When it comes to creating a vibrant company, values are absolutely foundational – in fact, they’re one of the most visible aspects of any company culture.

Your values set expectations for how your employees engage with customers, partners, and one another in their pursuit of your company’s goals.

But setting core values, then failing to live by them, is just as bad as not having them to begin with. Values lose their credibility when you (as the business owner) talk the talk but don’t walk the walk. You need to be committed.

This blog was inspired by our experience in developing the values that drive Employment Hero:

We’re game changers and inventors

We’re not interested in following outdated processes. Instead, we are inventors and game changers, challenging existing assumptions and creating more efficient ways to get things done.

We’re team players

We’re a diverse mix of personalities, talents, skills and experience. Together we’re an unbreakable team of players, all working towards the same goals.

We aim for customer service excellence

We are committed to offering the best-designed solution and service for customers combined with the best discounts for their staff.

We’re creative and imaginative

We never stop imagining what it might be like to be in our clients’ shoes and tailor the best service to meet those unique needs.

For us, these values inspire each and every one of us to take our work to a higher level.

I’ve outlined five simple steps on how to create business values that set your business up for success:

1. Handpick your team

Involve the right stakeholders in the creation of your values – but keep your team small.

Depending on the size of your company, the team you choose could look very different.

  • If you’re running a startup or very small business, you may only have one or two full-time staff to count on, in which case the key players should be yourself and your other long-tenured employees.
  • If your company is a little larger, you might want to involve all senior managers or the executive team.

Whoever you choose, make sure everyone is committed to the process of forming your company values and willing to model the behaviour to the rest of your business.

2. Identify what’s important to your business

Set up a time for a brainstorm with the team, and ask team members to prepare by identifying what they think is important at your company, and what they think is unique about working there. To get the creative juices flowing, look at values from other businesses that have a similar culture to your own.

The point is for everyone to come prepared with their ideas about what they love about working at your business, and (possibly even more important) what they don’t like. Once you are all in the same room, you can discuss each of the likes and don’t likes and why each is important.

3. Collaborate and refine

Take all the ideas you’ve collectively brainstormed and combine the similar ones. If you’re anything like us, you’ll find as many as three quarters of the ideas are variations of the same theme. So, you should be able to narrow down your list to a more manageable number.

Further refine this list by ensuring these values reflect the traits your company can honestly claim today (and not those it’s aspiring to in the future).

Then write a sentence or two to describe each one to provide more clarity. Make sure your descriptors are short.

4. Try them on for size

When you’re happy with your initial values, don’t rush them out. Rather, put them all on the back burner for a few weeks. Write them up into a one-page document, share them with the core team and continue to get their feedback.

The idea here is to let this list of values settle, and get a feel for what they really mean to each of you in your roles on a daily basis. Get feedback, and, after a couple of rounds of edits, only then seek employee buy-in.

5. Seek employee input

Remember, while it’s your company and your values, you need to let your people have their say and tweak them accordingly. So ask your employees for their input. Often their observations and feedback will be coming from a very different perspective than your own. So, treat it all as valuable learning.

If your company is big enough, conduct focus groups with employees from different departments and job levels.

Rolling out business values

Of course, once you’ve finalised your list of company values, as much as you may want to set them in stone, you need to do more than putting up a poster in your kitchen to make them real.

Once you have the final version, you need a commitment from your management team to live these values every day at work. Everyone needs to walk the walk.

Think about introducing them at an all staff meeting so you can walk everyone through the journey and why it’s so important for everyone to embrace them.

Your values also need to be a prominent part of your workplace. For example, think about adorning the walls throughout your office with your company values as an ever-present reminder.

But it doesn’t stop there. Make your values an innate part of your business through:

  • Training: Teach your company values through training and make sure they’re embedded in your onboarding process.
  • Recognition: Recognise and reward values-centric behaviours through spot-bonuses, giving employees the opportunity to nominate co-workers for successfully living the values, and giving written recognition in newsletters or as a personal note.
  • Hiring: Selecting candidates thatculturally align with your company is just as important as finding candidates that match your required experience and skill level.