Why clear values are essential to fostering a positive culture

Your staff can’t embody a nebulous concept. Specify in writing what ideals your organization strives for collectively, and reward employees who epitomize those aspirations.

Company culture, which is vital to an organization, is driven by values.

Does your organization have stated, written values?

Some do. A few companies have thought about it. Others have values, yet don’t follow them. (If you don’t have written company values, I’d suggest reading “The Advantage” by Patrick Lencioni.)

For those whose organizations do have written values, do your employees know what those values are? Can they recite them? Can they give examples of how those values play out in the workplace? Do those values guide their decisions?

For that matter, do they guide your decisions as an owner or manager? If not, then they might not be true values, so you ought to reevaluate and specify your organization’s ideals.

All the ping-pong tables and catered Friday lunches won’t cover up a poor company culture.

Incorporating stated company values into the fabric of your company is a must if they are going to mean anything-but how can that be accomplished?

A nine-step approach

At our digital marketing agency, we rolled out new values in January 2016.

They are SPICCEE in case you were wondering: stewardship, passion, integrity, community, creativity, excellence and education.

Here are a few ways we at BigWing have incorporated our values into our processes and culture:

1. Write your values down. Ours are on paper and agreed upon by the leadership team. They start at the top and trickle down to the rest of the team.

2. Include values in your recruiting materials. We have a cool blog for potential hires to read that talks about our values. By doing this, we attract applicants who align with our SPICCEE values.

3. Hire for values. Our interview questions reflect certain values. We have a checklist of our values for those conducting interviews, so we can write examples of how they see those values throughout the interview process or in the candidate’s work history.

4. Instill your values during onboarding. When a new employee comes aboard, you have an opportunity to immerse them in the culture. Give them the values in writing, so they are visible. We review our values during our “Intro to BigWing” and give real examples of how each value has been exemplified by our employees.

5. Reward your values. If values are not reinforced, they’ll die. Keep them active, and reward employees for embodying them. Our employees can nominate each other via Survey Monkey for different values. Each month, the nominations are read and magnetic values “flair” is given if it was their first time to win that value. An overall employee of the month is chosen based on nominations and management input. They don’t win a closer parking space for a month, but the prizes aren’t bad.

6. Sport your flair. Keep your values visible. We do this by offering the aforementioned flair. One can stroll around the office and see how many pieces of values flair someone has in his or her cube. In the future, I hope to see our SPICCEE values on mugs and T-shirts, too.

7. Bring up values during meetings. This is something we want to do more often. I’d like to do better at recognizing someone in a smaller group meeting for being SPICCEE. I’d also like to talk about decisions in light of our values and explain decisions based on our values.

8. Highlight values in internal communication. In our internal newsletter, “The Feather,” we highlight a particular value each month.

9. Support your values, even if doing so costs time and money. Sometimes integrity costs money. On one occasion, we (unknowingly) weren’t following the terms of services of a certain product, and a specialist brought this to our attention. We could have swept it under the rug, but instead we fixed it. It was painful and burned a lot of hours, but it was the right thing to do. Specialists now know that we respect Integrity as a value, because we put our money where our mouth is.

If culture eats strategy for lunch, then values are the teeth needed to bite into that bologna sandwich.

How do you incorporate values into the daily rhythms of your organization? Please offer your thoughts in the comments section.

Brent Pittman is senior content marketing manager at BigWing Interactive. A version of this article originally appeared on LinkedIn.

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