How values help define your organization

Corporate culture is one of, if not the, most important components of your company. Your culture impacts every area of your organization — productivity, hiring, innovation, competitiveness and, ultimately, overall performance, by any measure.

But how do you cultivate a winning and positive culture? It starts with your vision. A well-articulated vision provides a clear message and reason to everyone why you exist. It should be clear, concise and unique. One of our favorites is from the Alzheimer’s Association: “A world without Alzheimer’s.”

However, the vision can’t stand alone. It is supported and brought to life by your values, because how you achieve your vision sets the tone for your culture. Values guide behaviors. They also need to be unique to your company. That means your values could not possibly represent any other company – only yours. If your values are words from those 80s posters on the walls in your breakroom, like “teamwork” or “Integrity,” then it’s time to really rethink them. Values that truly define what it means to work within your organization and how to get things done are what define your brand and what your customers or members experience.

And that’s where the rubber really meets the road – application of the values. Living them. These are your norms. If they are merely words without meaning, then your company is operating dangerously. Decisions will be reactive. Employee engagement will suffer, and you will see more people working for the paycheck than working as a team to achieve the vision.

Culture begins with leadership. Although every employee plays a part in developing and maintaining a strong culture, without leadership fully embodying the culture, it’s tough for the rest of the team to make up the difference. The CEO and/or leadership team set the tone and demonstrate by example. If they don’t operate by the values, then that erodes trust.

Implement practices that reinforce the values. So, for example, if one of your values would be that everyone has a voice and is respected, then junior members of your team will feel confident to express a dissenting view in a meeting with the senior members. Hire people that will fit your culture and not solely based on ability. Hiring a top-gun salesperson with an incredible sales record, knowing they leave carnage along the way will kill your culture (unless of course the culture you desire is something like a Mad Max film).

Remember that your brand is a reflection of your culture – it will show through. So, If you haven’t recently assessed what type of culture you have, it’s time to do so now. Given the impact of COVID-19, it may have changed how you operate or the structure of your team, and this will have had an impact on your culture. Does it need to adapt? Or maybe new norms and practices need to be implemented to maintain your culture.

Remember these key points:

  • Have a clear, concise, and inspiring vision
  • Develop a unique set of values
  • Implement practices that support your values – live them, from the top down
  • Hire for cultural fit

Changing or ensuring you maintain your culture is not something that will happen overnight. It takes time, patience, and perseverance. Though by assessing where you are, defining where you want to go, and applying the key points, you will be well on your way.

Dean Ilijasic is co-founder of Long & Short of It