I recently had the gratifying experience of working with a small organization in updating its value statements. Why are values so important? Because they define the underlying principles, standards and ethics that guide decision-making, actions and conduct at all levels in the organization. They also serve as a guiding light on how to attract, engage, and retain employees; how work gets done; and how people treat each other. Values define an organization’s culture, and a strong culture is at the heart of a strong brand identity.
Marc Benioff, founder and co-CEO of CRM giant, Salesforce.com, captures it best: “Our Ohana (Hawaiian) culture is guided by our core values of trust, customer success, innovation and equality. Ohana means families are bound together and members must cooperate and remember one another.”
The intent in updating the organization’s value statements, established some four years ago, was to ensure these statements accurately reflected internal and external changes that had occurred over the past few years of growth, as well as current practices.
A diverse team of employees, not solely leadership, worked on this effort under my guidance:
- I initiated the process with an online survey of all staff with the following requests:
- Select from a list of words you’d like to see in your values statements.
- Review value statements from top companies as thought starters. (Statements from Starbucks, Netflix, Marriott, Google, etc. were provided.)
- List two to three statements from these top companies that capture values you think should be reflected in your statements.
- Comment on which values are effectively demonstrated in your organization and those that need improvement.
- From the survey results, the leadership team developed a preliminary set of value statements exceeding the desired number of five or six.
- The team was divided into small work groups, each with the task of adding to and refining two of the preliminary value statements.
- Each group presented, and participants critiqued and made suggestions.
- In a two-hour work session, the statements were refined, combined and reduced to six value statements, which were then put into final form by a small task force.
The importance of the process lies in its broad participation. Inclusion and involvement produce buy-in, in addition to a thorough understanding of the new set of values. The organization-wide team that worked on this initiative is proud of its work and the outcome.
We are happy to provide input if you plan to embark on this initiative.