In this article, we deep-dive into Core Values, specifically what they are and why they are critical to the success of your brand. Many organizations have core values, but very few use them as strategic decision-making tools. As a result, many organizations say one thing and deliver another, creating a brand gap and confusing brand experience.
Core Values are the deeply ingrained principles that serve as cultural cornerstones and guide an organization’s actions. When an organization embarks on a values initiative, it should not be with the sole purpose of building consensus. Rather, value initiatives are about imposing a set of fundamental, strategically sound beliefs on a broad group of people.
Therefore, the best core values efforts should be small teams that include the CEO, any founding members, and a handful of key employees. The Core Values developed to begin to lay the initial foundation that ultimately shapes the brand’s culture. They tie in with the Brand Promise, or what the organization promises to deliver consistently to every customer, every time.
Why Core Values are Critical to Brand’s
Aggressively adhering to one’s values can help an organization make strategic decisions. Core Values can be used as a strategic compass to make large decisions. Core Values are an accurate reflection of what the brand believes – and management and employees are willing to live by.
For the benefits to be useful, they must weave into everything the organization. Every employee-related process (hiring methods, performance management systems, criteria for promotions and rewards, dismissal policies) should embody the core values of the organization.
Reinforcing values with action instills them into the culture. When team members perform at a high level, such as providing excellent customer service, the organization may offer rewards such as cash and other forms of public recognition.
This reinforcement produces engaged employees, and that translates into hard numbers showing a positive impact on the bottom line. In a study conducted by Gallup, business units that ranked in the top 25% of their organization for employee engagement showed:
- 22% higher profitability
- 21% higher productivity
- 10% higher customer satisfaction
- 37% lower absenteeism
- 48% fewer safety incidents
- 41% fewer quality incidents (defects)
An engaged workforce is an engine that propels your company to growth and profitability. Employees have the potential to be your biggest brand ambassadors, positively reflecting your business in the myriad of ways they communicate every day. The core values are the keystone that will give them their purpose.
Tom Peters, a well-known business guru, sums up why employee engagement is so important:
Employees’ behavior has direct impact on the bottom line, costs, revenue streams, level of productivity, customer satisfaction, even the brand – every aspect of the business is affected. If strategy and culture are not aligned, the culture may support behaviors that conflict with what has to get done- and actually block execution of the strategy.
Examples of well-crafted Core Values
Core Values take one many different forms. Some are lengthy, and others are very succinct. Zappo’s has a list of 10 core values, while L.L. Bean chose to craft a “core value statement.” The following show a variety of examples across industries. Think about the culture of your brand, or the culture you want to shape and what form your core values would best take. There is no right or wrong answer, just a commitment to abide by the values that the organization has chosen.
Wal-Mart’s core values align with their brand promise of living well and saving money. The core values are excellence, customer service, and respect to employees.
Wegman’s goes a step beyond, naming their core values, “Who We Are” Values: caring, high standards, making a difference, respect, and empowerment.
L.L. Bean chose to craft a core value statement, known as the golden rule, that all executives and employees live by.
“Sell good merchandise at a reasonable profit, treat your customers like human beings, and they will always come back for more.
Guidelines for Crafting Core Values
Crafting core values that are effective takes time and resources. While there is not one right answer, there are some guidelines that will help you with this initiative. Kinnesis, a Portland Oregon based business consulting firm, recommends the following guidelines:
- Start with a verb. Core values are something you do. They are actionable, decision-making tools.
- Keep them short. Limit each core value to a maximum of 5 words.
- No more than 4 Core Values. For values to be useful and woven into the fabric of the culture, there must be a small number of them. Too many and they start to lose their real meaning.
Want to learn more about our approach to core values, and how BrandedWorld.co can help align them with the other foundational elements that create an unshakable brand? Contact Us.
Over to You
How well are your core values aligned with your Vision, Mission, Brand Promise, and Guiding Principles? How well are your core values woven into the fabric of your company culture?