 20 down to a more manageable number that gets to the heart of your company without being overcomplicated. Having fewer core values can be more impactful.
With these tips in mind, a company is well on its way to creating an authentic set of core values. But even the most powerful and authentic core values are meaningless if they’re not embodied by the team. Communicating core values effectively is the next crucial step.
Communicating Company Core Values Authentically and Automatically
Once a company decides on its core values, it's time to put them into practice. Here's how organizations can communicate their core values to stakeholders:
Incorporate Values Into The Onboarding Process.
When employees join a team, ensure they understand the company's values and how they play into the work they'll be doing. Sharing the values during the interview process, incorporating them into the onboarding materials, and discussing them on an employee's first day are wonderful ways to communicate company values.
Communicate Values Regularly.
Values are part of an organization's DNA. Therefore, leaders should demonstrate and communicate company values frequently. Make sure they're included in all employee communications, from team meetings to company-wide memos. They can also be communicated externally by sharing them on the website and social media channels and discussing them in press releases and other public communications. When evaluating new products, ongoing work processes, or any other company decision, regularly ask if and how the company is living up to its own ideals.
Live The Values.
The employees and customers of a company will only believe in its values if they see them reflected in how they do business. This means making decisions based on values, being authentic when communicating with stakeholders, and providing employees with opportunities to live the values in their work. When a company's values are an integral part of its culture, they will be automatically communicated to employees and customers internally and externally. Actions speak louder than words.
When making decisions as a company, ensure the values are considered. For example, if one of the values is environmental responsibility, consider the environmental impact of any new products or initiatives.
Reward Employees Who Live By The Values.
Recognize and reward employees who embody the company's values in their work. Organizations could, for example, create an award for the employee of the month who best demonstrates the values. Sharing stories of employees living by the values is also a great way to communicate them. Blog posts, social media posts, and company-wide emails are all excellent platforms for sharing these stories.
Google as a Key Example
In 2021, Google won 18 Comparably awards, given out to companies with the most robust cultures across the board—and have done this consistently for years. Google won, among others, Best Company Culture and Best Global Culture, which shows that its values and communication strategies resonate with employees worldwide.
One aspect that makes Google's values so effective is that they are specific and relevant to the company. Google's overall mission as a company is "to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful," and its values reflect this.
Their values are based on the following principles that Google communicates clearly on a page titled "Ten things we know to be true":
- Focus on the user, and everything else will follow.
- It's best to do one thing well.
- Fast is usually better than slow.
- Democracy on the web works.
- A desk is not needed for an answer.
- Make money without doing evil.
- There's always more information out there.
- The need for information crosses all borders.
- You can be serious without a suit.
- Great needs to be better.
Google also does a great job of living its values. The organization is constantly innovating and expanding its offerings. Google treats its employees with respect and gives them the freedom to be creative.
Finally, Google's values are flexible. As a result, they have adapted as the company has grown and changed. This has allowed them to remain relevant and practical even as they evolve. Google is an excellent example of a company that has communicated its values effectively and made them a part of its culture. A brand can do the same for its business by following its lead.
Core Values are the Backbone of Every Business
A company's core values should be more than just a list of buzzwords. They should reflect the company's culture and how it wants to be perceived by the world. By developing authentic values, a company can ensure its message is communicated effectively, and its actions align with those values.
Core values help companies define themselves and stand out in today's increasingly competitive and globalized marketplace. When communicating its values to employees, customers, and other stakeholders, a company can show the world what it stands for and what makes it different.
- A clothing company like Girlfriend Collective which values sustainability might use recycled materials in its products and partner with eco-friendly brands.
- A tech company like HubSpot values life-long learning in its employees. To that end, they have a free book program. The company provides free professional development books to employees upon request.
The Bottom Line
By communicating its core values, a company can ensure they become a part of its culture. When a company's values are authentic, they can strengthen company culture, influence employee behavior, and inform business decisions.
As consumers become increasingly aware of the values of the companies they do business with, it is more important than ever for companies to ensure that their core values are genuine and aligned with their culture.
By assessing their company's core values, business owners can create a positive, powerful influence on their employees and customers alike.