Emma KeelingEmma KeelingApril 17, 2019
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6min1148

We hear a lot of talk nowadays about a company’s culture and values. Why are these so important? What do they add to a company? How can we make sure we live by these values?

The core values of a company are the essence of its identity. They are the principles and beliefs which should underlie every decision. In family-owned and owner-managed businesses, the values often reflect the values of the founder. However, many business owners and directors fail to articulate their values. It can be time-consuming to work out what is truly important to you in a business, so why is it worth the effort?

Company values will guide decisions at every level, big and small; it is just as important for the directors to evaluate their strategy against company values as it is for a receptionist to express these company values when answering the phone. A strong value system will enable directors to delegate more – a company’s values will guide many of the decisions its staff have to make.

A strong value system also simplifies decisions. For example, if a company value is “always to put the client first”, and one afternoon you are pressed and find yourself having to decide between doing something urgent for a client, or working on a big pitch taking place the next day for a large new contract, which should you do?

You refer to your values. Decision made! Looking after your current clients’ needs must come first.

A company culture based on clearly articulated values will inspire your workforce. Employees motivated by the company’s values are likely to work to the best of their ability and speed. The number of sick days taken will fall as a culture of teamwork and support for one another builds. Increased loyalty to an inspiring business will improve employee retention and reduce staff turnover.

Strong company values will similarly attract new recruits, who will want to work for a company with meaning and purpose, where they feel they can add real value.

Strong values don’t just make life easier and more enjoyable for those working at the company – they also become a differentiator for the business in the market place. Customers will be attracted to the culture and know what they are getting. The most popular company values are: 

  • Dependability
  • Reliability
  • Loyalty
  • Commitment
  • Open-mindedness
  • Consistency
  • Honesty
  • Efficiency

Wouldn’t we all be likely to buy from a company delivering on even just three of these values?

A strong culture adds tangibly to the value of a business; when shareholders seek to raise capital or sell their business, they will experience first-hand the importance of a committed and loyal workforce. Investors unfailingly place value on a company’s ability to recruit and retain competent, motivated staff, recognising that this is an indicator of a well-run and successful business.

It is vital to remember that values are caught, not just taught. They have to reflect who we really are – it’s no good the CEO endlessly espousing on values if no one actually lives them out.

It is also a mistake to have too many values, as no-one will be able to remember them all. Three to five is a realistic number, ideally grouped into a memorable acronym. Each value needs to be unpacked and explained regularly so that everyone understands how the values should impact behaviour and decision-making. How about putting them on all your meeting agendas and on the wall in the staff kitchen?

Employees, customers, suppliers, and investors all cry out for a strong company culture; values create enormous value!


Chris DyerChris DyerMarch 20, 2019
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6min1810

Happy employees who are engaged with their work try harder, so, how can we make work their happy place?

Think of it like gardening. Plants want water, fertiliser, and light, and it doesn’t hurt to play the equivalent of a little classical music. Positive, healthy surroundings and the sunshine of encouragement will help your company culture blossom.

1. Start with positive values

One way to avoid the drag of a negative mindset is to actively promote a positive one. Review your company values and operating policies looking for ways to make positive thoughts and acts the norm. If, for example, your mission is to provide great customer service, build on your strengths instead of making up for your shortcomings.

Suppose there’s an issue with a regular client getting the wrong merchandise one month. Instead of starting a team meeting by naming a culprit, begin by determining what is going well. Maybe that client has been with you for five years and recently upgraded their account. Ask the team how you can capitalise on that while solving the problem.

Someone might approach the client to thank them for their loyalty and let them know a revised order is on the way, promising a discount on the next one. The client can be reminded that the upgraded merchandise will better serve their purpose and drive their business, and they can be assured that the cause has been addressed so they won’t be inconvenienced again. 

2. Open communication avenues

When the cause and those responsible for screwing up the order are detected, you’ll have a valuable training moment for everyone on the team to observe. Make it a celebration, not an intervention.

A closed-door meeting with the culprits will affect only those people. A team meeting that debriefs all of the stakeholders opens up that audience, and a company-wide memo on what went on gives everyone the chance to learn from the episode. Maybe the order problem came from a simple misrouting of the request because someone didn’t know who was supposed to get it. Now, everyone will know.

Informing everyone, from executives to employees, about who does what in the company makes it easy to get information to and from the right people. This helps employees do their jobs well and serve the customer well. How else can you get important data to your staff when or before they need it? Tweak your file sharing and database access protocols to be as inclusive as possible.

Knowing who to ask for help or who to include in the information loop makes people proficient and brings them together. Knowing how to move on from mistakes does, too.

3. Cultivate team spirit

We’re all human, so why not acknowledge both the highs and lows of the job? Go ahead and welcome your order culprits into the Honest Mistake Club. A free latte will take some of the sting out of that error and make them want to try harder.

Or, maybe the supply chain glitch was a needed reminder to provide some group training. Learning together is a bonding experience. Train a direct report, and let them guide the rest of the group, managers included.

4. Satisfy emotional needs

Just as plants need water and sunlight to grow, employees need to be physically and mentally ready to do their jobs. Besides being fed and well rested, employees want a say in how they work, the chance to become really good at it, and a sense of belonging to something larger than the task at hand. According to researchers like author Daniel Pink, these things make them happy and more engaged.

This is the real fertiliser for a bountiful company culture. Offer a choice in scheduling or let teams design workflows. Increase responsibility when someone shows they have a knack for some job aspect or provide training for those who don’t. Reinforce that team spirit whenever you get the chance.

Happy is healthy! We can design a happy place enriched with the things that make our ‘flowers’ grow.




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