Walk the Walk: Make Company Values More Than Just a Slogan
Think quick: what are your company’s core values? Does your company have a mission statement? What is it? Odds are, it probably has a lot of nice-sounding words in it like “integrity,” “respect,” “communication,” or “excellence.” That’s great, but do those words accurately reflect your company’s values? Does your company hire people who reflect them?
Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix, recently shared a report on what drives the people who work there. Netflix believes that, “The actual company values, as opposed to nice-sounding values, are shown by who gets rewarded, promoted, or let go. Actual company values are the behaviors and skills that are valued in fellow employees.” So, are your company’s values reflected in your company’s culture or is it just a nice slogan? Here’s three ways to make sure your organization has a culture that matches its values:
- Clearly establish values – You may have a mission statement hanging in the lobby or in small print on the website, but do your employees know it? The first step in making those words a reality is making sure employees know those words. Make sure you have a single, simple set of values that are clear and accessible to employees.
- Start at the top – Having leaders who demonstrate the company’s values is essential to making it common practice in your organization. If leaders don’t abide by the core beliefs of your organization, it’s likely that employees won’t either. The leaders in your organization should be role models of expected behavior.
- Company policy must reflect values – This is probably the most important point. How your company hires, fires, and promotes should all be based on company values. These will differ based on the organization. For example, a software company may value creativity, while a bank may value accuracy and attention to detail above all else. Obviously, the criteria for who gets hired, promoted, and replaced will be drastically different, because each company has different core values.
In an article for Grasshopper, Core Values and the Companies That Do Them Well, they outlined the companies who have exceptional cultures as a result of their commitment to their values. Here are a few of the noted companies:
- Southwest Airlines – Southwest Airlines is a textbook example of a company who takes their values seriously. They are always listed among Fortune Magazine’s Best Companies to Work For and were one of the only airlines that remained profitable in a poor economy. Co-founder of Southwest Airlines, Herb Kelleher, is clear about Southwest’s dedication to their customers and their experience, and as such, Southwest only hires people whose values match that of their own.
- Google – Google’s core values are simple to remember. “Don’t be evil,” is one of the company’s internal slogans, and co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin expressed it early on. The article states, “Despite criticism of what some believe to be intrusive advertising in Gmail and other services, Google has largely kept its word. In addition to challenging government requests for user data, Google recently made headlines by refusing to continue censoring its Chinese search results.” Another of Google’s core values is innovation. Google allows its employees to use up to 20 percent of their work time on projects they feel would be beneficial to the company.
- Johnson & Johnson – Johnson & Johnson’s core values are listed plainly on their website. It states, “We believe our first responsibility is to the doctors, nurses and patients, to mothers and fathers and all others who use our products and services.” A long-time subject of study in business and ethics curriculums, Johnson & Johnson is a great example of a company dedicated to adhering to their core values. In an unprecedented decision in 1982, they recalled $100 million in Tylenol after reports of cyanide poison in the medicine. Grasshopper writes, “While it would arguably have been easier (and cheaper) to deal with lawsuits from the poisoning deaths on a case-by-case basis, Johnson & Johnson wasted no time pulling its top-selling product off of store shelves across the country – even though the contaminations were later found to have occurred only in Chicago.”
- Starbucks – Starbucks is known as one of the world’s most ethical companies, and rightly so. Their values include third-world aid, community service and being green. In adherence with their values, Starbucks only buys fair-trade coffee beans and donates a portion of its Ethos water product to help people in under-privileged areas get clean water. They are also always active in the communities they have stores in, and were a major help in the reconstruction efforts in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.
These companies are shining examples of “walking the walk,” and making their company values more than just a slogan. By developing core values and sticking to them, you develop a company culture that benefits not only your bottom-line, but your employees, customers and community.
Does your company's culture accurately reflect your organization's values? How do you make your values more than just a slogan? Let us know on Facebook, Twitter, or in the comments section below.