The Value of Core Values

Kate Conroy
November 16, 2022

As individuals, we each have our own distinct set of values that influence our daily lives. Our personal values guide important decisions such as who we surround ourselves with and how we handle tough situations. These values drive our behavior, priorities, and decisions both personally and professionally.

For a business, core values are very much the same. They are the values that drive your business forward and set you apart from others in both customer and employee experience.

What are Core Values?

A company’s core values are the heartbeat of the organization. They are felt in the day-to-day work of your employees and visible in the work you produce. Core values are both internal and external. They are apparent in all aspects of your business and influence every decision you make. 

Different Types of Company Values

Every company’s core values will be different and unique to them. They are specific and action-oriented. Core values are meant to both communicate and inspire culture as well as display your company’s identity to your employees and your customers.

Let’s use a cleaning service as an example. They want one of their core values to communicate their commitment to excellent customer service. They’d also like to show their sense of humor and want their core values to be linked to what they do.

  • “Vacuum cleaner” is not a core value. It doesn’t really say much of anything.
  • “Don’t suck” could be one, it’s a little cheeky, but it’s fun! And it gets the message across about the company’s commitment to customer service and its positive attitude.  
  • “Always Shine the Sink” could also be one. Still fun and industry-related and gets the message across. It’s also a bit more polished than “Don’t suck” and less likely to alienate a customer.

Core values reflect the tone of your work culture. They are your company’s heart and soul and set you apart from your competitors. At Red Clover, one of our core values is “Get Shit Done”.  We don’t take ourselves too seriously. We’re casual, as the language reflects, but we’re able to leverage our culture and expertise to drive results and deliver for our clients.

The Impact of Well-Defined Core Values

The work doesn’t end once you’ve identified your core values. It’s time to clearly define them and integrate them into your entire organization.

“Don’t Suck” can mean different things to different people. Much like “Get Shit Done”, you might intend it to mean “We try our best. We admit when we’ve made mistakes and work to correct them. We work to support each other even in the most stressful situations.” A member of your team interprets it as “We have no margin for error.” Core values are the road map to your company culture, so clarity in value definitions makes sure the path you set doesn’t lead anyone astray. 

Be intentional about committing to your core values and weaving them into the day-to-day of your work environment. Talk about your core values. Create a recognition program where employees are acknowledged when they demonstrate your core values. Encourage your employees to do the same. Ask your employees to reflect on your core values during their performance development conversations and integrate your core values into your recruitment process. 

The Effect of Your Values on Employee Recruitment and Retention

Understanding what drives your team members back to job searching will help you be proactive in attracting and retaining top talent. Employees leave their jobs because they have a poor relationship with their manager, lack growth opportunities, or have a misalignment with company values. All of these factors are addressed with a strong workplace culture and core values at the center of the employee experience. 

When your core values become a part of your employee culture, you are able to leverage them during the interview process. Core values are not just the “why” someone should do business with you, but also the “why” someone should work for you. When your core values are clearly defined, it’s easier to identify when a candidate is a culture fit. As a result, the people you hire are more likely to stick with you long-term.

What Happens When Core Values Don’t Permeate A Company’s Culture?

Sometimes, a company has great values, but they don’t permeate the culture. I’m sure we’ve all experienced this at one point in our careers. To a new hire, it feels a bit like a bait and switch.  They were promised a company with a strong culture, but they don’t see it reflected in business decisions or their employee experience. From a management perspective, it may be puzzling why their great values don’t lead to any tangible results. In environments where values aren’t reflected in daily business operations, there tends to be high turnover, a lack of focus on common targets, and unhappiness. Ultimately if the values aren’t lived, they die and become ineffective words on a website’s “About Us” page.

Reviewing Your Company’s Core Values

If your core values haven’t permeated your culture, it is time to take a second look. Are your core values still relevant to the business? Will the core values drive the culture and work results that you want to produce? Are there any inherent barriers that prevent your core values from being adopted and enacted? Most importantly, do you embody and model the core values yourself? 

If some of these answers are “no”, it’s time to take another look and revisit or rewrite your core values. Just like anything else that is alive, core values need to be nurtured and cared for. Take time to consider your current core value statements and how you can practically integrate them into the daily rhythms of your organization. It may take a significant time investment upfront, but in the long term, it’s key to your business’ success.

Do You Have a Trusted HR Team to Help Craft Your Values?

One of Red Clover’s core values is “Got Your Back.” If you need help crafting your core values, do not fear! As a culturally-driven HR consulting firm, Red Clover has your back! Our team of HR Consultants live and breathe our core values every day and are ready to work with business leaders to strategically craft core values to drive your people strategy and business forward. Contact us to start the conversation.

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The Results

Architects and Engineers

We were referred to a successful values-driven architecture firm approaching a 50 person headcount with HR needs. As they approached that employment milestone, they needed to ensure they had the HR structure to ensure compliance with state and federal regulations and were set up for successful growth. We worked to help put the right policies and processes in place to support the scalability of their organization.

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